Theophilus London ‘Can’t Stop’ Chicago


Nohemi Rosales

Theophilus London

By Arts & Culture Editor

Like his 2014 album Vibes!, Theophilus London’s Feb. 23 birthday performance at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake St., was a melting pot of musical styles, sounds and vibes. 

The Brooklyn-based rapper performed with a live band, an uncommon practice in the hip-hop world, but one that changed the venue’s atmosphere for the better. London took the stage following Father, an Atlanta-based rapper best known for his song “Look at Wrist,” who performed alongside his MacBook-powered backing band, which was just as exhilarating as it sounds. 

London’s performance followed suit with his unconventional style. His brand of hip-hop is sometimes referred to as alternative hip-hop or PBR&B, a nod to the beloved hipster beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon. London, donning mostly black street clothes—including his sunglasses—opened his set with the hypnotic track “Water Me.” Standing center stage, peppered with blue light and posed behind a mic stand, he brought the audience a show that was part bass-thumping hip-hop, part guitar-driven rock and part sway-with-your-partner R&B slow jams. The start of his performance caught the audience off guard, with most attendees likely mistaking him for a roadie rather than the usually fashionable man they see in his music videos.

A more proper opening song took place immediately following “Water Me” when London performed “Can’t Stop,” the energetic fourth track from Vibes!, featuring Kanye West, the album’s executive producer. West himself did not make an appearance, but London’s solo performance was enough to jumpstart the energy of the couple hundred fans who gladly sang along with the song’s catchy hook, “Can’t, can’t stop/ you can’t stop my love/ Can’t stop/ you can’t stop my love.”

London’s album may not break a sales record, but the artist has cultivated an eclectic fan base, including college-aged hip-hop aficionados wearing the latest gear from Stussy and bounced their outstretched arms alongside aging hipsters. 

London’s show happened to be on the same day as his 28th birthday, something the Trinidadian rapper did not hesitate to share with his fans, often running to his laptop on the side of the stage to play a song to celebrate. The crowd even honored London by singing “Happy Birthday,” much to his enjoyment. 

London made it a point to interact with his audience. When leading into “Do Girls,” London requested that everyone get as loud as possible, but when they failed to do so, he stopped the band and said, “Hold up, hold up. That’s not right. They’re not loud enough,” and started again, giving the audience more explicit instructions. 

London allowed a handful of female audience members to go on stage and pose with him as he performed. He also granted the Chicago audience the pleasure of meeting an attractive young lady he referred to as his girlfriend by bringing her center stage between songs.

Transitioning from his extensive variety of songs, both new and old, London’s energy increased throughout the performance to the point of emitting high-pitched shrieks during the musical breaks of his songs and even hitting the drummer’s cymbals with his own drumstick. London’s singing kept

the integrity of each song’s performance intact by releasing animal-like screams at the appropriate times without disrupting a rendition of one of his slower songs, like the popular single “Flying Overseas.” It was a definite high point for many in the audience who sang along over the pre-recorded chorus that features Solange Knowles. 

London’s opening act, Father, joined him on stage to perform “Look at Wrist” once more. This performance featured a mostly pre-recorded track from Theophilus’ MacBook, with Father jumping in on a verse occasionally and London bouncing around the stage with Father’s Atlanta crew.

After performing most of his 2014 album, London brought the show to a close, thanking the audience for an amazing birthday and extending an invitation to his after-party down the road on Ashland Avenue. The audience thanked London and the band with howling cheers and applause for an amazing performance. It was a night that differed from the average hip-hop show, and fans were aware that Theophilus London is nothing close to average.