Promo photo by Jonathan Mannion.
Brooklyn based electro-hip hop artist Theophilus London is ready to take on 2012 after coming off of a career-making year in 2011. There was little that London didn’t do last year. He was signed to Warner Records and racked up some high-profile performances at Lallapalooza, ACL, Letterman and Cannes Film Fest.
If anyone wanted to challenge his hip hop credibility with all those mainstream performances, just ask the New Yorkers at Summer Stage or legendary Big Boi from Outkast with whom London played a string of dates.
London, whether intentional or unintentional, is also becoming somewhat of a style icon, even introducing his own Cole Haan shoe last year, the Blue Suede Buck. It’s an interesting move considering most hip hop artists opt for sneaker deals, but as you can tell from his music, London is as close to an original as they come.
Currently, London is on The Tour of Roses in support of his full length album, Timez Are Weird These Days. A well done fusion of electronic dance music and grimey hip hop, Timez Are Weird These Days was received well by critics and fans alike last year. Even more energetic than his albums and mixtapes is his live show, as fans in Austin will find out tonight at the debut of the new Beauty Ballroom on East Riverside.
Before the show, I spoke with London briefly by phone to talk about his big year, his thoughts on being a style icon and what’s coming up in 2012 after this tour.
It seems as though 2011 was a career year for you. Describe the year you had and what it was like to be you in 2011.
London: Yeah it was great man. I just came off of creating my own buzz with no label behind me yet. I created a whole fan base and that type of shit. I was doing tours going back to London, Germany, doing Cannes (film festival) and all that. When I started working with Warner Bros, it started to be put in perspective. I started playing festivals and working with brands like Pepsi and Cole Haan. It was crazy playing sold out shows and keeping people excited about things.
Now let’s talk about your debut full length album, Timez Are Weird These Days. It seems there wasn’t a critic on the planet that didn’t like the album.
London: Oh yeah…hopefully anyway. That happens every time I put out a project. Somebody’s gonna like it.
Do you feel any pressure this year to follow up with another album? Why or why not?
London: Not for me man. I put out the music and I see everything. I see it all on my own social media. I see people hating my music and I see people say they like it. They’ll say it’s beautiful and people that say “I hate this shit.” It is what it is. Everybody got different feelings about it. If you don’t like it then that’s okay. My job is to move on to the next project.
So you do control and read all your own social media yourself?
London: I’m behind the scenes man. I put out things on Facebook, blogging, tweeting and all that. That’s all me.
While we are on the subject of albums, tell me which records or artists you are listening to right now?
London: Aww man….A$AP Rocky. I like him and his whole movement. I’ve been getting Marvin Gaye back on the playlist digging back in the archives. I just switch up and listen to different shit. I listen to everything and take everything in.
Another interesting thing I found along the way as I followed you online last year was how you have sort of become this fashion icon in the making. The style mags and websites seem to flock to you. Other than the Cole Hann shoe deal, is this intentional? Is a shoe or clothing line a la’ Sean Jean, G-Unit or Rocawear in the making down the road?
London: I mean it ain’t nothin’ I’m working on. I get down on my merch and some designs. People are just excited about my taste level and my clothing options. I can’t control that. I mean, I like the way I look and the way I dress. I just appreciate them writing about me. It seems that every photo taken of me they analyze what I’m wearing. I appreciate it. They think I’m a sexy ass nigga and they want to put that shit out there. That’s what’s up.
What other avenues besides music do you plan to explore or break into?
London: No other avenues right now. I just care about and want to focus on my music. That’s my only focus for 2012.
What is something writers, critics, bloggers, etc still getting wrong about you?
London: I don’t know. I don’t really focus on that. I just focus on what I’m putting out and what the message is behind what I’m putting out. My job is just to stay focused and put the message out.
What would you like people to know about you that isn’t always asked or mentioned often?
London: I’m just a regular dude. I make music. I love my life and I love my family. I love all my fans and that’s it.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2012 and beyond?
London: Oh yeah. There’s a new album coming out in March. It’s going to be twenty seven free songs. It’s going to be a street album for the homies and the fans. When that shit come out, I’m going to go ahead and make my second Warner record. I already got four songs done on that. I’m looking forward to this year.
What is it about Austin that keeps you coming back here so often?
London: I was there for South by Southwest and promoted a lot of my talents there and that really helped me. I think Austin is a very progressive city. Austin has some progressive people there and that’s my audience. That’s why I fuck with Austin.
Watch London’s music video for “Last Name London” below. Turn it up loud.