Blending a plethora of genres from rap, hip hop, indie rock and pop, Los Angeles based rapper ToBy wears his heart on his sleeve with his new album L’Esprit, out now via Magnetic Moon Records. His debut album cufflinks deeply intimate moments with a dazzling and wide open sound as ToBy chronicles some of the struggles and triumphs he’s had as a person and musician. In his debut release, ToBy also paying homage to his roots and his late grandmother who supported his career as a musician relentlessly. The result is an album that testifies as hard as it rocks.
Filled with personal stories, shifting instrumentation and a rich tapestry of emotions and themes —from writing honestly about anxiety and depression to speaking openly about romance, heartache and grief — the album is a peek into the mind and soul of ToBy as a human who encompasses many things. While L’Esprit exudes a confidence and boldness, ToBy isn’t shy to share thoughts of self-doubt, and through his honest lyrics, he notes that he hopes others can understand they aren’t alone in their own personal struggles.
“I believe in unity through specificity; by sharing our unique nuanced specific experiences we stand to become much closer to one another because we are not as different as we want to believe,” says ToBy. “The more specific we can get with our lives and our stories, the more it will resonate with a community because all of our lives are pretty specific. I think by encapsulating my specific experience and journey as a person and an artist who thinks heavy shit, I can connect with someone who may need that and who might feel a little more alone because they are trapped in their head and believes no one else thinks like them.”
L’Esprit on a whole is the culmination of ToBy’s songwriting skills and captures an intimacy and vulnerability from his distinct and dense lyrics to the ever changing style between tracks. Throughout the album, voice sampling’s of ToBy’s grandmother, who passed away from cancer in 2020, are woven into the album, a nod to the person who most believed in ToBy and his endeavors as a musician. Taken from a conversation recording between him and her, her voice acts as a narrative guide and loving voice that contrasts ToBy’s directness on L’Esprit.
“Making music growing up in Miami was not very easy,” notes ToBy. “It was a very judgmental environment. It was my parents wanting the best for me, they were immigrants from Haiti and didn’t understand why anyone would want to be a rapper. They didn’t approve and I was combating a lot of criticism from them. My grandma however I felt she really knew me and understood where my head was at. She would often step up and defend me in those conversations and would tell my mom to let me do what I want to do. She never got a chance to hear the songs from this album, but she was always very proud of me.”
Through his specific and sharp lens, ToBy’s music captures a sense of nostalgia while also focusing on creating a better future.
“I hope people take away that they are not super alone in this world,” says ToBy. “I hope that by hearing my story and hearing me bare out my soul, as this is the most personal music I have ever made and I have never injected this much of my real life in my music before, people take away that the enormity of life is so grand and so vast and so much that the most we can do is experience it to its fullest; all the good, all the bad, and all the in-between”
Words: Patti Sanchez