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Tobi Lou Is Out Of Retirement – And Onto The Lollapalooza Stage

Written by on August 16, 2021

Wild with enthusiasm and bursting with energy, Chicago hip-hop artist tobi lou rocked the Lollapalooza crowd on July 30.

We sat down with tobi following his set to hear about his experience at the festival, what he’s been up to in the two years since we last talked to him — like working with Fenty and having a single go Gold — and what fans can expect from him in the future.

Morgan Ciocca: It’s so nice to talk with you. The last time we spoke with you was pre-pandemic, so a lot has happened since then.

tobi lou: Yeah, it’s a different person and world right now.

MC: It’s crazy. How do you feel to be back performing live?

TL: It felt amazing. Now, I know not every show is gonna be like this. This is a very hometown show. It felt like a home game and just my first game back as if I was injured or something. This was the most amazing thing ever. It’s the energy you dream of when you’re trying to perform and thinking about performing. Whenever it’s a festival, no matter where it’s at, I think it’s always just scary because if they don’t know you, they’re not going to be rocking with you. The crowd was just — from song one to the last one — they were there. They were so there I had to step up my game a little bit, and I just wasn’t expecting it. I’m just thankful.

MC: I caught part of your set. It was so cool seeing everyone’s hands up. Everyone was so excited throughout the whole set, it was an amazing energy.

TL: Yeah, I was really amazed at how the energy stayed that way for that whole 45 [minutes] to an hour that we were up there. Like, usually there’s big dips, but there wasn’t really any noticeable dip. I did some new songs, and when they don’t know a new song, it’s like they have to watch more than sing along, and so it changes it. But yeah, they got up for that, too. So it was pretty amazing.

MC: It’s really exciting. Do you have any more live shows that you’re planning on doing in the future?

TL: Oh, not this year. I really hadn’t planned on being outside or back in the world this year, but Lolla signed on to do at the end of 2019, and of course 2020 happened, and I didn’t really know what the whole festival game was gonna look like this year. I didn’t really think it was gonna happen. But when they said they were doing it, I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m coming back into the world,” because I had been radio silent for a while. This was a great way to come back, and now I can go back home and finish off the music and the the things I’ve been working on. It just gives me motivation to come back and really go harder. If this is a taste of what it’s like when people know you a little bit, I want to do this more. I want to be back here whenever I can and just go crazy in Chicago.

MC: Yeah, it’s really an amazing comeback. You mentioned you’re “coming out of retirement” during your set. What does that look like for you?

TL: Oh, retirement. I feel like I’m always joking about retirement because all fans do is ask for music. I love them. But all they do is ask for music, so I just tell them I’m retired whenever they get that new music because when I drop, I drop. I drop a lot, so whenever I decide it’s time to go again, that’s me coming back out of retirement. This was like a post-, or, a pre-coming-out-of-retirement party, and this just lets me know, “Yo, let’s go!” It just gets me excited to really do it again.

“It felt like a home game… and just my first game back as if I was injured or something. This was the most amazing thing ever.”

tobi lou

MC: I also saw that “Buff Baby” went gold a little over a year ago. How do you feel about that? Does it feel like it was that long ago?

TL: It feels like a whole world ago, just because we’re in such a different place. It actually does feel long ago. Still, if I look back and reflect on the actual achievement, I think it’s pretty wild for someone in my shoes and my position and where I am on the radar to have a record like that.

That one’s special to me, not because it went viral and went gold, it was because I produced a majority of that record with my friend Juice Bangers. I work with a lot of talented producers, and I’m lucky to have them because I’m able to focus on recording and the vocals and the writing more and the arrangement aspect of it. That was one I just started right in my computer, opened up a session and was like, “Alright, let’s do these chords and let’s do this percussion,” and then he did the drums. It’s just special when I look at that plaque knowing that weird idea that I thought would be too weird for the world not only worked, it really just went far and resonated, and it makes people happy. When it comes on, I’m just seeing people go hard to it. They really loved it.

tobi lou at Lollapalooza on Friday, July 30 by Morgan Ciocca

MC: I also wanted to talk about just your experience as an artist in Chicago. You grew up in the south suburbs, right?

TL: Yeah.

MC: What was your experience growing up in the south suburbs? Do you feel like you fit in very much? When do you feel like you really found your people?

TL: I feel like growing up in the south suburbs, I always had good people I was around, good friends. Growing up, I was always very outgoing, so I never really had a problem with that. I think I found my stride, like I found my best friends when I got to junior high, and they’re my friends that I’m still friends with to this day, so that might be where I found more of my stride.

Growing up in the south suburbs, it’s a big melting pot, you know, especially the Homewood Flossmoor area. It was White, it was Black, it was Asian and Hispanic. There was everyone there. It felt like such a good way to know people, instead of just being around one type of person. I’m thankful, ’cause it just taught me a lot about other people — and when I went out out into the real world, being around people didn’t make me nervous because I grew up around people. I think it’s nice to be able to have that, to be able to grow up in a diverse place. I guess I’m thankful for that aspect of it.

Coming down to the city was always an adventure. It just always felt so big. It’s, like, so much to do, so much going on. I feel like I didn’t really get to enjoy it until my post-high school. Like, you come back from college, you’re trying to go downtown. You finally can get into places — whether you’re sneaking in or whatever. I don’t advise sneaking in, kids. Wink wink.

I think, overall, I went through different layers of falling in love with Chicago. I’ve always loved it, even being outside of Chicago in the south suburbs, but I got to know different levels of Chicago as I got older. And I was like, man it’s such a beautiful place, a beautiful city, the people are beautiful. We got the best food. And like I said, I’m always thankful to be from here, and I always recommend it whenever I can.

