After three years of blogger-approved mixtapes, hipster darling Theophilus London releases his first full-length album, Timez Are Weird These Days. Quite the uninteresting rapper, London strikes his strongest chords when he ventures into singing ’80s dance and pop. The hype machine will have you thinking he’s the most international, genre-bending person out right now, which is a stretch. Though he makes some engaging experiments throughout Timez, in a post-Bowie, post-The Police world none of this is going to blow your mind, but it will make you dance.
“Why Even Try” featuring Sara Quin (of indie rock twinkies Tegan and Sara) is a dreamy downer that borrows Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” and makes a not-so-chipper song danceable as it did for Biggie Smalls nearly 17 years ago. London doesn’t take himself too seriously on party songs like “Girls Girls $,” partly inspired by dubious web celeb, Kat Stacks, but when he takes a more mature approach, he sounds like a lost member of TV on the Radio (“One Last Time,” “Lighthouse”). Legitimate TVOTR contact comes via Dave Sitek and his production on “Wine and Chocolates,” a holdover from London’s earlier 2011 release, Lovers Holiday. “I Stand Alone” finds London at his Sting-iest, saving his most defiant, danceable tune to close out the album.
Timez Are Weird These Days couldn’t be a truer title. With a dearth of current classic hip-hop being produced, the summer’s most anticipated album comes from a Brooklyn dweller with middling lyrical ability and a penchant for quirky style over substance (see the ‘so bad it’s good’ fashion choices on the album cover taken by Jonathan Mannion). Unlike the legends of BK past, London doesn’t riff on drugs and housing projects, which in and of itself earns him a fair shot. He may be redefining what it means to be a rapper in the 21st century, but it wouldn’t hurt if he practiced more rules of the game before changing it.