Whether sitting front row at your favourite fashion show, in the studio with your favourite artist or partying with your favourite models, Theophilus London is here and it's plain to see that 2014 is his for the taking.
Louis Sheridan caught up with the eternally stylish rapper to find out how it feels to have the world at your feet.
Hey Theophilus how’s it going?
Hey what’s up man, it's all good.
You’ve just got back from Shanghai right, did you get any time to explore?
Oh that was cool but not really. I’m really taking my time right now as an artist. I feel like I’ve been in the culture for a while but sometimes the message gets kind of messed up. People don’t know that I spend a lot of time in the studio, on art trips, working with innovative design and travelling. People really think I’m just at fashion shows and hanging out with celebrities and shit like that, I’m not doing that all the time! I'm ready to show a new side of me.
I'm intrigued, what can we expect to see?
I’m finally creating the ideas that I've had in my head for a long time and people are catching on to it and really digging it. My job is to make sure that people really get the message straight from me. I don’t want it to go out through the label and it get filtered the wrong way. Right now I’m in control.
The best place to be, naturally.
Of course, I want to have different outlets. Right now I’m building them, I’m starting an all female agency where I’m trusting women with my ideas and their ideas and their creative innovation. Then I'm also working with companies like Apple. I want to work with only the very best people, the people that I admire the most. I admire a lot of different creative people - Virgil Abloh, Kanye West and Leon Ware.
Your list of collaborators reads like a hall of fame, did you ever imagine this when you first started out?
It's crazy. I came in in 2008, I did a mixtape called JAM! It was my birthday and I played a show in New York, that was an early scene and an early time. I made a mixtape, I would take Michael Jackson and Prince songs and put raps on them. Yeah man that’s how I got into the game, I gave it to all my friends at the show and people were digging it. Then I was like, you know what, let me just put this out online.
It was real fresh shit man, we were digging all that hipster stuff, all that dance, dance, dance, wearing red and yellow jeans in the DJ scene. My friends wearing mascara and everything you know. I went through that phase and now I’m here! I don't know, it’s crazy but that's how it started.
Right let’s talk Vibes! We've had Tribe & Neu Law on repeat in the office, I can't wait to hear the rest!
Neu Law, that song is fresh! That’s the song I played when I was with Kanye in Paris that made him want to work on my album.
You need to tell me more about working with Kanye, how did that come about?
I was working on the album for a year before Kanye got on board then he was just like "Yo, I’ma help you on this", but me and Ye were just friends man. We’re always just hanging around at fashion week and parties and stuff. We got to know each other - we’ve got that mutual respect and started hanging out with each other you know.
He brought me in while he was working on Yeezus and I was just like a fly on the wall. I was just so shocked by what he was doing, I couldn’t even try to help him write. I just watched him write and create his new age self. I remember going to one of the sessions with Charlie Wilson and watching Bound 2 come together. It was insane man.
How did you make that leap from hanging out to making music?
I never wanted to play my music but one night I finally did. It was Neu Law and he really loved it, he said “What is this?” and when I told him he was like “This is you?” It’s because my voice sounds different and everything, I learnt how to express myself without rapping so much that it’s more about melody, tone and expression now.
It was cool that he really digged it because that’s one of my favourite songs. So he suggested I go down to his house and play the whole album. I had about 40 songs or something and he helped me get it down to eight (laughing). He wanted me to have eight on the album! I was like “Damn man, you should do 8 songs for your new album! I cant do this to my fans, they’re gonna kill me!" But he just said "This is the perfect 8 right here though." He did a hell of a job man.
The classic quality over quantity. Were there any stand-out moments working with him?
It was so cool, he would send me random emails about meeting him in China, with nothing else to explain it, but you’ve got to be smart with him. He’s on a whole other wavelength of business. His commercial success is nothing to where his mind is. I don’t want to give out too much information but I got to see the sessions for his new album and he’s on a whole other phase. It’s cool man. I really respect him.
How big is your collaboration on Can't Stop going to be? The leak has already got the internet going crazy...
I’m really mad about that leak you know, It’s real fucking upsetting. It’s like we’re putting together a Christmas package for the kids man and then they see the Christmas gifts before the big day. The whole track is phenomenal though man. That’s a big production right there, that’s some real grammy shit!
I need to talk Leon Ware as well. That's not just a collaboration is it? That's an icon.
It came about with my first album. I know I needed help; I wasn’t too happy about everything and I felt it was rushed. I put out a spiritual call to Leon Ware. I mimicked his album cover on mine and then he called me one day when I was in Paris to talk to me - I couldn’t believe it. I was crying on the phone. I told him I wanted his guidance. It was a surreal moment.
How has your recording process changed for the new album?
I’ve been in Palm Springs trying to figure it out. I lived there for a year and bought a real retro vintage house. I got tired of going to studios every day, it starts to feel like a job. You know, the label people come, people want to hang out and drink beers and girls want to hang out. I’ve got to be focused - I don’t want people to hear my new sound until I’ve figured out what it is. It’s such a spiritual process.
There worse distractions! What is the ideal listening environment for the new album?
(Laughing) The ideal listening environment for my album? I’ma put out a package, basically I’m gonna have these models, they're going to step on some grapes so I can put together a super limited pack of wine called Vibes! made in 2014. Also, I'm gonna have Vibes! bedsheets in there, 5 posters of these models and me and you’re gonna have a Vibes! Condom. You’re gonna listen to the album with some girls the night it comes out.
Wow, that may well be the most descriptive answer I've ever heard. Time to pre-order!
Yeah do it, and you get Neu Law!
Karl Lagerfeld is the creative director for your new album - that's not an everyday occurrence. How did that come about?
Karl’s the man. That’s just working my connections in the industry. Karl is a very respected guy and I really thank him and his team for the beautiful job they’ve done. I’m lost for words really. My wildest dreams are actually happening.
I had an idea, Karl came back with his idea and I wanted to get the best art direction and so I got Virgil Abloh and Kanye involved. They helped me with the art too. We worked together, the whole team. It was great - we bounced off each other.
How about the new Apple advert?
I can’t tell you all the secrets bro! (Laughing). Man, just know that I’m thrilled and honoured to score the new iPhone 6 film, it was a huge honour to work with them. They are the most forward-thinking company as far as life-changing technology goes. Everyone in the world looks up to them when it comes to business, when it comes to fitness and so on. I’m talking to you right now on FaceTime and I’m handling business, I’m doing emails, I’m doing all this shit. The new iPhone 6 is like the new iPhone 1 to me.
That brings me to a burning question, which iPhone are you going to choose? The 6 or 6 plus?
I’m gonna get both actually! The plus is going to be my international one and the 6 will be my US phone.
That's dedication. What would you be doing if you didn't work in music?
I’d probably be head of an all-female creative agency. That’s what I’m setting up now. I’m going to collect, nurture and support the minds of young women that have all these amazing ideas.
And finally, what’s next?
Next it's videos, TV performances the week that the album comes out. There's a Vibes! X Stussy collection coming, then I've got the Vibes! Vans coming out, the Vibes! News Balance and of course the Vibes! Apple collab.
The future looks a lot like Vibes! Thanks Theophilus.
No worries, peace bro.
Vibes! is available to pre-order now from iTunes