Along with Sky Ferreira, Chloe Nogaard and a host of other bright young things, Theophilus London has been announced as part of Benetton’s Colourful vibes campaign. We catch up with the rapper to chat fashion faux pas, pushing his limits and working out to Whitney Houston.
SO, ARE YOU EXCITED TO BE WORKING WITH BENETTON?
Yeah, really excited. To me, it’s like a milestone in my career, as far as imagery and advertising goes.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE PART OF THE CAMPAIGN?
Well, I wanted to be part of it just based on the name alone, Colourful Vibes. It’s definitely what I like to do, who I am as a person, as an artist. Even the people that they chose, Zachary, Chloe – you know, it’s a super classic, talented, creative, colourful type of imagery. And when I met the photographer today that’s basically what he was shooting. It’s just colourful expression, and a lot of my music is about celebration and movement. They were telling me to stand up and be classy though but it’s gonna be hard to do that in front of the camera.
SO AS YOU KNOW, THIS CAMPAIGN CENTRES ON MUSIC, TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR MUSICAL BACKGROUND
I was born in the late eighties, which was essentially an expressive era for music, a lot of dance, movement, and you know, my Mom used to work out to Whitney Houston and stuff like that – Luther Vandross, The Jackson Five, all that stuff. Then later Biggie Smalls was a huge influence.
WOULD YOU SAY RAP IS YOUR FAVOURITE GENRE THEN?
No, I would say soul music was played more often in the house. Biggie Smalls was something I played when I left the house, with my cousins – we recited the raps back and forth. It was never about an era or style of music, just the fact that you can express yourself through words, the rhythmic beat. That made me want to be a musician and made me who I am today.
WHEN DID IT ALL KICK OFF FOR YOU?
It was probably about grade school, I started beat boxing in the lunchroom, rapping in the lunchroom, dancing in the lunchroom and all these people crowded around me so we started taking it to the theatres, doing it in talent shows. I would also go to parties and always be the one who would start the party. I would get to the party and all the men were on one side of the wall and all the women would be on the other and no-one would try and come in the middle, so I would just grab the white girl and start dancing on her, and then everybody started dancing with girls. I like the fact I can change people’s moods. It’s almost uncomfortable in a way to just come out and do it, you know, perform in front of a crowd, it’s nerve wracking. A lot of times I would close my eyes during performances. I wanted to make sure everyone at the party was having a good time but I didn’t want some guy to throw me off. It’s still nerve wracking.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOUR MUSIC AT THE MOMENT?
At the moment it’s fantasies in my head. I like to have a muse every time I write music. So, I have a muse and we’re into writing together, traveling together, and that helps me write some stuff. Lately traveling has been a little bit of a writer’s block for me though, so I’m not trying to pick up a pen right now. Truth is inspiring my music.
HOW WOULD YOU DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF MUSICALLY FROM OTHERS?
I would have a hard time answering that one so I guess that’s something maybe I have to think about. I just try to be myself and I try to be nice to everyone. Today, in this business, you have to be a big business man, which I never knew existed when I wanted to do this. I thought, ‘I’ll just stick to music and people will work for me’. But to be a good business man you have to form relationships, it’s more than music, it’s politics. But you want to have fun at the same time, you know. All these cool things that you’re doing, you want to have fun and be in the moment. So today, I’m excited, I’m like a kid again.
WOULD YOU SAY YOU HAVE A PERSONAL STYLE?
I like to keep a uniform – wear a blazer, try to keep the same colour pants, very tailored, very fitted but still edgy. I like vintage shopping but I also like to mix in high-end. It depends how I’m trying to come across. To wake up in the morning and just know what I’m going to wear, it helps me get out of the house faster.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY STYLING DISASTERS?
I’ve had a couple of those very early on in my life. You walk out of your house and you feel so uncomfortable, you’re not smart enough to back inside your house and make yourself more comfortable. I used to leave the house and say, ‘I don’t know what I did but let’s see!’ but you kind of need those moments. People used to call me out and pull me aside and say ‘what the hell are you wearing?!’ But now I know what I’m doing, it’s all about expressing yourself. What I see in this new Benetton advertisement is kind of like punk, it’s classic, you can put all these colours together and make it yourself, that’s what I’m into. I never try to have one look – like, ‘these shoes go perfectly with this outfit’, well maybe that’s the wrong thing. I want to wear something that’s not perfectly matching, there has to be something unorthodox about it. I want to create this mystery.
IS THERE ANYONE YOU WOULD LOVE TO COLLABORATE WITH?
I never really like to answer this question because it could jeopardize me working with that person but there’s definitely a lot of people I want to work with out there. And if there is, I will reach out to them, I don’t want it to be a hope or a dream.
OTHER THAN MUSIC AND FASHION, WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS? YOU MENTIONED TRAVELLING?
It used to be a big hobby, now it’s just bleugh. Like a six-hour flight is nothing, it’s like 30 minutes to me now. Maybe Australia is a heavy flight for me. I really wish teleportation would be invented because I just want to get to the place and do what I have to do. Travelling is just a little long. I want constant people, constant movement. When it comes to hobbies I like to go see films, take two hours and go see a refreshing movie. It gives me time for enjoyment, to talk to myself and watch the movie or maybe fall asleep.
WHAT BIG PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE NEXT YEAR?
I’m planning my album, which I’ve been working on for most of the year, and is a big anticipation for me and my fan base. It’s exciting and it’s something that I’m not taking lightly, it’s a big responsibility to be better than what I’ve done in the past. I always want to challenge myself, I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror and see I’m coming down, that’s a big worry and fear. .