Harmless entertainment full of experimentation
Brooklyn-raised [a]Theophilus London[/a] is a fountain of Tumblr bloggability. Alongside a hipster-in-skinny-jeans image, he’s put out cool-catnip like his Smiths-worshipping, synth-heavy ‘[b]This Charming Mixtape[/b]’, which even had a [a]Kraftwerk[/a] sample thrown in for extra brownie points. He’s worked with Solange Knowles and Dev Hynes. But this checklist for scene popularity has built him up for a fall, with critics baying for his blood if his debut album didn’t stand up to the hype. Sadly, he hasn’t quite nailed it.
For starters, he’s not an amazing MC. As a lyricist he doesn’t compare well against counterparts like [b]The Cool Kids[/b], and the rhyme-heavy moments on ‘[b]Timez Are Weird These Days[/b]’ are its weak spots. Strained lines like “[i]I fell in love with a disco queen/In the heart of the city at a bistro scene[/i]” don’t exactly help. But where he comes into his own is on fluffy, Juicy Fruit-esque funk like ‘[b]Why Even Try[/b]’, featuring Sara Quin of [a]Tegan And Sara[/a]. While a female hook can often sound like an afterthought in rap, here her vocals gel effortlessly with his silky-smooth laydeez’ man persona. The real shine, however, appears when London himself flexes his lungs on tracks like ‘[b]Wine And Chocolate[/b]’ and current anthemic single ‘[b]I Stand Alone[/b]’, proving that, as a vocalist, the boy’s got good tone. By the end you’re willing him to sing more.
It may not be game-changing and it’ll be slaughtered by those who have a hatred of hipsters/fun. But it’s harmless entertainment, and London gets full marks for what he’s best at – experimentation. Hopefully a second effort will be less a roll-call of references and more a tailored blend of new wave and throwback funk that he can truly brand as his own.