Theophilus London Is A Breath Of Fresh Air On New Album ‘Vibes’
While some still may view Theophilus London as a relative newcomer in today’s game, his impressive track record speaks for itself. Records such as 2009’s “Humdrum Town” and 2012’s “Big Spender” served as tremendous boosts to the career of an artist who incorporates elements from hip-hop, soul, R&B, and electro to form an entirely new genre he describes as "post-punk." There are even a few doses of reggae and funk on the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Trinidad native’s eclectic sophomore album, Vibes, a 12-song body of work executively produced by Kanye West.
During the current era of hip-hop in which copycatting is at an all-time high, industry success can be attained through an artist's ability to find his or her own lane—a unique style. It sounds obvious, but staying true to one's self is the most important thing for a talented up-and-comer to accomplish. Take a look at guys like Chance The Rapper and Young Thug, the two biggest breakout stars of 2013 and 2014, respectively. Whether you enjoy their music or not, it's impossible to deny the fact that they don't sound like anybody else out right now (although Lil Wayne is clearly an influence to them both).
The ultra-experimental Vibes is London's hip-hop coming out party—a message for all those who have been snoozing on the 27-year-old's talent. He showcases his Kid Cudi-esque singing ability on track two, "Neu Law," which features production similar to Kanye's 808s & Heartbreak. In fact, the entire album takes on the vibe (no pun intended) of an early Cudder, over beats reminiscent of 808s, with a hint of Flying Lotus. While the influence of certain G.O.O.D Music artists is certainly present, London's own, distinct style shines through as well. Relying less on lyrical content and instead choosing to zero in on beats, flow, and general feel bodes well for the overall listening experience. That's not to say that London isn't lyrical; on the contrary, his bars are clean and calculated. They just get overshadowed by stellar production at times. The project's conciseness is an added bonus, as Vibes clocks in at just under 40 minutes of music.
"Can't Stop" is easily the catchiest tune of the project, and it's no surprise that it's the record Mr. West agreed to hop on. Yeezy drops his now-infamous "It Ain't Ralph Tho" line twice before London showcases his strong writing ability, spitting on verse two, "Please spend the night forever / Silence in my room is louder than kaboom / Let’s skip the north freeze for the southern breeze / The grass is always greener when there’s bumblebees." The song contains a smooth drum pattern, carefully placed piano, and high-pitched violin sequence.
There's a certain groove to Vibes—something that just makes you want to get up and move. "Heartbreaker" is a perfect example, with a mesmerizing use of synthesizer and overlapping vocals. And try listening to the best song of the twelve, "Do Girls," without bobbing your head to the track's lightning-quick, infectious guitar. The album's experimentation factor brings to mind another recent project, Travis $cott's well-received mixtape Days Before Rodeo. The common link between London and $cott? That would be 'Ye, whose friendships with both London and $cott are well-documented. In fact, London finished arranging Vibes while flying on West's private jet.
Theophilus London's musical ability is evident throughout Vibes, a mesh-mash of genres that come together to form one of the better listenings of 2014. The album sounds like a bit of a throwback at times, yet London makes it feel new at the same time. He poses a dual threat—singer/rapper—which results in wider appeal. Vibes is a breath of fresh air.—Eli Schwadron