What makes for a great artist in 2017? That isn’t just the basis of a thousand unwritten think-pieces, it’s a legitimate question.
Given the vastness of the playing field when it comes to accessibility and a constantly shrinking attention span, the entire definition of “greatness” seems to be shifting before our eyes and ears.
The artists our parents consider great are those that left behind legacies, those that still hold up to their initial standards 50-plus years later. Today, greatness is spoken of more in terms of stream quantities and social media reach.
Moreover, the majority of artists today aren't even thinking within the context of longevity. While there are plenty examples on the contrary—Kendrick Lamar, Run The Jewels, Kanye West—far too many of our favorite artists are manufacturing music that lacks that unquestionable timeless quality, and however unquantifiable, it's that very nature that rests at the root of artistic greatness.
Enter October London, a singer/songwriter from South Bend, Indiana who is in pursuit of that intangible timelessness. Signed to Snoop Dogg and Jazze Pha’s Cadillac Music imprint, the young crooner has unleashed three projects in the past year and today (April 7), he released his latest effort, Color Blind: Hate & Happiness.
London’s music—regardless of which genre he happens to be dabbling in at the time—is infused with a vibe more in line with painstaking studio sessions than the lean-fueled, off-top frivolity of many of his peers.
London’s polished eclecticism is no stroke of luck, either. Years ago, October went by the name Sam London, making music that one publication aptly described as “the love child of R. Kelly and John Mayer.” That sounds weird as hell, but it works.
With his recent re-brand, however, London seems hell-bent on reviving the timeless energy of soulful forefathers like Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke, both of whom his recent music has been compared to. Color Blind: Hate and Happiness sounds like Anderson .Paak and Leon Bridges fused into one being and locked in a studio with producer Adrian Younge.
A crisp, modern take on R&B’s foundational sounds, Hate and Happiness allows London’s vocal versatility and fantastic production sensibilities to shine through the powerful lens of familiarity. A dig into London’s SoundCloud, however, will reveal that he’s just as comfortable dropping his talents into the context of modern—and even classic—hip-hop.
Whether he’s tediously reinvigorating classic soul sounds or assisting his mentor Snoop on an instrumental, it’s abundantly clear that London’s top priority is making music that has an infinite shelf life. In a 2016 interview with SingersRoom, London perfectly summated his artistic compass:
You can try to emulate them and do runs like them and try to sell as many records, but deep down, if you’re not a fool at heart, you know those gentlemen made music for the masses. Those guys moved mountains that a lot of artists nowadays can’t fathom. Name one song right now that you honestly will be interested in listening to 50 years from now. Don’t worry…I’ll wait. Until we as musicians realize that we’re more than just musicians, that’s when we’ll leave a legacy like artists such as Marvin and Sam Cooke.
With an outlook like that and the veteran wisdom of Snoop Dogg behind him, London certainly has the makings of an artist capable of making music that will withstand the test of time.
And even if none of his projects are still being cherished by the masses in half a century, the fact remains that October London is making some of the most soulful, quality-oriented music I’ve heard in a while.