The New York by way of Cali rapper that’s bending ears, genres and genders with his boundary-pushing music.
By Michael Tyler, University of Texas
The next big thing in rap just might be a lanky 24-year-old from the suburbs who’s more interested in wearing dresses and skateboarding than fulfilling the usual male-rapper stereotypes.
His name is London O’Connor and he’s currently couch surfing through friends’ apartments in New York City. Despite lacking a consistent physical address, his massive Internet presence makes him easy to track.
Among other things, that presence consists of O’Connor creating his own video game, self-directing a music video, routinely posting sensational, confessional entries on Tumblr, and recently releasing his first album. The young hip-hop artist has cultivated an online persona so intriguing that it alone has brought him a degree of celebrity. But even without the floral themed dresses and outlandish media presence, his music would garner attention.
O’Connor released his first full album O∆ (Circle Triangle) in June. The record is ten tracks long and thirty minutes wide. In it, O’Connor takes listeners through an honest and angst-filled description of a typical day for him as a teenager, wanting to explore the world but suffocating in the suburbs. He litters captain’s logs throughout the album, highlighting O’Conner’s commitment to the explorer mindset even while stuck at home.
Home is San Marcos, California, a quiet suburb of San Diego that comes equipped with everything a stagnant suburban hell is supposed to have: lazy, close-minded family members (“Oatmeal”), the dude you hate (“Guts”), crime as sublimated violence (“Steal”) and a failed love interest (“Love Song”).
While short, the album is a good mixture of catchy pop choruses, pretty layered synths and appropriately placed raps. It’s neither pure rap nor traditional pop, but a completely unique twist on both.
In the current state of genre-blending hip-hop, artists increasingly try to fold unconventional styles into their music to produce novel sounds. O’Connor’s album offers a perfect example of how this aural promiscuity can lead to brilliance.
He graduated from NYU’s highly-touted Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, giving his work a grace only a proper musical education could produce. He knows how to make uplifting and captivating music regardless of the subject.
In O∆, he talks about failed love and laments how lonely we are despite technology’s promises (“Nobody Hangs Out Anymore”), and he does it well.
In a rap landscape where the hottest artists wear ponchos (Young Thug), kilts and jewel-studded masks (Kanye), it looks like London O’Connor’s dresses have carved out a nice niche big enough for himself and his music.