In review: Theophilus London – This Charming Mixtape
This Charming Mixtape. This… Charming… Mixtape. How… how is that even a thing? Why is it a thing for that matter, why has this been allowed to happen? Obama’s only been in charge a week and already the world’s falling apart. And why is it called “This Charming Mixtape”, but he’s recreating the album cover of “This Year’s Model”? Was “This Year’s Mixtape” really too far a pun to stretch to? Couldn’t his art director find the right Photoshop filter for a faux-Smiths album cover? “This Charming Mixtape” sounds like an MP3 “mash-up” compilation circa 2002, y’know, Freelance Hellraiser blends together the exciting and challenging sounds of can’t-miss future superstars Ms Jade and The Von Bondies.
And anyway, why the confluence of The Smiths and Elvis Costello? Their artistic peaks were about a decade apart, and it’s hard to think of a single common musical thread between the two, despite their shared Irish ancestry. Unless the joke is, of course, that Costello and Morrissey are both comedy racists? Really, any self-respecting hip-hop mixtape with a Declan Mac jack as its cover would be called “The Blind Ignorant Nigger EP”. But then again, from looking at the cover it’s pretty clear that Theophilus London doesn’t really have any self-respect.
With a cover this fucking awful, and a rapper’s face this unlikeable, IchLugeBullets has no choice other than to review “This Charming Mixtape”, even if it is via the medium of six randomly tossed-off zings and an attempt at “hmmm, social context” to wrap it all up.
And if you want to clown, you skip straight to the tracks with the worst names. So “Late Night Operation (Mike Dextro and Proper Villains Remix)” sadly signs off trance-snap as a genre by starting off like as an expansive-but-awful Italo trance track circa 1999 and then swings violently into DJ Bobo territory; “Aquamilitia” is not, as the title suggests, a nautical-themed posse cut (real talk: Theophilus London looks like the kinda guy who dressed up as a pirate on university bar crawls), but rather Amp Fiddler on syrup, only worse; and “Day One Fans” isn’t him shouting out utterly forgotten 1999 Mario C-produced post-trip hop act Day One, which is weird, because it sounds a lot like them.
It’s not all seriousness with this four-eyed prick though, there’s laughs-aplenty too, including a skit where he phones up a girl to propose, possibly as a practical joke. Unfortunately, it’s been recorded with a “down the line” vocal effect, giving the whole endeavour serious “this phonecall is coming from inside your house” overtones, which are only amplified by London’s heavy breathing. And as you’ve drifted off from the boredom of the entire album, the moment when he starts singing, possibly without irony, Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”, the alternating effects of tedium and awkward jarring make you feel like you’ve just woken up after dozing off in front of the television, only to find your flatmate’s hand on your crotch.
Look: this is indefensible. London can’t rap, his flow is alternately awkward or indecipherable, he has no memorable lines, no presence, no emotion, he may as well be rhyming over trip-hop such is his intensity. London has an awful ear for a beat as well: things tend towards the electro, but when it’s a “signified dance to” track it just makes you realise that America probably could have done with Dave Pearce at some point in the past decade, and when it’s a “signified think about” track, you get the impression that London spent the early 2000s stoned off his gourd, playing Wipeout and listening to that “Ninja Cuts” compilation. The entire album strikes me as the sort of recording that could only be enjoyed by the sorts of people who synch their Twitter feed to their Facebook status update. Twats, in other words.
Even so… there’s something I’m not sure about here. The reason we chose this to clown on is because, well, our immediate reaction was “Holy Christ, the last thing I need in my life is a rapper making Elvis Costello references”. Does that make me a bad person? I mean, by seeing “blipsters” (helpfully autocorrected to “blisters” by Microsoft Word) as somehow tainting hip-hop, am I at best drawing racial boundaries where they don’t need to be, and at worst being straight-up racist?
The worst part (and believe me, there were many contenders for that role) of Sasha Frere-Jones’ infarmously dreadful New Yorker article entitled “Black People Are Good At The Singing And The Dancing And That, Why Can’t Animal Collective Be More Like Black People?” was how it was built on the understanding that what makes rap the finest of musics isn’t that it allows someone to take nearly anything from 100 years of recorded music, shove some drums under it, and then proceed to spit flame over the top of it, but rather some “magical negro” ability by all black artists to bring beauty and rhythm to their recordings, and if only those doggone indie acts could be more black we’d all live happier lives. Utterly fucking ridiculous.
But yet, by zinging the generation of soft-serve, Urkel-spectacled rappers, are we just being as useless and dreadful a human being as SFJ undoubtedly is? Quite possibly. Regardless of all this, “This Charming Mixtape” is an absolutely failure as a piece of music on all understandable levels and I now wish London serious physical illness and emotional pain, but if you think that as well you’re probably a racist. Your call.