Meet the breezy and introspective rapper ToBy! On July 10th, he released his new EP The Outside. The EP is full of laid back, introspective, yet catchy and party ready tracks about a range of unique topics such as egyptian gods, heartbreak, freedom from soul-crushing monotony, the psychological toll of success, and doubts, fears, wonders, and worries in the face of impending mortality.
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To quote ToBy (Real name Reggie Baril): “The Outside, at its essence, is a return to form. It’s a sonic journey through my thoughts and inclinations and a peer into the process that inspires me to write. I’ve always felt like my topics and concepts stemmed from an external source, intangible, but ever present. My connection to this source has always felt strongest outside and in specific locations. The rooftop overlooking Port Au Prince, Haiti at my grandma’s house, the deep lush forests and lakes that span the countryside, the lake outside my parents’ house, the beaches that tug at the heartstrings tethering me to my native country. The outside is the center and all of my stories and creative impulses are catalyzed by its presence. Reminiscent of the indie lo-fi stylings of producer/DJ’s like Nujabes (the first artist to get me to seriously fall in love with hip hop) and the looming melancholia and booming trap stylings of contemporaries like Travis Scott and Metro Boomin, the production serves to blend the tranquility of the peaceful outdoors with the chaos and dystopia of modern rap.”
Learn more about ToBy in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time. So given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you? How have you adjusted to these times?
Glad to be here! A typical day for me usually involves waking up at some random time (some days its 7AM, others its 2PM). Fixing myself a cup of cuban cafecito and some breakfast. After that, I log on to the computer and binge watch Youtube videos till I get bored. I mostly rewatch old music videos I like, professional Super Smash Bros players, and cooking influencers. I mix this watching with email and label check-ins, I find it makes good background noise and kind of feels like I’m absorbing information subconsciously. Then I move on to my daily meditation and exercise, since my gyms been closed I really started slacking so adjusting to home work outs has been a real effort (they’re open now, but I’m giving it a little while before I go back). After that I fire up my recording equipment, I have a limited setup for my laptop at home, and work through some ideas maybe noodle on the guitar a bit. By the time that’s finished, I listen to what I make a couple times and send it off to my friends for notes. Then I hit the kitchen and go to town! My grandmother had a restaurant back in Haiti so I basically grew up cooking. I make a mean rib eye steak and am perfecting my Alfredo sauce recipe. Once I’m full and happy I curl up in bed and either watch my shows or play some video games before I hit the hay. I’m rewatching this old Freeform show “Greek” and FX’s “What We Do In The Shadows” and playing Bioshock and Bioshock 2 for the first time on PS4.
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now?
So I’m a bit of a social butterfly, I love going to places and events since I already spend so much time at home. Quarantine was difficult because not only was everything closed but I had to close up my social circle as well. Obviously it was for the best, I didn’t want to contribute to the rising numbers but I started fantasizing about things like going to a bar or the movies like I used to do all the time. LA opened up a little more but the cases shot through the roof so it’s pretty tentative right now how things are gonna play out.
How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more to stay connected to fans and other musicians?
Social media’s been helpful for staying in contact with friends I can’t see. I recently got on TikTok so I plan on making some fun little videos once I understand it a little better. I think people in general are talking a lot more and I’ve been reconnecting with old classmates and people who are just now discovering my music so its been great. I’ve also been going back and forth on records with different artists sending each other sessions and collaborating.
How did you go about choosing your artist name? Why did you decide to go by something other than your real name, Reggie?
So ToBy’s actually a nickname from High School that I had and when I started making music I just capitalized the B and turned it into my new identity. My first creative outlet was writing when I was pretty young so I wanted to think of my songs as letters to my listeners. ToBy became a representation of the address on the front of a letter (i.e. “To:” & “By:”). My parents weren’t super pleased with the fact that I wanted to make rap music back then so I didn’t use my real name for it since I share it with my father.
Have you had to cancel a lot of shows this spring, summer and fall? I see that you do have a couple shows this summer in cities that allow it so what has that been like? Are you starting to schedule any bigger shows for 2021 yet?
I didn’t actually have any shows planned in any cities this Summer. I rehearse every day though just to keep my performance chops up though and figure I’ll be doing a few Instagram showcases. As of now, nothing’s scheduled for 2021 but as things progress that may change.
Since we are all desperately missing live music, can you recall a favorite show of yours from the past? What do you think ultimately makes for a great show for you?
