Over the past few years, rapper Tobe Nwigwe has quietly become a force in the hip-hop scene, amassing millions of fans and making appearances at festivals like Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. But his appearance on Saturday Night Live alongside Justin Timberlake feels like a stratospheric level-up in notoriety.
On Jan. 27, the pair joined forces on the classic variety show to debut a brand-new song, “Sanctified,” a gospel-infused banger that blends distorted rock and pop. Timberlake made a deliberate introduction of Nwigwe, and the two shared a mid-song handshake and post-performance hug, which felt like clear markers of the rapper’s contribution to the new track. Appearing in flowing monochromatic suits a little over halfway through the performance, Nwigwe killed his verse while he and his crew showcased the post-modern hip-hop choreography that has typified his work.
Both sonically and visually, Nwigwe has delivered one the most cohesive and bold visions in music in recent years, so the Timberlake collab makes sense. Still, Nwigwe featuring so heavily and so early in the album rollout lands as somewhat of a surprise. Timberlake’s first album in six years, Everything I Thought I Was, is slated for a March 15 release and was just announced earlier this week. The pop icon has also announced a corresponding world tour throughout the late spring and summer of 2024.
After New York, L.A., and Atlanta, Houston has a reasonable claim to being the next most influential rap city in the country. Not only because some of the current biggest names in the game, like Travis Scott and Megan Thee Stallion, hail from the Bayou City, but also because of a legacy built on DJ Screw, UGK, and Geto Boys—artists that helped shape the genre. With his continued ascent, Nwigwe has a shot at being the next huge name to bolster H-Town’s rap cred.
Check out the rapper’s performance with Timberlake in the video below.