You know, there’s a lot to say about Theophilus London’s latest record “Vibes”. I mean we could talk about how the artist moved from NYC to Paris, passed through Germany and ultimately secluded himself in Palm Springs so he could succumb to his vulnerability for this record. Studios and entourages don’t allow you to be 100% with your craft, you know?
I mean it’s been two years in the making, through label fights and Kanye mentorships, contributing to Kanye’s projects (DONDA and NYFW included), collaborations with seasoned producer Leon Ware (hint: Marvin Gaye), Brodinski, Blood Orange’s Devonte Hynes. Oh and his good friend Karl Lagerfeld applied himself as well for the design of his cover.
Clearly Theophilus is a product of the haute couture sphere. He is a fashion kid. What else would you expect from a 6ft4 young man born in Trinidad and Tobago, raised in Brooklyn?
Everybody wants to ask him about Kanye, because well, Yeezy.
I want to write about his music. So here it is.
Theophilus London enjoys being a rapper. He also enjoys being a creative director. Why can’t he be both? Naturally his genre-bending efforts need to be defined so here’s my interpretation. To begin, I want dismiss your Cudi-esque first impression. Look beyond the pop and the good vibes (pun intended) and you’ll notice subtle nuances of contrasting sounds, both familiar and ultra-modern. For example, “Take and Look” sounds nothing like what you would expect from a rapper. It’s mostly ‘80s New Wave and yet sounds 100% modern. But we can also take a look at “Tribe”, the first single off the album which leans more towards the rap-e-verse. Still not quite the hip-hop you would expect. The song that talks about an “African Queen” (actually a wealthy Cameroonian lover), begins with a very tribal and eerie horn and as the title suggests is accompanied throughout the whole affair by percussions and energy reminiscent of the African countryside. Though quite complex, it’s made to feel very simple and ultimately very accessible and playful.
See, dear reader, I heard of Theophilus London since his days having fun “Flying Overseas” and discussing lust through “I want you”. Some things have changed. Some have stayed the same. The sound has evolved, the flow is still clear. Still fun, still accessible complexity. High brow and low brow in one.
In the Summer of 2011 London played the Jazz Fest. The Gazette praised his potential. He is back again, this time to warm you up on a Thursday night at Le Belmont. Go see London because he makes music for the tastemakers. He makes music that you can dance to, love to and paint to. It’s elegant, energetic and filled with surprises.
Thursday night, February 19th at Le Belmont starting at 9 alongside Doja Cat. A tasteful affair.