Oh there are so many, I talk about past shows with my guys all the time! Off the top of my head, the shows that stick out to me the most were when I performed at A3C, when my band and I opened for Schoolboy Q in 2013 (I hit my head on an hanging PA speaker and kept rapping), and this one time I performed on top of a U-Haul truck for my whole set. A great show for me is attention to the fundamentals. For one, is the artist actually talented from a musical standpoint? Are they capable of doing technically impressive or exhibit advanced musical prowess? Next its the energy, I don’t need someone jumping around for 45 minutes to be thoroughly entertained but I wanna at least know they’re having a good time up there. One of my favorite performers is Earl Sweatshirt, he doesn’t do all the ruckus and jumping but his tracks don’t have any backing vocals on them and his delivery and energy are super solid. Lastly, I’m a sucker for the visuals and the immersion. I studied theatre in college and one of the most fascinating aspects to me were the designs, how light, costume, sound, and set had to come together to make a fictional world come to life. That’s what I pay for when I see a show, I want to believe in what I’m seeing and also be astounded by it. Shows are like the last bit of true magic we have left in this world.
Let’s talk about your soon-to-be-released EP “The Outside.” What was it like putting it together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Were there any unexpected challenges? How were you influenced by your grandmother’s home in Port Au Prince, Haiti?
The Outside EP came together in bits and pieces over time. I believe the last song on it was only recorded a year ago. I was introduced to the producer of all the instrumentals “oebeats” by my best friend and engineer Ruben Cardenas. I later found out that Ruben brought him to my house once for a party and we had met a while ago, but either way we started working. I was in LA and he’s based in Miami so he would send me packs based on vibes I was going for and I picked the tracks I was absolutely in love with. The most surprising thing about the overall process for me was the independence, in the past I was dependent on having an engineer or producer in the room to record me. Because of this, I was always doing the most to impress them and me and felt a pressure to make the most of my time in the studio. With “The Outside” I recorded all of it by myself after learning some audio engineering and felt that it opened me up as a musician by removing that self imposed pressure. I could write what I want and flow how I want and not have to second guess anything because of another opinion. I’m all for collaborating but sometimes, you only need one cook in the kitchen. The unexpected challenges came after much of it was done, I was leaving my old management when I had this project in the vault so I was kind of in a free fall and didn’t really know if it was going to come out. Thankfully, everything ended up working out. My grandmother’s home in Haiti was where I wrote a lot of my early music. I would go out at night to the rooftop and over look the city and just write. Her house was set up so that you can see the mountains, the city, and the water way out in the distance.
How would you say that “The Outside” compares to anything else that you have released? How have you grown as an artist over the years?
“The Outside” is a pretty different sound than anything I’ve done before. It’s more atmospheric and spacious than my older material. I also think on my song “Wishes” I’m the most open and honest than I’ve ever been on a song. I feel like I’ve grown in my beat selection and topics. When I first started making music I would recite these like 2-3 minute verses with no hook because that’s the kind of rap I was listening to. Then as my tastes developed and I expanded what I was listening to, I started paying attention to how I could best use my voice as an instrument. With this project, I feel like I’m putting those two inclinations together and making music that I feel like means a lot to me and also carries that musicality.
How do you think future music is going to be influenced by this incredible and absolutely necessary Black Lives Matter movement that the US and even the world is going through now? Is it inspiring you and your music today at all?
I think everything that’s happening has been a long time coming and I honestly didn’t expect to see this big of a push take place in my lifetime. I think future music will still have to deal with the ramifications of what today’s struggles are fighting against. I fully expect for these issues to be prevalent for much longer but feel like we’re seeing steps taken in the right direction. There are powers at work here that will take an unprecedented amount of collective effort to destabilize and their influence is so far-reaching and ingrained in our society that they won’t give up without fighting tooth and nail. That being said, I feel like this subject matter has always shown up in my work. I have songs like “GOLDMINE//OVERTOWN” that go in depth on my personal proximity and perspective to these situations and feel like it’ll always be a prevalent theme in my music.
If you could get into the studio with any artist today and collaborate on a new song, who would it be and why? What musicians consistently inspire you?
My absolute number one favorite artist is Childish Gambino, although if I got into a studio with him I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’ve been really into Dominic Fike and Phoebe Bridgers and would absolutely make music with them if given the chance. I love Dominic’s grungy but soulful punk vibe and he’s an absolute beast on the guitar, overall such a talented guy. I’m also in love with Phoebe’s songwriting and lyricism, until her I never heard themes expressed the way she does and again, she shreds as well. Those two definitely inspire me to get better and better every day. I also look to artists like Amine, Kehlani, Jack Harlow, Saba, Frank Ocean and Isaiah Rashad for influences when I’m writing.
What would your dream music video look like right now?
I’ve always wanted to shoot something underwater. Like when Gunna did his “Drip or Drown” album cover or when A-Boogie shot his “ rowning” music video. I think that has such a cool look and I like to swim so it would just be a fun time for me mostly. I have music videos from 2016 where I was covered in like mealworms and gagging on like flour water mixture so it would be nice to do something where I’m enjoying myself.