Tobe Nwigwe has spent the past couple of years on a mission to “make purpose popular.” With his wife Fat Nwigwe and producer LaNell Grant solidifying his squad, the Houston rapper has watched his cult following grow into a global fanbase. Anchored by Tobe’s voracious lyrical flow, the trio’s creativity permeates sound, wardrobe, choreography and everything in between. And as his new EP THE PANDEMIC PROJECT proves, their artistic chemistry is stronger than The ‘Rona.
The five-song collection comes out swinging with “I Need You To (Breonna Taylor).” After a soulful R&B introit, the bass drops and steers the tune into a darker backdrop as Tobe raps, “Arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor…and Elijah McClain, too.” It’s a simple, but effective message that has gone viral and continues to trend on social media. From there, Tobe spits with unrelenting energy and magnetic clarity on “Fresh Air.”
A gospel piano and organ lay the foundation for the rapper to narrate his “Journey,” a captivating tale with trap beats, jazzy horns and distorted harmonies. The layered arrangement seamlessly flows into the next track as Tobe airs his frustrations and fears on “Make It Home.” The poignant track features moving vocals by David Michael Wyatt and serves as a daily prayer for many Black families.
The gospel vibe continues on “Try Jesus,” this time steeped in southern blues courtesy of GRAMMY-winning guitarist Jabari Johnson. The humorous-but-oh-so-serious confessional was an original piece that Mr. Johnson uploaded to Instagram last month, using a guitar that he dubbed “Breonna Taylor.” He sings, “Try Jesus, don’t try me. Because I fight.” After hearing the defiant melody, Tobe knew he wanted to collaborate and create something fresh. With LaNell’s savvy production and Tobe’s deadpan warning that “I throw hands,” it’s no wonder the song quickly went viral with everyone from The Hamiltones to #BLM protesters showing love for the song.
THE PANDEMIC PROJECT doesn’t just deliver great music, it also offers a candid view of the Nwigwe family dynamic. On “Pandemic Outro (For Family Only),” Tobe, Fat, Nell and the babies (Ivory Nwigwe and Sage Nwigwe) invite us into their personal space as they discuss the album’s songs, their personal lives and the current state of the world…among other things. It’s funny, authentic, thought-provoking and completely engrossing. At one point, Tobe questions if people will want to hear them talk for so long. Nell is undeterred, “People love listening to us talk for 30 minutes,” she shrugs matter-of-factly. And she’s not wrong.
Preview THE PANDEMIC PROJECT below, download it for your collection, then head to YouTube to watch the visuals (and learn the lyrics) for each track on the album, including their half-hour conversation.