Don’t call Theophilus London a rapper. He’s a pop artist.
The 23-year old Brooklynite proclaims an eclectic mix of influences – from the Ramones to Ace of Base – as is evident from the spectrum of samples on his latest record, This Charming Mixtape, released in January. Apparently he also loves The Smiths.
The young, um, emcee was hanging out in Downtown Manhattan on Monday night, with a signature cardboard kaleidoscope dangling from his neck, framed by a corduroy blazer. Matching tortoise shell sunglasses supported a wide-rim baseball cap. Brooklyn The Borough caught up with Theophilus, who was fresh off of tour.
Brooklyn The Borough: Where in Brooklyn did you grow up?
Theophilus London: I grew up in Flatbush, but right now I reside in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill – great area, nice people.
BTB: Did you know that Rosie Perez is your neighbor?
TL: Oh really? I know Malik Yoba is my neighbor.
BTB: I’m told Joy Division has been an influence on your music. How so?
TL: Just the energy they possess, the dark vibe they brought – it’s dark but happy at the same time, you know? Music with mood.
I’m a guy – it’s very hard to explain myself outside of the stage. You know, I get on stage and I can explain myself and express myself fully in a way that I can’t when I’m not on stage. I feel like Joy Division and those guys also went through the same deal, so it’s just great to relate.
BTB: Do you relate to the stage presence of any particular artists?
TL: I love Michael Jackson; I love James Brown; I love Neneh Cherry. I love a wide range of artists.
BTB: How did Brooklyn influence your music?
TL: It does, because the people I meet in Brooklyn, the different things they’re into, waking up in the morning, walking my dog, the scent of a night of partying, meeting someone at that party and what happened at that [party] can inspire songs. I love it, I’m a part of Brooklyn, Brooklyn is me.
BTB: Do you consider yourself a pop artist and why?
Yeah I kind of do, I’m kind of over people calling me a rapper. It’s great to learn the form of rap. I’m a person who is always moving forward. I’m always trying to figure out ways to do things, and I see myself as a traditional pop writer and I love to write songs. It’s cool being from Brooklyn because that’s not the norm, so it’s just great to be the first breaking one to do it. There’s a lot of other kids out there that kind of feel the same way I do. It was good to break the medium and change it up and represent Brooklyn in a different way. A lot of kids from Brooklyn also feel the same way, so it was good to be a part of that.