WHO: Theophilus London
Better than … the Molly Ringwald dance.
Theophilus London has a flight instinct. Just browse his song titles–“Humdrum Town,” “Flying Overseas,” “Departure,” “All Around the World”–or his lyrics, like telling his Queen Bee, “Let's fly away,” in “One Last Time.” The tricky part is that he's trekking into the past to get to the future.
As opposed to how smoothly it flew on his mixtapes, London's time machine snags on a tree branch here and there on his full-length debut, Timez Are Weird These Days, out today on Warner Bros. “Why Even Try,” a highlight that was also released on this past February's Lover's Holiday EP, is London at his best: Over a deceptively sunny, sexily insouciant track, he raps about the push-pull of a relationship. It's what the soundtrack for Pretty in Pink might have sounded like if Prince had done it.
Even though last night's show was the record release party for Timez, London did a bunch of old songs, and the sweatier his self-designed silver-sequined tank top got, the better he got.
He wasn't bad to begin with, though; in fact, he's kinda mystical. Wiz Khalifa is delivered to the stage on clouds of weed smoke; Theophilus London, on clouds. Even with that blinding shirt, he kept disappearing into the fog, and when he emerged, you saw the thick gold ropes around his neck first.
While it just plain worked when the DJ snuck Biggie's “One More Chance” underneath London's “Flying Overseas,” it was a little weird when Telli from Brooklyn's Ninjasonik and London started freestyling over the beat every rapper wants to show off on, Chris Brown's “Look at Me Now.”
It's hard to remember London, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Brooklyn, is only 23. Everything about him, from his perma-sunglassed eyes, rising profile as a couture darling, and careful attention in avoiding oversaturation, speaks to a maturity most rappers his age seem to be missing.
Or it could just be that he has this onstage persona of half Michael Jackson and half '80s hair metal guitarist. His sideways hop-shuffle, hunched back/hips snake dance, MJ belt buckle grab–all are charming, and we'd love to know what videos he watched when he was five years old.
But just when you thought Theophilus London existed outside of time, he exited the stage to a track he just recorded with Kreayshawn, “Shrimp Pt. 2.” And if you still questioned? “Play my favorite Lil B song!” he shouted after his encore, and “Suck My Dick Hoe” firmly grounded the night in 2011.
Personal bias: My idea of a good time is partying with Prince and Pharrell in Krush Groove's Disco Fever while Sheila E. performs “Love Bizarre.”
The crowd: Far more backwards-snapback-wearing college brahs home for the summer, and far fewer Appolonia-circa-Purple Rain look-a-likes, than expected. Also surprising: several (really cool, obviously) dads.
Overheard in the crowd: A couple of cutely enthusiastic dudes angling for iPhone photos and exclaiming, “Ohthassniiiiiice, thassNICE!” Post-show, entourage member/maybe roadie trying to round up as many girls as possible for the Hotel Roosevelt afterparty.
Random notebook dump: Been here ten minutes, and my dress is sticking to my back; why is the Troubadour always so hot?? Theophilus London confirms, “It's hot as fuck onstage.” I really hope Theophilus London never hires a stylist. Wonder what those dads thought about the Lil B sendoff.
Why Even Try
Wine and Chocolates
Girls Girls $
Love is Real
FIrst Name London
Want U for Myself
Enjoy the Sun
Always Love You
[Song from Timez]
*We think we heard “Higher,” “Strange Love,” and “All Around the World,” too, but help us out. We were dancing.