But Itadi remembers being just as defiant against his mother’s wishes when he took up his uncle’s guitar as a young man in rural Togo. “I knew I couldn’t stop him,” Itadi says.
After college, Tabi tried the 9-to-5 life as a science teacher at Roosevelt High School in Petworth but hung it up after two years. Jo would clip classified ads from the newspaper and spread them out on the living room coffee table, hoping her son might change his mind.
In 2006, Tabi changed his parents’ minds when his breakout single, “The Pocket,” popped up on local radio stations. “I’m from Langdon Park,” he announced in the song’s intro, proudly referencing the leafy Northeast neighborhood where his folks still reside.
Today, Itadi sounds like the proud one. “When he’s onstage, he’s a different person. He’s a performer,” he says of his son. “All I wish for him right now is for him to get a label.”
“I hear that every day!” Tabi says. “I’m trying. He thinks I can just call Puffy or tell Jay-Z [to sign me]. I’m trying to explain to him that it doesn’t happen like that.”
Itadi hasn’t performed much in recent years, but he hopes he and Tabi can collaborate on an original song someday soon. For now, there’s “On Jupiter,” the first track on Tabi’s latest album, “The Summer Years.” It samples “Dodzi,” a shimmering song Itadi recorded in the late ’70s.
In the music video, the pair sit side by side, Itadi mouthing along to lyrics he came up with when he was about Tabi’s age. Tabi raps, “You ain’t gon’ ever find me in the party faking like they ballin’ like they Paul McCartney / But you can catch me ’round my neighborhood with paper goods. . . . on Capitol Hill with gorgeous girls and daffodils.”
He may be rolling his eyes at hip-hop’s superficial glamour, but he still has his sights on bigger things — even if it takes him away from Washington. He grew up touring with his dad. No reason it couldn’t work the other way around.
“Where everybody can come,” says Tabi. “I want to be that successful. Make it a family business. For sure.”