I first heard Theophilus London on Peruvian MTV. I was in a dingy little hotel room, packing to hike Machu Pichu, with the TV on for background sound, when I heard a steady beat drop. The rhythm was grounded and smooth, with a chiming ring at the end of each count. I stopped what I was doing and looked up to see a tall, stylish kid, walking the shores of a retro music video, rapping about “Flying Overseas.” I watched the video through, jotted down the name of the track, and the closest spelling I could of the artist’s name. Two weeks later I came back to the states and downloaded all of his music.
Theophilus London was raised in Brooklyn. He grew up on Michael Jackson, a fact that is completely transparent if you ever have the pleasure of watching him dance to his own music. After posting his This Charming Mixtape, he caught the Internet’s attention with his flamboyant (yet on point) style, and his aggressively chill beats. He’s since walked the tight rope of the fashion industry and the music industry. He’s been profiled in Details, GQ, SPIN, Interview, Paper and many more.
While he may be the face of Bushmill’s and has collaborated on a shoe design with Cole Haan, talking with London on the phone yesterday it seemed very clear that his main interest is music. Period. His voice picks up pace when he talks about it. He gets energized. Excited. Where he seems bored is talking about fashion, like an aggravating side project. When I brought up the Terminal 5 show he opened just after the release of his latest album Timez Are Weird These Days, he sounds hurt. The Internet had blown up, saying that it was a less than worthy performance. He seems genuinely pained that the quality of his music wasn’t top notch, but he’s redemptive. Ready to play Webster Hall Thursday Feb. 9.
“I didn’t enjoy that at all. It’s hard to open. I can’t control the experience, but with this new tour, I got to take my time with everything. Make decisions, what all the lights look like. It’s gonna be me in rare form, doing the new stuff. Bringing the remix stuff in. I’m just so excited to show everyone the new stuff. It’s gonna be a tight show.”
What’re you working on in the studio right now?
I got a remix album coming out. I’m working with Microsoft on remixes for WB. Trying to bring Timez Are Weird These Days to the club, taking inspiration from The Police and David Byrne. I’m working to power that movement of all the cool kids, like Skrillex. I can remix my vocals for the first time.
There’s an online contest for an unknown producer or rapper to work with me. I’m very excited about that. Working on a new album now too, featuring the hottest young talent right now, A$AP ROCKY. It’s gonna be called Rose Holiday and I’m looking to release that in April.
Fashion week is coming up, are any shows a must see for you?
I’m really pretty busy. I can’t just mingle and go see my favorite designers. I might do a surprise performance during the Rebecca Minkoff show. Very excited about that. I’ll probably play a few after parties, since I’m going to be working the day. I’m gonna do the Minkoff after party at The Darby. I’m also going to do a big performance at the amfAR Gala that’s hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker. I’m excited about that. I gotta go chill in Philly Tuesday night.
Are you working on a new shoe design with Cole Haan or have any other fashion collabs in the works?
I’m working on some new suede shoes that are kind of like slippers. I think they’re gonna be like driving shoes for the springtime. My main focus is music right now. No question.
You’re a self-described Twitter addict. What’s the craziest/best thing that’s happened to you from tweeting?
I get some crazy messages. “Great pictures,” and all that. Crazy fantasies and dreams that have come from it. Don’t wanna go too in-depth on that…
The music/fashion world recycles flavor of the weeks like fads. How have you stayed on top of your game and how do you intend to keep yourself relevant?
It’s cool man, once I saw both worlds I kind of got the picture. There’s a lot of pretentious shit to deal with, with the fashion stuff. The fashion dinners and whatnot, but they’re kind of the same world, too. Everyone is creative and directing things. It’s great to see both, but sometimes you can’t go between the worlds. I’m excited that both worlds are interested in me, but I’m just focused on the music.
A lot of your songs are love songs, or meditations on your aggravation with relationships. What’s your love life like right now?
My love life is chill right now. I’m working a lot.
[Laughs] I got a girlfriend.
What do your newer tracks sound like?
This stuff is highly eclectic. Double time beats, faster stuff. Stuff I’ve been working with producers on half time, story rhythm, fantasy worlds. I want bigger beats and spacier stuff. I’m working with sick producers. It’s just challenging to be everywhere everyday. Always on the road and then getting in the studio, then the live show. The balance and time management is important. I’ve learned a lot from it.
Given the long list of things you’re working on now. What’re you most excited about?
I’m pumped to be working with A$AP ROCKY. I threw a party New Years Eve in my little hotel room. He showed up and we chilled the next few days. We recorded and became good friends. I’m supportive of him, he’s supportive of me. I put out this song called “Big Spender” with him, it’s on YouTube right now. It’ll come out officially in March.
Pumped to be doing SXSW. I’m trying to get the hype going. I really like Rocky, he’s definitely one of the hottest things coming out of rap right now.
It seems like you’re somewhat of a renaissance man; what’s your next big move going to be? Acting? Writing?
A lot of people have reached out to me in the film industry. I’m not interested at the moment. I got four albums to record and I’m in the process of recording right now. I like going to movies though.
What was the best movie you saw this year?
The Descendants was pretty tight. I’d become a movie critic before I’d become an actor.
You’re born and raised in NYC. How has the city changed for you over the years?
It’s changed in a funny way, because it’s gone from super hustling in the city to just trying to keep climbing higher. I’m not trying to put out anything bad, just working with really great people. A lot of the time I walk up the street and people notice me, it didn’t used to be that way, y’know? But I still love the city. It’s my home, there’s no time to rest, gotta work, make moves.
Theophilus London, Feb. 9, doors at 6:30. Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St. Click here for tickets.
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