Theophilus London Shares His New Song "Do Girls," & Details New Album

To some, Theophilus London is still a fresh face in music, yet in his shortly spanned career, the

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To some, Theophilus London is still a fresh face in music, yet in his shortly spanned career, the New York-bred artist has earned an impressive list of accolades in the genres of music and fashion. Not only garnering a loyal following for his unique approach to hip-hop which draws from soul, electro and R&B, a musical style he likes to describes as “post-punk,” London’s compelling fashion stance also sees him as a style icon. On October 28, London is set to release Vibes, a follow-up record from 2011’s Timez Are Weird These Days. Executive produced by Kanye West and art directed by Karl Lagerfeld, Vibes is London’s biggest project to date, a repertorie which he says has taken him 119 + hours, 16 hours everyday. Check out our interview with London to learn more about his personal accounts working alongside ‘Ye and Lagerfeld, and why Vibes was in his opinion, “spiritually A&R’d.”

Before we get to the interview, Theophilus shares the Cid Rim-produced Vibes cut, “Do Girls,” a song he recorded during his studio sessions in Paris. It was arranged by collaborator Kanye West, and features electric guitar elements by Andrew Watt.

You’ve been on the road promoting Vibes, what’s that been like?
I recently presented Vibes to Shanghai, It was my second time promoting the album to a country. The first time I was in Mexico. I love immersing myself in different cultures and I’m super stoked to be able to show off my work to different demographics.

Within the creative realm, how do you balance music and art directing? Are you conscious of which trajectories you take for each project, or are your decisions quite spontaneous?

Everything just vibes together. That’s why I named my new album Vibes. When it comes to music, art directing, song writing, or designing for the tour, I just change up my mindset, but I don’t have a switch to turn off my creativity. My real name is what I go by. So it’s not like now I’m Ja Rule, then I’m Jeffery Atkins. I’m just me 24/7 and everything goes into art directing and my creative decisions. Everything I’ve done so far, from my album to, guest features to its promotion has been done from my inside team. Like scoring the new Apple film, being in the new iPhone 6 film, working with Kanye, Karl Lagerfeld, Leon Ware- a 74 year-old, sick jazz musician. Art imitates real life you know. Shooting with Karl Lagerfeld, that also vibed together. All odds were against me not to shoot that—I lost my passport two weeks before, there was a huge snowstorm the day of my plane, but I made it happen.

Then there’s fitting into Karl’s schedule as well…

He only had three hours free for the day, well I mean three hours free for the next 2 years, so I only had three hours to work with him. It was a blessing I could fit into that slot so I made sure my work was on-point.

Vibes is also exclusively produced by Kanye West. What was it like having him as a mentor?

I followed Kanye around the world for a year, just mentorship from him. He’d be like “Yo, I’m in Malibu” That means I’ve got to go to Malibu, or Paris, or wherever he was. He wouldn’t give me hints, he’d just write in the subject line, no body message, just come with. He was super honest about my work, and helped me out.

How did your relationship with ‘Ye first develop?

I met Kanye in Cannes four years ago, and ever since then we’ve been friends; just talking on email. When Watch the Throne came out I was like, “Yo! Congrats man, I like it.” And he’s like, “Yo! Let me call you, and explain the album to you,” and I was like “Alright.” He would call me at six in the morning, while he’s in Paris and I’m in New York and just talk to me about his projects. We’re just boys you know. It was never about music, I never came and pushed my music on him. I didn’t even think my music was cool enough to show him yet, and I think he knew that too. It was just vibes. He was waiting for the confidence. When he was writing Yeezus, he invited me over to his house, Tyler (Tyler the Creator) came over too, and he was like “man I’m going to look out for y’all. You’re like my little brothers.”

Did working with Kanye give you the confidence needed to see the album to fruition?

Yeah Kanye gave me a lot of confidence. Since the listening session at his house. He wrote me an email saying. “I want to help you on your album, you’re smarter than me when it comes to music.” I’m like “What? shut up. No im not.” One night we were driving through Paris in his Porsche and I played him this new song called “The Law.” And he said, “What the fuck is this?” I was like “this is a song I wrote for my album.” “Man, can we play this at my house?” I’m like, “Ok,” I played it at his house, he’s like, “Can you meet me in Paris next week?” “Alright, I guess you don’t care about what I have to do next week (laughs), but I’m going to cancel it and meet you in Paris”. I met him in Paris, and Kim was there, and I was playing all the stuff from the album —like 30 songs. He told me the 12 that he liked and immediately he really loved “Can’t stop,” which I wrote with Brodinsky in Paris, months before he came in the picture. So everything was already written, Kanye just came in to make sure that the best was the best.

Kanye also contributed a verse in “Can’t Stop” where we can hear reminiscent of Yeezy’s old school flow. Stylistically, why do you think he approached the track like that?

It was really cool to get a very genuine, Kanye verse on the song. He can do anything he wants. I think for him, It’s like, yeah I know you like the old Kanye but who cares? In a similar degree, you might like the old iPhone 1, but now we’re at the iPhone 6. It’s not up to you, just leave it up to us and trust we’ll give you the best.

Did you learn any new skills under Kanye’s guidance that you didn’t have before?

Well I didn’t know I could collaborate with someone. My talent automatically shuts off when I’m in the room with someone as big as Kanye. I don’t know how to rap anymore, I don’t know how to sing anymore. For example, I don’t have a trademark “thing” to give to someone. Like Lil John’s “YEAH!” or like a T-Pain hook. My shit is made off of a whim, on an inspiration tip. I don’t really know how to sit down and write with someone. Kanye’s the first person that has helped me write some stuff for his new album. He really brought that ability out of me, and taught me to use top lines. What is the best line of your song? What is the best sound in your song? How can you keep using that line, because that’s what everybody’s going to like. Kanye also taught me how to schedule my year. If you want to be at fashion week for two weeks, make sure you put that in. Look at my career in the long run.

Aside from executive producing Vibes, how has Kanye inspired you beyond the studio?

As an artist I just want to, “Rap, rap, rap, write, write, write” all over stuff. He taught me to just let that shit breathe. I also learned from him that a work is never finished. I can still be working on my album right now. This is a version of my work, but there can be millions of different versions. Kanye called me last week, when my album is already in the fucking iTunes store, to change something. He’s mad. He goes through 1500 images a day. I mean he is the modern-day Lagerfeld, the modern-day Steve jobs. I see why he says that, but he doesn’t need to say that anymore. He realizes that. I literally watch him go through 1500 images a day. I watch him go to HYPEBEAST everyday, and check every single comment that people say. I watch him go to Style.com everyday. He goes through 1500 images a day man. He has a brilliant mind. He’s not doing drugs, not trying to live the life of a rapper, he really cares. He really focuses on his own, and that taught me and my team how to be the same way because people just want to enjoy the life, be an entourage rapper, all that weak shit and all of a sudden, your bridge falls down and then all of your boys leave you.

You also teamed up with Virgil Abloh of DONDA on certain artistic elements for Vibes, What was it like working with Virgil?

I brought Virgil in because after I took the photos with Karl, I had to get the best person to help me art direct this. I put together the layout, Karl shot the photos, and Virgil added his creative input, and now we all have our names on a piece of paper. It’s a wonderful thing. I need to work with top people to deliver top art.

Being from New York, how is the city an integral part of your music?

I don’t want to call myself a renaissance man but New York allows you to do a lot of different things. Especially the age where we live in where everything is fast and you can see results right away. New York taught me I can make anything happen. If I want to make a sculpture of somebody with their legs open and privates all showing, I can make it happen. But I’ve also learnt New York is a war zone. You want to make your guns in a quiet place, so when I come back to the war zone, I’m just blasting (laughs). New York is also full of vultures. I wake up to create, people wake up to take, and you never know; sometimes these vultures are disguised in fat asses and big titties too. For this album I wanted to make it for my friends man. I didn’t want to get caught up in the whole New York hype. That’s why I made Vibes in Palm Springs.

For a short period of time, your music sounded like it was moving further towards rap with releases like ASAP Rocky’s collaboration “Big Spender.” Musically, where are you now?

I’ll be honest by the time I did big spender with Rocky, rap started to influence me again, and I knew that wasn’t the right path for me. that’s why I made a song quickly like “Rio” to show people I’m not from this whole rap cloth. That’s not me, that’s you guys. You guys can be on XXL, and all that shit.

How would you describe your sound then? Is it rap, is it hip-hop?

I’m a tastemaker man. I’m lifestyle. I’m culture. It’s bigger than rap to me. I like hip hop, this is hip hop because I don’t give a fuck. Hip hop is not music, hip hop is a lifestyle. My music is soulful, it’s progressive. It’s 25% hip hop (laughs). It’s very island-y. It’s sexy rap, sophisticated club music. It’s like a chart — my name is in a small web in the middle, connected to Brodinsky, Kanye West, Leon Ware. They all bring a different genre to my music as well. We’re in the age where we’ve got the iPod and a million different songs. Imagine what kind of music your kid would make?

Would the term “post-genre” be applicable?

I want to say it’s post-punk in a way. I’m working with this guy named John Mouse, who has been my secret idol for years. Everything in my career, I owe to him. He’s like the god in my life, and he’s going to be the executive producer of my new album coming out next year called Beachwood.

As both a recording artist and a fashion designer, how do you balance your time between pursuits in fashion and music? Which art form do you put first and foremost?

I mean, I am fashion, so it’s hard not to spend time on it. This is fashion right here and I’m not even trying. I stopped collaborating with Surface to Air because I wasn’t putting enough thought in our work. Like I said, I really love Kanye because he has put thought behind everything. People like Matthew Williams say I have to tone down my fashion sense because that’s what the public might know me for. It’s not bad to be known as a stylish guy, but for me, emotionally, music can’t go out of style. Music can’t be stopped. Music is better than a statue. You can’t break music. You can’t take my song and break it and it doesn’t exist anymore. My song exists, and its going to travel into different homes and you can’t stop that. So that’s why I needed to get mentally naked, physically naked again in my own studio. For Vibes, I built a studio in my living room, and I stayed there for nine months like I’m making a baby. I’d wake up every morning and my work is right there. Its like your brain is on the table, and I can see it. I would fly people in to work with me. Fuck A&R’s at the label, this was spiritually A&R’d you know what I’m saying?

With Vibes being “spiritually A&R’d,”how did decisions fall into place?

Anytime I needed to make a decision, Kanye would just land in my hands. I would send him an email and all of a sudden it would work out. Every crucial moment. Even going to Rick Rubin’s house to get the last-minute mix idea. I wanted Kanye to be a part of it every step of the way. People get very overshadowed by Kanye’s presence in a sense, but I needed to approach it like, “This guy is helping me, don’t be scared to email him.” Man, Kanye is the fastest person to email back. He emails you back in one-second man! He’s not egotistical and is always polite.

What’s the most valuable experience you gained from creating Vibes?

Vibes has taught me to always self criticize and never rest on you own laurels. I figured out how to make the music I want to make for the rest of my life, and I’m better now than when I finished making Vibes. I wish I could make Vibes over right now. I would kill myself doing it, but I wish I could because it would be sick. But I’m happy with what I did, and I just want to keep expanding.

For more information on his fashion endeavors, please visit our sister site HYPEBEAST.

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