Tobe Nwigwe’s Cincoriginals ….


I had watched Tobe’s Instagram posts and admired his art since I discovered him a few months ago, but I hadn’t properly reflected on how much his art speaks to our reality as Black people. This past year has been a long one; fighting for ourselves and our freedom as Black People against police brutality and impunity across the world, and with the emotional and mental wounds from the aftermath of the EndSARS protests in October still fresh in my head, I immediately decided to write a piece about the Houston-based rapper when he posted the video for WILDINGS featuring Olu of Earthgang + Duckwrth on Instagram. Little did I know that he had an impressive album lined up for roll-out. He got lyrical heavyweights like K.R.I.T, D Smoke, Royce Da 5’9, Trae the Truth and others to work with him on the album which is saturated with witty punchlines, sick flows and unusual beats. He delivers smoothly his bars which express the experiences and pain of Black people and our painful history and reality. It’s about to be a long one! But I really have to pick every song apart, because it is a thoroughly enjoyable album and I want a first listener to totally understand and reflect on each song that they find most relatable.

Tobe Nwigwe makes purposeful, unapologetic faith-based music with unique lyrics that are thought provoking. Over the years, he has released a series of albums “The Originals, Three Originals, More Originals, and Fouriginals”. His consistency in delivering soulful hip-hop music has played a vital role in making him one of the Hip-Hop powerhouses with fans like Jidenna, Erykah Badu and Michelle Obama among others. Although Cincoriginals was released at the end of the year, the album is one of the tenacious albums to come out of 2020. On the opening track titled EAT, he features his wife—Fat—who delivers a wholesome verse on the bouncy beat riddled with flutes. One detail I find really interesting on this song is the way Tobe excitedly gasses his wife while she drops her bars and raps about how they are creating a new wave instead of riding on existent waves. She also mentions how their lives have changed with lyrics like “Was broke, now I ball like a Skinhead” and had everyone repeating ”We ’bout to be on a first name basis with Beyoncé‘ after her. It’s notable to mention that they share the same background —Houston—and in May 2020, Beyoncé dropped a playlist titled “CLASSY, BOUGIE, RATCHET‘ and one of the songs that made it to the playlist was Tobe’s ‘JÔCKIN’. In October 2020, Tobe Nwigwe performed EAT with ‘Try Jesus’ during the BET Hip-Hop awards, arguably giving one of the best performances that night.

WILDINGS is an epic track that highlights Black identity and challenges systemic racism. It sounds like a song for the minority, thanks to the ‘…wildings without a crown’ line, empowering them and letting them know that they are not allowed to feel or be treated less because of the colour of their skin. It also highlights how Black people are affected by their fear of the police. Tobe, alongside Olu of Earthgang and Duckwrth deliver electrifying flows that carry uplifting messages like every Tobe Nwigwe song. On his verse, Tobe talks about how all hoods are the same messed up results of the ancestors that were attached to pain and used to pain. He also shouts out modern luxury editorials that have shown that his brand is a full package of music and urban fashion. BOZOS sounds like a rude awakening for the guys from H-town, Tobe flows intricately on the pop beat, about how much violence is going on, on his side of the world, which is populated by people who don’t know the laws looking for any reason to bust their guns. He tells his people to not be defined by the vices of the rough backgrounds they’ve all been raised from, and to rehearse all the pain they have had to deal with and secure the bag instead of leading lives of violence. The chorus has a very catchy melody, backed by horns on the heavy pop beat with notable lyrics like ‘This is for the bozos who don’t know, Don’t join the circus if you ain’t a clown’‘. Big K.R.I.T. comes through on this track, rapping about how certain people have forgotten about the simplicities of life while chasing vain things, submitting to peer pressure and forgetting to live their lives. He ends his verse rapping about giving your loved ones their roses in public while you still can.

