Published Jan 20, 2020With a voice that evokes an ocean breeze, beats balmier than island sunshine, and keys encompassing both the grit and warmth of beach sand, Theophilus London seems to be making an extremely early ploy for album of the summer. At the very least, dropping Bebey in January serves as an oasis from the typical barren release period. The Trinidad and Tobago-born, Brooklyn-bred artist has jockeyed for stardom since dropping his last, disappointing Kanye West executive produced album Vibes in 2014.
Take the new LP's title track, which couldn't be more "feel good," thanks to its romantically relatable chorus and playful reggae instrumentation. Same goes for Bebey standout "Marchin," the horns and pure joy of which conjure Jimmy Cliff's career highs.
Impressive as the vacation-worthy vibes abundant on those songs may be, the album's guest list is every bit as noteworthy, at least on paper. Those eclectic contributors include indie rock titans Tame Impala on two tracks ("Only You" and "Whiplash"), underground dance floor dynamo Ariel Pink, chart topping mumble rapper Lil Yachty and gangsta rap legend Raekwon. That being said, Theophilus shines brightest of all on his own Bebey lead single "Cuba," which enthrals with its climactic hand claps, soothing vocal tones and stadium-sized melodies.
Sure, Bebey is addled with a few duds. The Auto-Tune-doused "Seals" is bogged down by Lil Yachty's soggy, lazy flow (despite the hype that that the mumble rapper's commercial appeal may have yielded). "Give You," meanwhile, is even worse because it's instantly forgettable. And even though Theophilus does his best on "Whoop Tang Flow," it's tough for all but the sharpest of MCs to hold their own against Wu-Tang legend Raekwon (hats off to him for being bold enough to try).
Regardless, the blissfully good vibes on this LP's best tracks not only make up for the blemishes, but also ensure you'll be bumping portions of this unseasonably strong first quarter release well into the coming summer. (Independent)