Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Theophilus London

Theophilus London is in my opinion is the most promising artist to arise in the hip-hop genre over the last few years, and possibly once of the coolest men in the business. The young man, from Brooklyn NYC, is something completely different from your everyday rapper/hip-hop artist who like to wear baggy American football shirts and denim shorts, with lyrics about ice and women. London prefers fitted clothing, going tight jeans, leather jackets and an old school baseball cap rounded off by Ray Ban's instead. As well as this, his influences are particularly interesting for a hip-hop artist in the US, citing Kraftwerk, The Smiths, Quincy Jones, Damon Albarn, Ian Curtis, Elvis Costello and his idol Morrisey as his main inspirations as an artist.

London's work is an infusion of hip-hop, electro, techno and soul-funk with a strong 80's influence on his work. It's a sound which is so hard to describe, but which is so entirely original, with nobody else like him in hip-hop. He has one album to his name, and now three mixtapes which are a format he shows a penchant for. He is quoted as saying "Mixtapes are very personal and they describe you better than an album sometimes", displaying why he has chosen the mixtape format rather than an LP more often than not.

London's first mixtape was released for free download in the summer of 2008, in the form of the 'JAM!' mixtape which London describes as "...just my favourite jams from past times like Prince, Kraftwerk, Micheal Jackson and Whitney Houston". The man who mixes is Machinedrum, a brilliant Brooklyn based producer whose work on this tape compliments London's playful and imaginative rhymes excellently. The highlights of the mixtape for me are the bass heavy 'Night Ridin', 'Ber Ber Der Dant' which features a great 30 second sample of Al Pacino's speech from the film 'Any Given Sunday' (Stone, 1999, US) at the beginning of the track which I really appreciated, and also 'Future Times' which is uses the instrumental and also some vocals from the original track by the up-coming Canadian duo New Look.

'JAM!' Mixtape Tracklist:

1. Jam!
2. Blindfolded
3. Future Times
4. Die 4 You
5. Late Night Operation
6. One For Me Freestyle
7. Epitome
8. Night Ridin
9. Star Scream
10. Leader Of the New School
11. Invisible Man
12. Superbad
13. Rest Of ‘Em
14. Call Tyrone
15. The Blues
16. Forever Begins
17. Ber Ber Der Dant
18. Ultra Violet
19. DVRC
20. Stranger In Moscow
London quickly followed up 'JAM!' with his second mixtape, 'This Charming Mixtape' (The reference to The Smiths and Morrisey highly recognisable). This tape takes a more electro/hip-hop approach, with his own style coming through the tracks more than on the 'JAM!' record. The influence of Kraftwerk is evident in his cool reworking of the track 'Computer Love', and the tracks 'Hum Drum' and 'Cold Pillow', which features London's more unique whispered tone, prove to be the highlights of an interesting and experimental mixtape.

'This Charming Mixtape' Tracklist:

1. Grey x Sage (Sabali Remix)
2. Computer Love
3. The Drug
4. Always Love You
5. Late Night Operation (Mike Dextro & Proper Villians Remix)
6. Hum Drum
7. Crazy Cousins
8. Fatality
9. AinĂ¢€™t No Sunshine
10. Aquamilitia
11. Take Your Life
12. Cold Pillow
13. Take My Eyes Off Of You
14. Ultraviolent
15. This Charming (Skit)
16. Your The One
17. Day One Fans
18. Happy Day (Live)
The underground success and critical acclaim of his previous two mixtapes led to a debut album release on the Normex label in April 2009 for London, under the explicitly intertextual title 'This Charming Man' and featuring both tracks from the mixtapes and new material. I was really impressed by the new material on the track, with 'Enjoy The Sun', 'Want U For Myself' and the brilliant Letherette production 'Ooos and Aahhs', which is without doubt my favourite track on the album with the great glitch-hop beat and distorted vocals of London. The album's strong production is provided in the form of DJ Iemerge, Machinedrum, Jimmy Edgar and Letherette.

'This Charming Man' Tracklist:

1. Enjoy The Sun
2. Want U For Myself (feat. Peter Hadar)
3. Higher (feat. Jesse Boykins III)
4. TNT
5. Superbad
6. Night Ridin'
7. Ooos and Aahhs (feat. Jesse Boykins III)
8. Blindfolded
9. Get III (feat. Ninjasonik)
10. Save
London's third and most anticipated mixtape, the 'I Want You' mixtape, was released on the 28th April, and after a few plays I believe this mixtape matches the best of London's previous work. This mixtape blends hip-hop/funk, LA electrofunk and UK indie throughout. London's 'Life Of A lover' is one of the highlights, with his and Jesse Boykins sensuous vocals enhancing the laid back and chilled out hip-hop/funk beat. London's great sampling is apparent in the tracks 'Hey Wonderful' and 'Light Years' which feature instrumentals and vocals from 80's soul/funk tracks 'I Want To Thank You' by Alicia Myers and 'Night Flight' by The Revenge. Also sampled in a couple of tracks are instrumentals from Vampire Weekend's new album 'Contra' and vocals form Erza Koenig, found on the tracks 'Give It Up Dad' and 'Pyromilitia'. The only mark against the album, a very slight one it is, is London's remix of the dismally average Ellie Goulding's 'Starry Eyed', which although London improves, is a track which should have no place on such a brilliant album.
London is currently touring tracks from the 'I Want You Tour' around Europe, so look at the dates on the poster below if you fancy catching him live. Also, for more live dates and information on new releases, check out his myspace which is http://www.myspace.com/theophiluslondon.

Also, my friend Dave has recently made a brilliant downtempo remix of Radiohead's 'My Iron Lung'. Make sure you check this out at both his Soundcloud page, http://soundcloud.com/dave_wood/my-iron-lung-remix, and also on his own blog which you can find at http://goldenstatic.blogspot.com/.

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