After releasing his mixtape Non-Perishable on Friday, tobi Lou gives Boardroom a look at what’s to come in 2022 and beyond.
After a year-long sabbatical from the limelight, Chicago’s tobi lou has returned with the mixtape Non-Perishable. The mixtape is the first of three planned releases this year from the rapper.
“I’ve taken a little bit to figure out the things that excite me, the things that are missing, and I see a gap,” lou told Boardroom. “This is me not giving a fuck about what people think. This is the beginning of my villain era. This is me as a villain. There’s nothing right now that’s going on in rap that’s exciting me. We’re taking it up a step from what people think is a tobi lou-type beat. ‘Energy’ is the word I’ve been saying over and over.”
lou is focused on surpassing any limit placed on him by fans, critics, or haters — but it wasn’t always this way. A decade ago, lou was a premier baseball prospect doing his thing at the HBCU Florida A&M University. An outstanding hitter, he batted .378 in college and had eyes for the pros.
Throughout that time, he dabbled in music.
“Sports have always led my life,” he said. “I’ve always done music in the background. Music has always been the thing I loved, my passion, and the thing I would do even if I had a game the next day.”
After departing from FAMU, he played in the Frontier League — an independent pro baseball league that has teams in the midwestern United States and in Canada. If it weren’t for lingering hamstring injuries, lou says he would have pursued a career in baseball.
Baseball wasn’t his first-choice of sport, however — football and basketball were. But again, injuries riddled his athletic career. lou stopped playing football after he broke his femur. Genetics played against him when it came to basketball because his adolescent growth spurt did not boost him to an ideal playing height. So, lou let those dreams go, too. (He still harbors a love for baseball, though; he threw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game last season.)
Music officially took the wheel of lou’s life in 2016 with the release of the song “Game Ova,” and the accompanying music video boats over 3 million YouTube views. Six years later, he has 2.5 million monthly Spotify listeners. That number is aided by the individual streams of songs such as 2018’s “Buff Baby” (99.8-plus million), 2019’s “I Was Sad Last Night I’m OK Now” (46.2-plus million), and 2020’s “Darlin'” (50.8-plus million).
The music comes first, but it is also establishing a platform for lou to express himself creatively elsewhere.
Merch That Matters
lou’s cult-like following constantly pines for him on social media to release more music, and fans are even more rabid about his merchandise.
One of lou’s hoodies, which reads “Happy + Extra Sad,” has been sold out for well over a year. Many of the restocks of the item have re-sold the hoodie in minutes. Other items like t-shirts and plush toys have also done well for him. But truthfully, lou wasn’t satisfied with the releases despite their ability to sell out.
“For the past few years, it’s really been about making things that become my favorite thing in five years,” he said. “The truth is I care too much about merch. It’s not just clothes to me anymore. There was a time when we first started making the “Happy + Extra Sad” hoodies, [and] I saw how great we were doing, but then I realized that I wasn’t liking to wear my pieces.”
So, like his music, lou also took a break from releasing merchandise. Some would call the act foolish. Outside of touring and seeing an artist in concert, purchasing merch is one of the easiest ways for fans to support their favorites — and put money directly into their pockets.
“I talk to my manager all the time and ask him to be patient because I have left a bunch of money on the table,” lou explained. “Merch is definitely coming. I feel like I’m responsible for my fans’ fashion. If they’re going to buy my merch, they are a walking billboard, so I want to make sure I’m giving them the flyest thing that I can give them. I want to do [merch] as good as I do music.”
That begins with the merch accompanying Non-Perishable, including plush toys traveling around in a claw machine.
From Non-Perishable to Non-fungible
The NFT market and the metaverse have grown tremendously since tobi lou’s last project, Live on Ice, dropped in 2019.
lou has kept a close eye on it all and teased that he’ll be doing something around NFTs soon:
“I’ve been loving what my creative partner, Glassface, has been doing in the NFT space with impermanent.digital,” he said. “I’m excited to enter the space myself with the help of Glassface.”
“I would love to be on the outside watching what is about to happen this year,” lou continued. “That’s how excited I am. I’m mad that I can’t witness it outside of myself. For everyone who gets to see what’s going on, you’re lucky because you get to enjoy it.”
Non-Perishable is available at retail establishments and streaming services now. Listen to the album below: