By Michael A. Gonzales
Photography by Maï Perello
It is a dreary afternoon in New York City and emerging Warner Brothers recording artist Theophilus London is posing for pictures. Dressed in a black suit boldly painted in colorful flowers, London is completely in his element at his album cover shoot with famed photographer Jonathan Mannion.
Twenty minutes later, and obviously hungry in more ways than one, the lanky rapper, singer, producer, and model notices when lunch is delivered. Ready for a brief chicken-and-rice break, London walks over to the food table as his funky cover of Nat King Cole’s “Calypso Blues” blares from the sound system.
“I am a fan of fashion, but I don’t consider myself an expert,” says the 23-year-old Trinidadian native who moved to Brooklyn when he was 3. Around his neck, London has on more retro-style gold chains than Slick Rick. “I know how to dress myself, but I could never be a stylist.”
Spotlighted in a recent Bushmills ad as well as in the GQ magazine column “Rebel Style” last year, London has a sartorial sense that is a mixture of Flatbush flavor and personal vision. “For me, Moscow is the most unappreciated city when it comes to style. I’m a collector of suits and I always fi nd nice cuts there. But I don’t favor designers; I’m more into the rawness of street fashion.”
Known for his quirky musical blend of next-wave hiphop, island grooves, ’80s pop, and innovative soul, London cites such diverse artists as The Smiths, Marvin Gaye, The Cure, and Prince as infl uences. “I also like listening to jazz when I’m relaxing and hanging out with the ladies,” he says. “Miles Davis is one of my favorites.”
In February, London released the digital EP Lovers Holiday, featuring guest appearances by Solange Knowles (“Flying Overseas”), TV on the Radio guitarist David Sitek (“Wine & Chocolates”), and Sara Quin (“Why Even Try”). While London has already put out three critically acclaimed mixtapes, Lovers Holiday serves as an official major-label introduction to his eponymous debut, which drops this summer.
“I have a tattoo on my wrist, under my watch, that is the original name of the album,” London says mysteriously, refusing to divulge that title. “Musically, the mixtapes were sample-heavy, but the album will be very different. From the instrumentation to beat production, I was inspired to think differently.”
A restless jet-setter, London worked on both his EP and CD in various studios around the world. “When I first started writing the album, I was in Berlin, which has an amazing music scene. Later, I recorded a lot in Los Angeles and Stockholm. Since I move around so much, I tend to travel light. I just take what I really need,” he says.
Shortly after the shoot wraps, London is zooming to Zurich, then Paris to perform. “Paris and New York are my favorite nightlife cities, but there aren’t any spots I remember in detail. For me, it’s just about the women and the atmosphere.”