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The Miraculous Story of RobOlu, Concrete Flower

After facing near death, RobOlu returns with a 2022 EP dedicated to his perseverance. He breaks down his miraculous story for Audiomack World.
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This article previously appeared on Audiomack World.

On his second day in the ICU, Nigerian-American rapper RobOlu is told that it’s time to go to sleep.

He wakes up in the backseat of a white Jeep. He tries to speak, but his voice fails him. He looks around and does not recognize a single face. He falls back asleep.

When he wakes again, the Jeep is parked at a store. Something is off. These people have bad intentions—Rob knows it. As they walk into the store, Rob finds a cashier and mouths to her, I want to go home.

“Where do you live, baby?” she asks.

He holds up his wrist and shows her a hospital band.

The cashier calls him a taxi. Morning is just breaking. Rob looks out of the car’s window and realizes they are in Cobb County, Georgia, his hometown. He arrives at the hospital and is laid in a bed. He begs to see a doctor. “The doctor went home,” the nurse tells him. He asks to make a phone call. “We ain’t got no phones,” the nurse tells him. Rob starts to panic: What the fuck is happening? The nurses clamp him to the bed.

RobOlu wakes up in a New York City library. Outside, it is dark and snowing. He is still on his hospital bed, being rolled in by a nurse and an EMT. Rob lays there, bewildered. Are they going to check him in? What is happening? A nurse named Doug comes over and whispers in his ear:

“Robert, who do you trust? The doctors want to wake you up, but I want to keep you asleep. If they wake you up, you’re going to have to do this all over again. I want to keep you asleep so that when you wake up you can be better. Who do you trust, them or me?”

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Shit bro, I trust you, Rob thought.

RobOlu actually wakes up.

“I know for a fact that I was in purgatory bro,” Rob tells Audiomack World. “I would not be alive right now if my spirit didn’t keep fighting. Say what you want about religion—God was my anchor through the whole thing.”

Rob tells me this at a Mexican restaurant deep in Atlanta’s south side, only two months afterward. According to medical professionals, this man should not be sitting in front of me, and he especially should not be cracking jokes, stuffing his face with birria tacos, and raving about the new music he has been working on.

For nearly a decade, RobOlu has been one of Atlanta’s most consistent and dedicated rappers, as well as one of its most genuine personalities. He is never hesitant to extend a hand to others—be it through mixing, recording, or lending an ear—but when it comes to his own art, Rob is a lone wolf.

While he came up with fellow Cobb County products Tony Shhnow, 645AR, and Popstar Benny, Rob’s music is distinct from his contemporaries. Olu’s sound is more rooted in technical precision: expert and versatile rapping without a single blemish.

For close to a month, the artist had been in a coma on life support in an Atlanta hospital. Last September, Rob got Covid-19 but figured it was nothing to worry about—just a bit of fatigue and sickness. A few weeks passed, and he felt like the worst was over. It wasn’t.

For more than a month after experiencing symptoms, Rob’s immune system had fought the lingering disease. By November, it had completely exhausted itself. One morning, he woke up in the worst pain of his life and checked himself into the hospital—all while in the process of an album rollout and a pending video shoot the next day. He told his team he was in the hospital but should be back in a day or two.

Rob woke up a month later in the ICU at a different hospital. The procedures they tried at the first hospital didn’t work. The doctors handed his mother the papers to sign to unplug him and told her it was time to say goodbye. She wasn’t having that—she demanded they do whatever it takes to bring him back. So, they moved him to another hospital, where they performed an operation that has a 40% success rate.

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After he woke up from his coma, Olu spent another month in rehab. Every day he was sitting in that hospital bed, unable to move or speak, alone with just his thoughts and feeding tubes. But once he got out, music was the first thing on his mind—promoting his new album, Follow My Lead, which had dropped while he was asleep, and recording a new EP, concreteFLOWER.

On our car ride home, Rob plays me a new cut from concreteFLOWER. Considering his circumstances, I expect something introspective and solemn. I am wrong. A deep bass thumps and not a second goes by before he asserts, “I woke up this mornin’ back on business / On Monday makin’ masterpieces, bitch it’s time to get it.

“This tape is gonna be all hard shit, bro,” Rob says as it plays, “hard as fuck, just gonna keep pushing.” My Honda Accord is shaking and I cannot believe my ears. Who else on this Earth has the gall to look Death in the face, throw a deafening right hook, then make a rap song that further goads the Darkness?

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What were you thinking once you got out of the coma?

I was so high. They had me on so much pain medication. I wasn’t thinking coherently. I kinda get emotional when I think about it. I was just there lookin’ at these walls, like, I had no other options. I was like, Fuck it, I just gotta watch TV. I didn’t have my phone and that was stressin’ me out because my friends and family were all worried about me.

Some days I would get extremely anxious. One day I started panicking on my nurses. I couldn’t walk nowhere, I couldn’t do shit. I’m just laying in bed all day. They had a needle in my neck that was recycling my blood, so if I moved and that fell out I would’ve been cooked. I started moving and screaming cause I was just like, What the fuck is happening right now?

How do you feel right now?

Ninety-percent. Something I think about every day—dealing with the reality of being so close to death. It’s a weird reality to face, especially in a time like this where so many people are dying every day. I’ve been in car accidents, I’ve been hospitalized before, there’s been a lot of shit that I have been through. But it’s like, shit, still standin’. This was the last straw. My life threw me a hail mary and I fucked around and caught that shit.

Knowing that there was less than a 50% chance for me to live, in a time like this where everybody’s dying, it’s like, Damn bro. It’s still something I’m trying to wrap my head around.

What do you think you’ve taken from this experience?

Nothing matters. Not one thing matters. I didn’t have my phone for two months, and our phone is our world. You build opinions off it, you gain knowledge off it, you network, you build relationships from it, and nourish relationships from it. So, without my world, it was strictly on what I chose to consume, care about, feel, so a lot of the superficial shit that we think matters does not matter. A lot of people say that, but they don’t know the extent to which it doesn’t matter. N***as that say they love you, they don’t love you how they say they do. The shit you think you care about, you don’t care about it the way you feel you care about it.

Also, I’m gettin’ older bruh. Bein’ that close to death and realizing, What have I done? If I fucked around and died, what are n***as gonna say about that? “He was a cool dude, he had cool clothes, he was funny, I appreciate the music for what it was…” that’s kinda it. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

Has your relationship with Follow My Lead changed since getting out of the hospital, considering that it could have been your very last body of work?

I think it’s the perfect analogy for music being timeless. Whether I’m here or not today in the physical, that body of work is still there. When I got out, and I got to bring it to the attention of the people who weren’t aware that it had come out, it got another life. Say I didn’t make it, and I wasn’t here in the physical right now, it still would’ve gotten another life.

You were speaking to people with it while you were in a coma and couldn’t speak.

Exactly. It’s like, I’m alive, but I’m not alive. It’s like my spirit is still alive. My story is still being told and speaking to whoever I’m speaking to without directly speaking to them. Before, after, or during [life]. That’s kinda the relationship I have with art now.

Whether I’m here tomorrow, today, or never, whatever I do is gonna live longer than me, so whatever is living has to be substantial enough to… Shit… I don’t know. I’ll try to get you a better answer tomorrow.

By Millan Verma for Audiomack

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