Theophilus London, Andre 3000, Dev Hynes and Kanye West are some names that will float within the head when listening to Atlanta-born/ Chicago-based newcomer Mr. Wesley Johnson‘s fittingly titled debut mixtape Mixed Bag, but more than anything else, the project and artist seems the most adhering to the style of Pharrell Williams. At times, Johnson apes the Neptunes producer’s potpourri of airy synth-soul, space-age hip hop clatter, old pop-informed melodies and De La Soul appreciation so hard, it’s almost uncomfortable, nearly making one want to give Williams a warning Tweet or something to alert him of a potential stalker’s existence.
What ultimately keeps us from firing off the social media heads-up is that, even with the Pharrell (over-)love and a certain beginners’ clumsiness, Mixed Bags glistens with many neat ideas, taking oh-so-familiar creative bullet points (rappers who also sing, electro-sparked attempts at what “future music” will sound like, the sudden revival of house, a cooler-than-you attitude) and mish-mashing them into rarely un-interesting self-reliant music nerd morsels that leave behind an intrigued interest in where Wesley will go next (several templates found here–whether the oddly-shaped Ratatat-nodding rock-funk and mic arrogance of “None” or the video game-sampling hipster-soul of “I Need It”–deserve to be spun off and stretched out over their own tapes).
It’s on two specific tracks that Johnson and Mixed Bags hit their peak though: first full number “Future Groove” struts to the kind of slinky, self-confident disco-funk that begs to underline the pre-going out/ mirror-reflected ritual of figuring out what outfit will make one look the most stand-out sexiest when sharing airspace with all the other nightlife folk hitting the hot club spots; meanwhile on “You Know”, scenes of Wesley’s wooing of a London babe come packaged in brilliant production that chops up claps, snares and a “Mr. Sandman” sample into an infectiously carbonated hip-pop stew before slowing things down to a screwed, nightmarish crawl.
Hear both below or download Mixed Bag in its entirety here.