Tolibian celebrates early wins and a potentially bright future on debut EP, ‘Alien’

Leans into the charm of finding his feet without getting overwhelmed

There’s no barrier to entry in Nigerian street-pop. That much is evident in the myriad of superstars and prominent artists that find their way into widespread acceptance, across hood acclaim, regional popularity and nationwide ubiquity. The common denominator, which also doubles as the most important requirement, is authenticity. Tolibian understands these things. An Ilorin-raised riser who first garnered attention through viral skits and song covers, his path into music wasn’t premeditated, rather a function of spontaneity.

Around the time TrenchTok became a full-force catalyst and driver for cultural moments and conversations, Tolibian emerged as one of the more wholesome creators. His comedy was hyper-specific in its use of language and experience, but he also had the uncanny ability to ensure punchlines hit the right pocket of generally, incredibly funny. It extended to the song covers, like his nasally croon on a cover of “Peru (Refix),” a profound and hilarious moment that helped further the ubiquity of the slang, ‘Sapa’. Tolibian clearly had song-making chops, but it often takes more than unpolished talent to become a proper artist.


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On his new debut EP, ‘Alien’, the comedian-turned-singer hasn’t reached all-round form, but his growth is evident. It features five songs performed with a wide grin, perhaps still basking in the surprise of slowly but surely finding his footing in the current context of street-pop. “I found myself doing music, it’s not something I learned,” he told The NATIVE just before the EP’s release. Tolibian leans into that neophyte charm without getting overrun by naivety. He sticks to easy subject matters and loose melodic stylings, a little less ambitious than some of his older singles—but it makes sense for his very first project.

When “Abaya Palava” dropped in 2021, it felt idiosyncratic. A song centred on a traditional Muslim attire, with intricate, tongue-twisting rhymes to fit Tolibian’s storytelling candour, there was clearly no play for wide appeal but it found an enthusiastic audience amongst hundreds of thousands who could relate. Or generally understood the ramifications of the scenario he richly developed. It was further confirmation his abilities as a writer of reality-inspired narrative, set by the preceding single, “Abortion,” sung from the perspective of a lady coerced into sexual relations, with tough decisions to make in the aftermath.

By “Beware of Dog,” the Rexxie-produced single, it was clear Tolibian was gearing to make more accessible music in hopes of securing increased visibility. Further proof was in the melodic drill of the self-congratulatory “Journey” and the party-starting aim of “Hello.” For his new EP, Tolibian sets himself up as a purveyor of optimism within street-pop. ‘Alien’ is all sunny melodies, featuring a vibrant disposition from the singer as he enjoys his early success while keeping an eye on a potentially brighter future.

“If we dey alive, we go dey alright,” he sings on the opener “Alive,” that Ilorin-Islamic flavour in his voice elevating an otherwise ordinary declaration. The centre of the song comes a few lines later: “Nobody fit stop my success.” His conviction is sealed and the rest of the EP follows thus, almost as if willing listeners to join him on the same wavelength. Tolibian represents a prevailing mentality amongst younger adults from far less affluent parts of Southwest Nigeria that all it takes is one opportunity for undeniable success. The prevailing ethos that destiny finds it way manifest, especially when aided by hard (and smart) work. So, why be sad when you can make merry in advance for when things get better.

On lead single, “Happy,” Tolibian sings, “We caught ‘em by surprise/wetin God design no longer fit collapse.” In contrast to the rest of the EP, the song is a far more baroque moment, featuring an Amapiano-influenced heater for a beat. The rest of the EP, while leaning into colourful elements are more pared down, but still fitting for shuffling feet. Interestingly, Tolibian leans into Highlife via the Duktor Sett-produced tracks, “Day By Day” and “Party Ego.” It’s not a new synergy, going all the way back to ‘70s icons Victor Olaiya and Fatai Rolling Dollar. Taken together, though, ‘Alien’ is a show of how Tolibian can ground varying musical style with his rustic voice and chippy personality.

Listen to ‘Alien’ here.