An ‘ode to why TOBi's new single made me stop, sit up, and listen
So my girl has been telling me to get Spotify for ages now. Among other things, she said it’s completely changed the way she listens to music. Now I thought this was probably a bit dramatic so I dragged my feet a little because I was pretty content with Apple. But after a while I thought, you know what, let me see what all this fuss is about.
Well. The moral of this story is ladies and gentlemen, I really should just listen to my friends more.
On the first night I downloaded it, I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling, adding bullet points to my mental to-do list. Trying to organise my thoughts and not allow any anxiety to creep into my consciousness (because honestly this really wasn’t the time for it to pop in for a little catch up visit). As I’m lying there trying (and failing miserably) to unwind, I wasn’t really paying attention to the music that was playing, until the sound of piano keys filled my bedroom speakers.
Then the beat dropped. There was a voice, bass, a trumpet and my attention. Now fully caught, turned to looking for my phone so I could reload whatever this song was, that in its first 30 seconds had just struck a chord somewhere deep.
His name is TOBi, a Nigerian born Canadian. And to say City Blues resonated with me would be the understatement of the year. And yes, I am aware the year just started, but that’s not the point here. The song is literally him baring his soul to his listeners; saying, ‘hi, this is me. This is where I came from, and this is the little piece of light I have to offer to the world’. It’s an unadulterated, honest piece of art.
Even when his lyrics turn to the topic of some men being misogynistic until it’s their sisters that get involved. In the era of #metoo and Mute R Kelly, when some male artists reference this kind of thing, it doesn’t always land right with me. I understand we have a need for allies, but it sometimes feels like they’re parroting what they think they’re supposed to say instead of truly understanding why it’s important. I mean, after that Lifetime docuseries was released, all these men in the industry suddenly came out with statements disavowing R-Kelly. As if this exploitation wasn’t common knowledge and many hadn’t remained indifferent for years…I don’t know, it just doesn’t always feel genuine. And of course, I know people can evolve and they should be allowed the room to do so. We’ve all had a lot of unlearning to do, and most of us still have ways to go. But not acknowledging your own complicity with your silence, or not taking accountability for your role in perpetuating this culture (whether consciously or not), kind of shows you still don’t fully get it. Honestly though, this topic would need a whole different post to unpack properly, so let me come back from that tangent I just went off.
The point I wanted to make before the underbelly of the art form side tracked me was, with TOBi, this does actually feel genuine. All of it. Him telling us that he wants to monetise his pain? I feel that. Or the fact that when he looks in the mirror, he feels like the f*cking man. Because the younger him would probably be a f*cking fan. I can get behind that, not only because I feel the same way, but because it shows growth. It shows an introspection and self-awareness that makes me feel connected to his Manchester City Blues, even though they’re way across the Atlantic.
I usually hate joining the whole Let’s-Bash-Millennials train (we actually aren’t doing too badly given the circumstances we’ve been handed O.K). But one thing which is said about us that is true, is we compare ourselves to other people a lot. Even if you don’t think so, believe me, we do. What do you think happens subconsciously as you scroll through your Instagram feed? Making you want to hit the gym, not for your general health and to make your heart stronger, but to get an Insta Baddie’s ass. You’ll pose for pictures in the most uncomfortable looking positions just so we can see the red bottom of your shoe, and I’m there thinking, ‘Sis, please don’t break an ankle for these likes! You definitely need that more'. Sure, some of us are worse than others. But the truth is we’re all guilty. When it comes down to it, the only person we should be comparing ourselves to, is our past selves.
Give yourself some credit. You’re never going to be good enough if measure yourself up against the pristine virtual avatars people present on social media. But the younger you knows the real you. They know all about the quiet battles you’ve won, and the mountains you’ve scaled to reach your current location. Seriously, they’d probably look up at you with the same wide-eyed admiration you give these images of carefully curated perfection.
With all that being said, I can’t wait to hear more from TOBi. He’s a breath of fresh air, and I can feel his need to elevate and be heard just emanating from this song. I know I literally just said we shouldn’t do the whole comparison thing (I’m a hypocrite what can I say) but there’s something about this that reminds me of D’Angelo’s song, Cruisin’. If you know me and know how much I love D’Angelo, that’s saying a lot, trust me. Maybe it’s the bass, or maybe it’s how easily he slips in and out of his falsetto. TOBi's overall vibe is definitely different though, much more 'wholesome' than D’Angelo’s flirtation with the microphone. But then again I guess they’re two completely different subject matters, and TOBi is only just getting started.
Either way, I’m intrigued.