Rapper’s new album has staying power way beyond any flavour-of-the-month fascination.
Al Fox 2011-09-21
Trinidad-born, Brooklyn-based rapper Theophilus London has very much been his own warm-up act. A string of buzz-building mixtapes followed by a well-received EP have had the music press and the hipster massive alike clamouring for his every note. With his first full-length album, Timez Are Weird These Days, it’ll no doubt be interesting to see how things translate in the full glare of the mainstream.
The immediate pigeonhole would suggest indie-friendly hip hop, but it’s pretty clear from a couple of listens that the layers of influence run far deeper than that. Unearthly chants, tinny beats, ticking riffs and a constant electro-whirr barely even touch upon London’s array of tricks. Wine and Chocolates, equal parts soulful and playful, almost evokes a delicate French house influence, while the unaffected bubblegum bounce of All Around the World, with its sprinkling of discordant rockabilly, makes for a highlight. However, the obnoxious, repetitive Girls Girls $ – which you’d hope is entirely ironic – is a substantial step back.
It seems London bestows his best efforts via his collaborations: his sinuous gelling with Holly Miranda on the busy melancholy of Love Is Real; the subdued, pungent back-and-forths with Sara Quin of Tegan & Sara on Why Even Try; and Dan Carey’s inventive, daring production throughout. In fact, were it not for the latter’s imagination and nerve and aural decadence, the merits of Timez Are Weird These Days would be few and far between. While London possesses a capacity for unfussy, relaxed rhymes and agreeable vocals, they’re subtleties rather than quirks, and would be difficult to fully appreciate without a backing that sells them as effectively as this.
On paper, everything about Timez Are Weird These Days lends itself to an ostentatious dose of elite, Hoxtonite posturing. But there’s substance beneath the style, a welcome human quality to withstand the opulent demi-house compositions. It’s not a severe, balls-out display of character; moreover, it’s a measured drip-drip effect, which in itself goes against the hype. But with such expectation attached, this attests Theophilus London comes equipped with an unorthodox element of surprise, and faintly hints at a staying power way beyond the flavour-of-the-month fascination.