The singer/rapper Theophilus London has garnered a fair amount of attention over the time of his gradual uprising. Kanye West approached him after hearing one of his songs on the radio; as a result he became the executive producer of the entirety of London’s new album ‘Vibes!’ as well as appearing on one of the tracks. Not only that but the co-producer on here is none other than the soul legend Leon Ware. As you can imagine with all this new love, he has upped his game somewhat from his debut album ‘Timez Are Weird These Days’, which lacked depth.
The first thing that should be noted about this album is the fact that the production on here is brilliant. This honestly is what modern-day funky electro-pop should sound like; the sounds never sound too reminiscent of the past, but it’s where the influences come from. Disco, Reggae, Psych, and a host of other genres come together to create this brilliant aesthetic feeling on this album. The Kanye collaboration ‘Can’t Stop’ which is probably the best song on the album features lush keys and some vocals effects on the harmonies on London’s voice which sound fantastic when he’s singing hook on top of hook. There are delicate strings, electric guitars playing underneath big bassy beats and a host of other instrumentation on this album that feels so brilliantly put together in a very cohesive way.
The downside to this album comes when you don’t take this on a purely aesthetic level. Although some of the topics on this record are a lot better than his last record they aren’t really done with much conviction. The song ‘Water Me’ has some philosophical moments talking about death but they’re done in a way that just sounds weirdly meaningless ‘At death we lie awake, free sensation/ All eyes and names and voice, who scream, have no choice’. Try gathering some sort of relatable meaning out of that; it sounds like a shopping list of ideas. The song ‘Do Girls’ is a song about London’s ability to turn lesbian girls straight complete with a snippet of a phone call about a girl who’s explaining how she ‘accidentally’ cheated on her partner with London. It doesn’t paint our pal Theo as the most likable of characters especially as it’s not done with a hint of satire. The song ‘Smoke (Interlude)’ also feels pointless, with him singing about how every ‘Good girl wants a bad boy’ in the simplest of ways. On top of that Theophilus’ ability as a rapper often isn’t that great as he finds himself sounding extremely uncharacteristic or out shined by his guest rappers.
On an aesthetic level this project is definitely worth a listen; the production is stellar and there are hooks throughout this album that are fantastically put together and sung. Just don’t expect to hear complex rapping or being able to relate to any of the lyrics on here. You probably won’t even find yourself singing along to many of the songs on here. They often try to dig deep (and do a lot better job of it than his first album) but really fall short. The album really is appropriately titled ‘Vibes!’, because this is an album packed full of good vibes and nothing else.