BY MATTHEW HENGEVELD Rather than glamorizing a past-life of blood-drenched mobster-isms or a history entrenched with money counting machines, Theophilus London boasts a Wildean lifestyle with a confidence akin to Prince in the mid-‘80s. He talks about chic German-built cars, rendezvous with unnamed women at lavish hotel rooms and having casual meetings with music elites, such as Mark Ronson and Damon Albarn— two of his benefactors. His fashion style is enigmatic, donning a thick-rimmed pair of expensive plastic shades and a baseball cap that looks fresh outta ’92. His personality and style seem to shoot directly into the already-dug-out vein of Stones Throw’s vinyl-hysteric fan base and Diplo’s Mad Decent crowd’s love for the upper crust of the eccentric bourgeoisie’s music taste.
His first full-length album is due to be released in February, titled A Lover’s Holiday. In anticipation, he has released a series of mixtapes. The third, titled I Want You, is the most functional of the bunch. Its song “Oops” is accompanied with a music video featuring Lindsay Lohan getting slammed by some skinny dude. To be fair, the footage was not recorded for the music video, but for a photo shoot for Muse Magazine; but it’s still impressive that a relative unknown like London could be granted permission to use the material. Hell, there’s some fully exposed nipple. Thanks Lindsay!
London talks extensively about his world travels in his assorted blogs and various interviews. There’s no doubt that he’s recognized how palatable Electro-pop is in Europe. American popular audience is just now (re)dipping its feet in the electro field, with Kanye & MGMT being the forerunners. However, tracks like “No Answers” and “Hey Wonderful” sound like an old 80’s Groove track from Freeez, much less modern than anything Kanye has thusfar pooped out. “Life of a Lover” sounds like a B-side beat from Blu’s semi-classic mixtape HerFavoriteColo(u)r. It’s a down-to-earth track from London, and a firm reminder that he’s still a rap dude from Brooklyn. But he sways the absolute opposite direction with “Pyromilitia.” He attests between reverbed claps: “Ronson can vouch for me—” I think this is a break of his otherwise suave character. More perplexing is “A Stranger’s Heart,” a wacky UK-House mix with a crunchy-gated bass line that sends any speaker into absolute ruin. “Don’t Be Afraid” was produced entirely by an old Casio keyboard, drums & all. I haven’t heard such a great array of beats compiled on one album in a long time. It’s not surprising that Mark Ronson oversaw a majority of this project.
As a rapper, Theophilus London is nothing special. He portrays the kind of confidence you’d want, and he has a firm grasp of modern conventions; repetition, forced rhyme and a proper amount of “ugh, ah & yeahh” adlibs. However “Understood” contains a crucial lyrical slip-up. The line goes like this: “We need more saxes in the world… Satchmo.” WHHAAA? Well, that’s depressing, isn’t it? This is a great album, if only for its unusual production. As much as I want to say, “Theophilus London is the next big thing for hip-hop,” I know that he is little more than a handsome face over some crazy beats. I know the hipster crowd will eat this shit up.