‘No no, you, you, I’m your father figure ooh’, the lyrics of FATHER FIGURE sink in, calmly yet sternly. Tobe features Black Thought and Royce Da 5’9 on this track, emphasizing their status as men and father figures to others, so to speak. Tobe starts the song, teaching people to stay humble and be self-confident. On his verse, he talks about how he drives a Hyundai Accent even though he can afford a Beamer because to him, it is more about the confidence than it is about the car that he drives. An interesting punchline on his verse is ‘Ain’t got a bar for a mark unless it’s Noxzema’, meaning that he is not rapping for a ‘mark’ (derogatory term for a sucker), also it could mean that he’s not spending his money on any blemish removal cream that’s not Noxzema (lol whatttt??). Black Thought on his verse sounds like he’s addressing Black People from a place of love and letting them know they’re greater than they have been made to believe because of their skin colour or the type of hair they carry while rapping braggadociously about some of his personal qualities.

HEADSHOTS is a slow and methodical track with pensive lyrics that trigger a solemn self-reflection in the mind of the listener. Featuring D Smoke, the song sounds like it’s about where they both come from and things that happen there. Tobe says he raps for the villainous gentlemen that ‘chase loot’ in hopes to fill a void of fulfilment, teaching them that it is more honourable to have respect for women instead of having a lot of ‘hoes’ in line. He reiterates in his verse, how he hopes that listeners will take his lyrics seriously as he doesn’t just rap for the clout or fame but to actually educate people with his words and the things he believes in. D Smoke also raps about how he grew up in a place where violence was the order of the day, with bullets raining down by the hour. On PURPLE RAIN THING, he features Lil Keke and they both also focus on issues that go down in the hood. The song is inspired by Prince’s Purple Rain and Tobe makes reference to him in the chorus with the line—‘I‘m on my Biggie mixed with Prince, purple rain thing, ooh

PISTOL, which is obviously about gun violence, is riddled with hard trap beats. I specifically love the drum rolls in the background while Tobe delivered his verse which was a bit different from his usual flows on the album, bruh! he started his verse by singing. On his verse, he talks to the listener about how it’s not necessary to always be violent with people who have done you dirty, especially when you’re the sole supplier for your family. I love how Bun B went in hard on the chorus, as well as the voiceover at the end of the song about how the authorities managed to curb violence and round up a gang that was involved in bringing weapons into the country. CyHi The Prynce on his verse talks about some of the violent things that happen in the hood—robberies, drive-bys, etc. CUJO is one of my ultimate favourites on the album, probably because of the infusion of a Nigerian accent and even an Igbo word in the chorus. It subtly reminds you of Tobe’s sense of originality and connection to his African roots. ‘Free your mind oh, be formless, shapeless, like water, (ighotago)’. On this track, Tobe references how he managed to stay independent alongside his producer and best friend—Nell—keeping a high percentage of his distribution, he shouts out Steve Stoute, the founder and CEO of UnitedMasters, a company that offers artists 100% of all royalties from their music and ownership, in exchange for a $5 monthly fee. He features Killa Kyleon who delivers cocky bars about how he’s really just about the street life. Oh, and the outro is lit too, lol. ‘You see the problem with you people is that is sin. You’re gallivanting around as if the world is twisting your toe. When all the world is asking you to do is something very simple. And just be like water, water’.

He features Trae Tha Truth on THE TRUTH (what a coincidence) and both of them rap about how they’re the real deal and how there are not really many like them in the game. This song is really the truth as both artistes are very vocal about issues affecting Black people in the world generally and their music leans towards trying to help others be the best version of themselves. TUNDAH FIYAH is the last track on this beautiful body of work and I couldn’t have appreciated any song better than this one that reminds people how Black people are still being mistreated and looked down on in the society today, waking people up from their slumber and making them see that some of the things that we have been wired to see as right are actually wrong. The chorus highlights how we, as Black People deserve compensation just because of the colour of our skin. He features his producer Lanell Grant and Mumu Fresh on this track and they both killed their verses.

I would assume that Tobe was strategic with opening up his album with a song featuring his wife, and closing it up with a song featuring his best friend and an amazing female lyricist, whilst serving us interludes from the infamous Amber Mama with the life lessons, manifesting his ideology and beliefs about respecting women as they shine ultimately on these tracks. Overall, the album is fully packed with the four elements you would normally find in every Tobe Nwigwe content, ‘Soul, Spirit, African roots, and Hood‘. How he manages to weave them altogether to produce wholesome music that carries the message of moral uprightness without sounding too much like a preacher, is beyond imagination.

Listen to the full album here:

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