Every time I hear Theophilus London, I hear Kid Cudi. That low vocal pitch and mumbling cadence. The pounding synths and deep bass lines to mask said cadence. The obvious lust for pop star status, even if Cudi’s path was sidetracked briefly by a very public bout with drug addiction. And when I hear Theophilus, I hear a very confident — if not slightly cocky — young man, whose cavalier attitude toward women and responsibility lend to my overwhelming perception that life is a mere trinket for the Brooklyn vocalist, and that these times are made for celebration. It’s that nonchalance which characterizes London’s light-hearted blend of electro-pop and hip-hop, an easy concoction of simplistic rhyme patterns over airy, dance-heavy instrumentals. Therefore, his new album Timez Are Weird These Days is certainly expected, even if its “look at me, now leave me alone” theme quickly gets old. At least the music sounds good, although the rhythms grow complacent midway through this 37-minute expedition.
If nothing else, London’s music is charming. In one breath, you feel embraced by the album’s enveloping glow, embracing the sonic boom of “Last Name London” and respecting the robotic tempo of “Wine and Chocolates”. Then you peel the onion and realize there isn’t much there to hold your interest, even if the songs feel good after the first listen. There’s only so many times one can listen to London’s musings about his superstar stature: “From a bird’s view, from a third view/In the sky without no curfew,” he repeats on the Kanye-esque “Last Name London”, the album’s turbulent opening track. By the time the nomadic “All Around The World” plays, he’s chastising rap music and lackluster media coverage. “Tired of hearin’ yo’ crap, ’bout who need to bring rap back,” he says. “Stupid interviews, questions make me sorta laugh.”
That’s not to say his messages need to be deeper, since there is a definite lane for his jetsetting brand of music. His 2009 full-length effort, The Charming Man, was similar, with “Superbad” resembling the closest thing to so-called “real hip-hop.” But in this finicky music industry, variation is key. You can’t record the same album too many times without the listener taking notice. I don’t know Theophilus, but I imagine he achieved exactly what he sought with Timez — a breezy, fun-loving record best heard on headphones and loud stereo systems. While it’s easy for me to criticize his lack of depth, it may also be unfair. Theophilus is simply a young man with lofty aspirations and abundant professional opportunities at his fingertips. But exactly who the real person is remains a persistent mystery. I hear Cudi in his voice. I hear Kanye through his beats. I’d like to hear Theophilus. He might have something interesting to say.