An unspecified individual who claimed to be "THE" Hip Hop encyclopaedia and just so happened to strike up a conversation with me one recent drunken night had said "all this electro stuff has nothing to do with Hip Hop, bro, they never did that like til now and it's full lame, bro. They need to go back to rap in the 80s, man. " Obviously, this articulate fellow seems to have been unaware that Hip Hop more or less birthed electro through artists of the – oh my – aforementioned 1980s, thus deeming his argument void.
So anyway, electro is nothing new in Hip Hop. But yes it has been revived over the past half-decade and the two have in many cases become synonymous with each other again. And they've had their slew of artists get big from it too. Enter Brooklyn MC Theophilus London who takes his shot at this genre from a different angle, with his debut LP Timez Are Weird These Days.
The fusion of hip hop, house, new wave, electropop, synthpop and even some surf rock compliments of producers John Hill, Ariel Reichstadt, Jocko and TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek make Theophilus one of the few to stand out in a crowd of artists with recycled radio sounds. However it does not completely separate him from the pack, particularly in regards to Kid Cudi, as not only are they similar in their instrumentals but also in the delivery of their vocals, especially when it comes to singing.
Take for example Wine and Chocolates. London's and Cudi's voices are an almost identical match, and you will seriously wonder if Cudi has an uncredited feature on it. London is not the greatest lyricist either, but like Cudi's better work, he has enough in his arsenal to keep you listening without groaning at any generic lyrics. However where he most differs from Cudder is in his subject matter, which is not so heavily focused on relations, drugs, psychosis, the lot. These are not excluded but are well-balanced with everything else on the album including love, travel, searching for self-identity and, of course, consumption.
Everything here is both club and radio friendly, but this is one of those rare occasions where being both has not been made out of a sacrifice of richness in music. Every song is danceable, save for the Why Even Try. Also featured on his previous EP Lovers Holiday, this is a sweet throwback to the 80s sound with the instrumental and the hook, yet Theophilus' verses keep the song from feeling outdated. What would have been a nice addition to the album also from the EP is his tripped-out single Flying Overseas, which could have done the album a favor but it does not particularly suffer without it.
Timez Are Weird These Days is loose on its focus on any particular genre, but the genres it does blend laces them together well into an enjoyable summer album. It's nothing overly original in any way, but it succeeds in spades at what it seeks to accomplish – to give the listener a refreshing, easy, fun and attentimes psychedelic exhibit of an otherwise long-overdone style. Theophilus London may have been beaten to it, but that does not mean he's been beaten at it.