An odd splinter faction of independent hip hop has arisen in the last half-decade or so, resulting in a wave of acts — Spank Rock, Plastic Little, Kirb and Chris, Ninjasonik — that have heads knitting their brows over the looming specter of “hipster rap.” Brooklyn’s Theophilus London is the latest in that line, and his cosigns — including Solange Knowles, TV on the Radio‘s Dave Sitek, and Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara — not only point to the networking-savvy groundswell beneath him, they hint at the wide-ranging delineations around his style.
Timez Are Weird These Days is an album positioned to bring his indie-pop-inflected sound to the same breakout audience that latched on to Kid Cudi. And its rangy ambition lives and dies on London’s tongue-in-cheek arrogance, the kind of calm and collected international-player characterization that seems tailor-made to make ladies swoon and their boyfriends fume. Like your savvier ’80s babies, London knows the value of a both-ways crossover, aiming for a backdrop of new wave funk atmosphere a’la Dirty Mind topped with the suaveness of a young LL. But even if he doesn’t have Prince’s auteurist genius or the brick-breaking impact of Cool J’s hard-as-hell moments, he’s got both parties’ cocky heartbreaker personae going full-tilt.