Over the last few years, East Londoner Big Tobz has enjoyed a meteoric rise. His breakthrough came back in 2015, in the shape of the insanely catchy ‘Uno My Style’, and he hasn’t looked back since. The Walthamstow resident grew up listening to US rappers 50 Cent and Fat Joe, but in his teenage years, Tobz’s attention quickly turned to the UK, looking to homegrown artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Lethal Bizzle who were part of a wave of artists laying down the foundations of the grime scene.
“Those times I wasn’t trying to spit, though”, Tobz explains, “I was trying to be a basketball player”. As his name may suggest, Big Tobz is a sizeable character and his muscular physique could certainly intimidate the majority of players on any given court but, inspired by videos he’d seen online from the likes of South London rapper Young Spray, he decided to take up MCing himself. As his reputation began to grow, Tobz ended up in a big local clash with none other than Chip. “We both went to school in Tottenham and my name was buzzing in the school thing. I was called Clash Kid then. Someone organised the clash [between us], both schools came out and I clashed Chip. After that, he kept trying to get me to join his North Circular Movement crew.”
Sticking with his East London roots, he decided against it, continuing his college education instead. However, that decision hasn’t stopped him picking up a large and fiercely loyal fanbase. Social media has played a big part in that, with Tobz often sharing his popular 60-second freestyle videos on his Twitter page. “The Twitter videos started off with Blittz and I doing back-to-back freestyles,” Tobz explained. “They were getting so much love but when I was posting links to YouTube it wasn’t getting as much, so I kind of clocked the formula.” The viral nature of these videos gives newcomers to Tobz’s music a quick and punchy insight into the nature of the hard-hitting and often witty lyrics that make up his musical catalogue, helping him develop a wider fanbase.
While he’s very much an artist who is comfortable when rapping over either rap or grime beats, Big Tobz doesn’t like to keep things traditional. His unique deep and measured flow easily stands him apart from his peers and has been recognised on numerous occasions, most notably when he was asked to record an original song for the soundtrack to Noel Clarke’s feature film Brotherhood. Fellow artists are also openly big fans of his work and collaborations with the likes of Donae’o and Section Boyz as well as production outfit The HeavyTrackerz have proven just how much respect he commands in the UK scene.
However, it’s Tobz’s work alongside long-time collaborator Blittz where we get a real taste of what Big Tobz is all about. Tracks such as ‘Believe In Your Barber’ harness the humour and utilise those clever punchlines that Tobz has become known for. Although this is often the side of Tobz we see, there is also a darker side to his music. Tobz has a real knack for storytelling and a series of tracks called ‘The Move’ are the perfect example of that. Split into four parts, the songs tell the story of a kidnapping and robbery in gritty, honest detail, showcasing a much more sinister side to Tobz’s lyrical breadth and demonstrating his outstanding ability to go back-to-back with the equally powerful Blittz.
With a fanbase hanging off his every word and YouTube videos racking up views in the millions (his track ‘Controlla’ is currently sitting on a seriously impressive 3.8 million views), what’s next for Big Tobz? “I’m working in partnership with Disturbing London and we’ve just wrapped up my EP which hopefully I’m gonna drop in March. We were abroad recently and shot three videos for tracks on the EP. They were the most amazing videos and I feel like a fan just waiting for the editor to get back to me with the finished thing.”
Having had a number of label offers in recent times, as his musical stock rises, this interest will surely only intensify. Speaking about this Tobz says, “I’ve had a couple of deals on the table from labels, but right now we’re just tryna get the best deal. I’m not rushing into one. But there has been a lot of offers and stuff, so we’ll do this EP and then see what the offers are. I’ve also got my next headline show on 5th April and I’m on a lot of festivals this year, so it should be a good year.”
See the full shoot and interview in Notion’s Future Sound feature, out Monday 27th and available to preorder now.
Above Big Tobz wears top & jacket New Look Men
Follow Big Tobz on Twitter and Instagram
Words Matt Tarr
Photographer Charlie Cummings
Fashion Kiera Liberati and Sian Saunders
Hair & makeup Lucy Thomas using Bumble & Bumble, Illamasqua, MAC Cosmetics
Hair & makeup Assistant Emma Temple, fashion assistants Shereena A-Grey