MC: What is your favorite thing about being a musician in Chicago, if you could narrow it down?

TL: I threw out the first pitch of the Cubs game the other day. It’s not something that’s particular to being a musician, but I guess my music has brought me to a place where I could do things like that, entertaining people. I’ve done Color Runs years ago where I was in a field of people. No one knows you, and no one’s really there for you. To go from there to be now within a field of people at Lollapalooza … It’s my first Lollapalooza too. I have a bunch of vintage Lollapalooza shirts, but I’ve never been to a Lollapalooza. I’m starting to see the perks. I’ll give you more as we update and we talk more in the future. I’ll definitely let you know as they come along.

MC: Where’s your favorite place to eat in the city? You mentioned that you love all the great food in Chicago.

TL: Hands down, Giordano’s. I’m talking to you, I’m thinking about this interview, but the other half of me is thinking about how I’m really gonna f*** up some Giordano’s when I get back — sorry if I curse — I’m gonna destroy some Giordano’s when I get back to the hotel.

MC: That sounds amazing.

TL: That’s my favorite place, and when I flew in on Wednesday I didn’t eat anything in the morning. I landed and we went straight to do Giordano’s. I had four slices, went to the Cubs game, threw out the first pitch, enjoyed the Cubs game, came back home, had another slice and that was it.

MC: That sounds like a very quintessential Chicago day.

TL: Yeah, nothing but deep dish.

“I think, overall, I went through different layers of falling in love with Chicago.”

tobi lou

MC: I also wanted to ask you about your collaboration with [Rihanna’s beauty brand] Fenty recently. That was so cool. How’d you feel about that? What was your experience?

TL: It feels really cool to be able to work with Fenty, not only because it’s associated with the Queen that Rihanna is, but I’ve dropped Fenty in songs before. And it’s been like, from dropping Fenty in songs to actually working with the Fenty brand. They were a part of my comeback too. They gave me a reason to come back onto online socials and even debut a new song. It’s just really cool. It’s this type of stuff you dream about, working with brands on this particular level. Everyone respects Rihanna and what she’s done. What she’s been been able to do outside of music is so extraordinary. It’s so inspirational.

I just hope to continue to do great things with them in the future. I’m just thankful they gave me the chance to lead the way with my team with the Glassface and Martin and goodnightmeesh. They gave us what they wanted us to do, but they said, “Hey, we know y’all can handle it, because it’s just what y’all do.” So we knocked it out like we always do, and being able to debut even a new look, you know, I shaved my head. The buns are gone. It’s was a really cool thing to do that. So I’m always gonna be thankful for that.

MC: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that too because I feel like your hair was a pretty big part of your online brand and web presence.

TL: That’s why it was so scary to cut it because people only know me as Toby Lou with the buns, but then again, I thought, they know me as that. All my favorite artists have eras. With me being silent and coming back, I wanted to let people know, if I’m coming back, it’s still me, but we’re in a different era. They’re gonna get the same dedication, the same great music, but I’m coming back in, and I’m going harder. This is what we’re doing now, and you know, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. But I’m also not sorry because, hey, I don’t really care.

MC: You’re still you underneath the hair.

TL: Everyone who knows me, [knows] it’s still me. So yeah, we’re just gonna be doing some different things, and I’m excited about that.

MC: A new look, marking a new era. Is there anything specific coming up on the horizon that listeners should know about?

Yeah. “Parrish Blue” is a project I’m working on, and I’m going to have some really, really fun and amazing things coming out centered around that. I’ve been focused on that project, but I’ve been making so much music that it’s time to give back and get back going. So really, on the horizon is a bunch of music, and I think people have been asking for that for a while. I’m just excited to flood the gates, like I do.

MC: That’s exciting. What has been your favorite part of Lollapalooza, so far?

TL: My favorite part of Lolla is definitely going to be that show, and the media has been actually a cool experience. I’ve done media at other festivals, I’m not going to name them because I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus. I guess it’s also the fact that people just don’t know you that much at a certain point, so people are interviewing you and they didn’t really have the most amazing questions sometimes and don’t really feel like they’re leading you in a direction where you could flourish, but I’m not gonna really blame them. I think just with more hard work and being known a little bit more, that’s what comes. You get to start having better conversations and interviews that feel like, this person actually maybe kind of knows me and stuff like that. So I appreciate that aspect of the media.

MC: Well, that’s good to hear. I wanted to ask you also, do you have any words to live by?

TL: Whatever you’re doing, you got to figure out a way to have fun with it. Even if you love it, but you’re not having fun with it right now, you’re gonna have to turn it into fun. I live and breathe what I’m doing, and it’s stressful. I do so many things, but I’m trying to figure out ways to turn back on the fun, even in performing. Performing stresses me out because I don’t work on it. I just go up there with what I naturally got, but I’m starting to have fun with it. I think me working on the fun aspect of what I’m trying to do is gonna help whatever I’m doing, and it’s gonna bleed through and I think everyone’s gonna feel it. So, whatever you’re trying to do, figure out how to have fun with it, so that you could really live through it and make other people happy and make yourself happy.

MC: I completely agree. And, for the record, you did seem like you were having a lot of fun today during the performance.

TL: It was fun: the crowd, the energy, the people’s faces. They were going so crazy. I was just like God, thank you. I was just thankful. I was able to have fun.

MC: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. It’s been really great to catch up with you, and I can’t wait to see what you’re up to coming up in the future.

TL: Amazing. Thank you guys so much for having me.

Subscribe to Vocalo’s Youtube Channel to stay up to date with all of our interviews and in-studio sessions, and stream tobi lou’s music on Spotify below.

Edited for length and clarity by Erik Anderson & Morgan Ciocca

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