“Kids used to want to be rappers — but now they want to be fashion designers, which is cool,” says Theophilus London. “It’s an education.” The New York-based rapper is talking about his legions of fans, which he refers to as “kids.” But in terms of the music industry, Theophilus, at 25, is still a youth himself —though a savvy one.
In fact, he’s probably had more magazine and newspaper profiles (GQ, Esquire, Elle, The New York Times) and fashion collaborations (Cole Haan, Stussy and Surface to Air) than he’s had musical airtime. And he can name-drop with the best of them. Solange Knowles is “like family, like a sister.” He casually mentions seeing mood boards out at Kanye West’s house, and in the next breath recollects “smoking hash” with Mark Ronson “while chatting about girlfriends and wives and that kind of s—.” Those are some impressive connections considering that London, who was actually born in Trinidad, has only released one album, an EP and a selection of mix tapes.
Credit: Jonathan Mannion
Usually the lucrative endorsement are rewarded after years of toil. However, London has managed to capitalize off of his personal style and cool credibility first. “Rappers used to be wearing Air Jordans,” he says. “I still wear them. But now, the progressive kids are more educated and wanting Givenchy, Rick Owens or Alexander Wang. And Kanye’s clothes — they’re dope.” His own approach to fashion is a studied one. “The black suit and hat that I’m wearing on the cover of my first album, ‘Timez Are Weird These Days,’ was inspired by Leon Ware [the writer behind Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ record]. I got a lot of work off of the back of that. I know how to dress. I have a look and I don’t need a stylist to tell me what to wear,” he adds.
Brand endorsements abound — indeed, he’s answering my questions from the set of a Chevrolet commercial — but London swears he approaches it all with a strategy. “I’d never do anything with McDonald’s. They’re not moral,” he says. “I have my own agenda.” For now, that includes a new album coming out this summer and collaborations with Azealia Banks and Frank Ocean. “I never do things just for the money. I have to believe in it.”