Since breaking through onto the scene in 2008, Theophilus London has explored any and every possible career path. Receiving the stamp of approval after the release of his mixtape, JAM!, Theo became someone to watch. Bending genres so early on in his career proved that the possibilities to his artistry were endless.
Countless bodies of work later, which include three albums, and 5 mixtapes, Theophilus London knew how to pave a lane of his own, even when certain crowds weren’t ready to catch on to his brilliance.
Six years ago, London released his Kanye West co-produced sophomore album, VIBES, and then went on to explore his revamped, and reenergized creative vision. Six years later, Theophilus London opens the next chapter of his career with the lyrics from the song Leon, “you took so long”, a simple but effective introduction to his new journey. This time around, he strictly envisioned a strategy that relied on authenticity and independence.
BEBEY, the new album by Theophilus London is celebratory, a reintroduction to remind everyone of just how limitless he is.
Approaching the sounds from the Caribbean to disco to new wave, he utilizes his charismatic abilities to provide a feel good project that’ll remain fresh throughout the various seasons of the year.
I spoke to Theophilus London about BEBEY, adapting to the streaming era, working with Kevin Parker and Ariel Pink, and that unforgettable All Day performance
BEBEY is a clear and cohesive project but you experiment with so many different sounds, why was it important for you to remind everyone about your versatility on this particular record?“It was important...I show my versatility on every record, but with BEBEY I wanted it to be very thematic, very Caribbean. I got to pick the people I wanted to work with, I got to pick the cover, I got to pick the journey”
The album explores sounds of trap to disco, so it’s hard to categorize it as just one genre...Do you feel as if the overall concept of a genre has died?
“I feel good about genre. I don’t focus on genre, I focus on feeling, I focus on sound”
The album took years in the making, was it challenging for you to adapt to the streaming era that we’re currently in? So many things have changed with the way fans consume music since your last album release in 2014.
“Yeah it‘s my first streaming album. Other artists had 6 years, and I had to catch up. The album is doing well tho, it has over 40 million streams”
Obviously you stand out on your own, but what captured the attention of new listeners was your work with Tame Impala and Ariel Pink. What did you learn from working with Kevin Parker and Ariel?
“With Kevin I learned to be a better producer. He’s just a very talented guy. Ariel, I learned that you can just be a bootleg Jesus”
I read that you were supposed to get Playboi Carti and Sheck Wes on your album...How’s that working out? Can you give an update on that?
“I gave up on Sheck Wes. Always willing to collaborate with him. That’s a good one though, I always got a plan”
After what Kanye West did with The Life of Pablo, and recently what Young Thug just did with So Much Fun, would you add features or new additions to your album after its been released?
“I would never change an album after its been released. I might do a BEBEY deluxe though. Actually, a BEBEY mixtape. I have so many unreleased tracks”
You released the album on your own label, My Bebey Records, which is the ultimate flex. Would you say that’s your biggest accomplishment to date?
“I would say it would be the second biggest accomplishment. But it was the biggest flex, my own label, named after the album”
Do you feel as if you’re still misunderstood or did the album give a new perspective to who you are as an artist?
“I would say I’m still a bit misunderstood. My job is to embrace what people do and don’t know about me. I’m not jaded about the past, just looking forward to new memories”
At this point, it seems like you've done it all. Do you feel as if you have anything left to prove? What's next for Theo?
“I still feel like I have more left to prove. I was 21 when I started, I had to prove himself. In every studio, people didn’t really know me. But when I started doing shows, I had people moving along. From the front row to the back row. What’s next? Right now, I'm focusing on my New York Homecoming show. Might go to Italy, might go to Bali. I just shot a video for CUBA. Just going to get these music videos out, and a magazine coming soon”
Before I let you go, I had to ask about the All Day performance at the 2015 BRITs Awards. How did that come about? Why do you think it’s so iconic and memorable?
“Me and Virgil were listening to Skepta backstage, and then Kanye came into the room and asked what we were listening to. I told him this dude named Skepta, I said this guy is better than Jay Z. So, I played him some of his music, and Kanye said to “have him meet me in 40 minuets”. Skepta thought it was joke. It was at the point when rap music wasn’t accepted by the upper class and wasn’t accepted by mainstream radio in London. It was crazy”.
Stream Theophilus London's new album, BEBEY, below
Aspects of the interview were slightly modified for clarity. Photos by Ryan Cardoso.