For the past few years since the release of his first album Timez Are Weird These Days, Brooklyn’s Theophilus London has been bubbling just slightly under the surface of mainstream success. He and his music was featured in a television advertisement for the Chevy Aveo. His music was also featured in a T-Mobile commercial and he can be seen regularly in print ads for Benneton, Gap, Chanel and others. With all of these accolades under his belt — pun intended, one might think that London, the rapping and singing dual threat, would be a bigger star than he is at this juncture. Vibes, executive produced by Kanye West, reportedly took London two years to complete and he approached it with the mindset of it being his first album.
Aside from West, album contributors include Devante Hynes, The Force MD’s, Soko, Jesse Boykins III and famed Motown writer/artist/producer, Leon Ware. Production is provided by the aforementioned Ware, Pierre Baigorry, Adam Pavao, Club Cheval, Cid Rim, Brodinsky, Kyle Ross and 88-Keys.
The album opens with the lush and sexy “Water Me,” which finds London channeling inklings of classic Mos Def. “Neu Law” is a funky electro-esque cover of John Maus’ “The Law” and the track is perfect for swanky gatherings at art galleries or a late night drive through downtown streets when all the traffic lights are flashing yellow. “Take And Look” has a stripped-down house music feel to it and ends with a brief interlude of Feadz’ “Welcome To Paris” which is perhaps a subliminal nod to the French city that London frequently expresses his fondness for. The slow-rolling “Can’t Stop” features Kanye West at his ostentatious best with one-liners like “If this party ain’t got hoes, my intro is my outro.”
Danceable numbers like “Heartbreaker” and “Get Me Right” showcase London at his self-assured, assertive and braggadocios best. On the former track, Theophilus declares, “My mind is telling me no, but my friend downstairs said “yes” / I know you’re sweet and innocent, but goddamn I wanna take off that dress.” He goes on to say “Fuck your politics, fuck your nine-to-six / Girl let me kiss your lips.”
London flexes his storytelling abilities with “Do Girls”, which finds the emcee narrating the tale of a romp with a woman who was only into having sex with women until a player like Theophilus London came along (his words) . The upbeat Jesse Boykins III-featuring “Tribe” is followed by the self-examining “Smoke (Interlude)” and jumpy “Smoke Dancehall.” “Need Somebody” is the final sanguine tune before the album closes out with the smooth and silky Force MD’s-featuring “Figure It Out.”
True to its name, Vibes comes chock-full of different vibes for different situations. Sometimes Theophilus London is on his “guac and salsa shit” and at other junctures he just wants to run away with his lover and exist without a care in the world.
Don’t we all?
There’s something endearing about Theophilus London and Vibes — he’s quite the charismatic artist. This album likely won’t push London to the surface of the mainstream just yet, but it will solidify his position with his current fanbase of LVRS and perhaps even convert a few new fans in the process.