“We come from where most don’t break free. We had to learn why caged birds sing.” These words are from Houston-based rap artist Tobe Nwigwe’s “Caged Birds,” which he performed last fall on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series. The lyric, a riff on Maya Angelou’s famed autobiography, is not out of place in Nwigwe’s oeuvre, which is known for containing inspirational, poetic messages. Raised in Alief, Nwigwe is first-generation Nigerian American. He was a lauded linebacker at UNT before a foot injury ended his athletic career, a blessing in disguise for fans of his music, which include Michelle Obama, Common and Michael B. Jordan, to name a few. On par with his distinct soulful sound is his artful sense of style. He is often seen wearing custom garments he has designed himself—an oversized pink coat with images of his wife, Fat Nwigwe, on its front; a custom, printed knee-length coat and matching cropped pants (complete with Balenciaga pool slides). Also works of art are his music videos, using cultural institutions as backdrops. See: MFAH’s house museum for European decorative arts, Rienzi and McGovern Centennial Gardens. We sit down with the family man and new dad to talk style, family and what’s next.
If there were 26 hours in a day, I would spend more time with my family.
In three words, I would describe my style as innovative, tribal and royal.
My earliest style memory is Miskeen.
My worst fashion faux pas was wearing baggy suits every day senior year of college.
I get my hair cut by DeWight [Parker at Diligent Hands].
G-Mob changed my life.
If I could turn back time, I would tell myself to find your purpose sooner.
My greatest achievement is my marriage.
My life story in four words is: did it my way.
In 10 years I hope the message is global.
Last meal: Our good friend Zainob’s jollof rice.
Photography by: Michael Starghill, shot on location at Rienzi