Theophilus London’s selection as opening act on the current tour of adventurous Pop artist Santigold (see interview in Music) was probably the easiest pairing the booking agent ever put it together. Santigold might be under “Pop” at the record store, but if there was a bin labeled “Various” or “Other,” that’s where her records would be most at home.
Likewise, London is a “Hip Hop” artist, but his music combines so many varied elements (R&B, Pop, Post Punk, New Wave, Electro and various forms of Dance music), the confusion of record stockers would be totally understandable.
The 25-year-old London was born in Trinidad and raised in Brooklyn, with a stint in Pennsylvania’s Poconos for high school. Catching buzz in a typical Hip Hop manner, he released several wildly eclectic mixtapes. Atypically for Hip Hop, one of those mixtapes — This Charming Mixtape — riffed on early Elvis Costello and The Smiths. And that was just the packaging — the cover featured London recreating Costello’s 1978 This Year’s Model album cover and the title referred to “This Charming Man,” the title of a 1983 single by the U.K. Indie pioneers. It’s safe to say, Lil Wayne would be incapable of such cleverness.
After three mixtapes helped him build a growing international fan base, London signed with Warner Brothers Records and released the EP Lovers Holiday, which included several special guests but, again, not ones you might expect if you were to go in only knowing London as a “Hip Hop artist”; the EP included appearances by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio, experimental singer/songwriter Glasser and Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quinn.
After the EP, London dropped his debut long-player for Warner/Reprise, Timez Are Weird These Days, which helped raise his profile (again) considerably. And the eclecticism was back in full effect, further frustrating music critics, chart-makers radio programmers and others who worry too much about genres. Rolling Stone’s review of the album described the album as “Hipster Rap” (in a passive aggressively derogatory review) and his first bio for the album called it “Urban Electro Pop,” which is even less elucidating.
Hit up his show this week at Bogart’s to see if you can come up with a better descriptor. For now, let’s just call it “very entertaining.”
THEOPHILUS LONDON performs Friday, June 15 at Bogart's in Corryville with Santigold. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.