There aren't many artists fortunate enough to hold a Kanye West-produced album in their discography or can even tap Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld for art-direction on a project, but for Theophilus London, an anomaly among his rap counterparts, those are just the few encounters that helped bolster his rise to prominence since his 2008 debut mixtape Jam!
After the release of his last studio effort, Vibes, in 2014, London's ingenuity has been relatively absent from the music scene, a hiatus he took to from the "madness" he's endured over his eight-year career. "I just wanted to take two years off and see where I fit in this new industry, a lot of things have changed," he told Billboard about his break. "I just wanted to take some time off to enjoy it again. I'm ready and I feel a burning desire inside of me to start again."
The Trinidad-born, Brooklyn-raised MC moved to Los Angeles during his hiatus but cited his recent return to the Big Apple as the fuel that ignited his hunger to get back in the studio to create new material. "I'm interested in flourishing in the music industry for the next 10 to 15 years, really be present and consistent," he says. London added that apart from his homecoming, his comeback was also inspired by candid conversations between he and a few friends, who reminded the "Can't Stop" rhymer of his past musical creations and helped imbue a greater appreciation for music in him.
While he's maintained a steady presence among today's ever-changing musical landscape, London often finds himself digging into the past, whether he's drawing inspiration from his musical influences Michael Jackson and Prince or combing through old emails when he feels "nostalgic" to discover oft-forgotten beats that were previously sent to him.
For his newly released single "Revenge," the style maven recreated New Musik's "They All Run After the Carving Knife," an email sent from a friend back in 2008, and tapped the "free-forming musicianship" of Ariel Pink, which took the two artists 72 hours to create. Doused with a driving energy and psychedelic guitar riffs, the infectious pairing of Pink and London straddles the line between New Wave sounds and Funk basslines as London coos "They race to the top, yeah / until they drop, ohh / when they take all the pain Is it all in vein?" over the synth-laden track.
Honing in on his entrepreneurial skills, London teamed up with social media app Clapit, an interactive mobile network designed to support rising artists by allowing them to upload short clips of their talent to the app and the best videos uploaded receives a "clap," heightening the chances of gaining global recognition. "My partnership with the app wasn't about the single ["Revenge"], it was about me wanting to reach out to those obscure kids that I can't reach out to on any other social media," he offered. The rapper recently launched an open call challenge with the app where participants must upload their videos using the hashtag #singit, and the highest clapped video will win the chance to meet London.
To all creative people around the world! Would u want to meet me have dinner than create vibes after? Download app and start now to win ❤️ U pic.twitter.com/IPAVdQRSeG
- Theophilus London (@TheophilusL) November 20, 2016
"I have been blessed with amazing mentors throughout my career so I look forward to being able to discover and acknowledge some of the country's most promising young talent on Clapit," said London. "It's an authentic community of creatives, where we can support talent together. We're out here scouting emerging artists, talents looking for their big break."
With his comeback in full-swing, London reveals that he has a multitude of new material waiting to be unleashed including the Mark Ronson collaborative number "Whiplash," which he performed earlier this year during a performance at the Boiler Room in Brooklyn, and a Skepta-produced track titled "Alone." "I have about 50-60 songs sitting in my studio right now," he continued adding that his collection includes freestyles from his Kanye West-helmed Vibes session. "I'm a music-head so I kind of want to form them into a free-forming mixtape, something that people can collect and not tie it down to an album."
London continues saying that his break allowed him to "to stop and foresee the future." "Making it about music and skill and transforming into sub-cultures - that's what I'm interested in."
Listen to Theophilus London and Ariel Pink's funky "Revenge" below.