Theophilus London, outside a club at 3 AM.



Theophilus London Talks Black Lives Matter & Kickflips At Kanye's House

This Tuesday, July 12th, there was a party to celebrate beloved LA brand Joyrich, complete with a live set from British rapper Novelist. But it wasn’t just any old party. It was a madhouse.

Things really got to a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest level (I’m sorry) by the time rapper (and Milk regular) Theophilus London began to DJ. Billed under his NY Theo alterego, the 29-year-old musician’s set was kinetic, high-powered, and unflagging—he was set to finish at 1 AM, and kept going till nearly 3. The room, a basement on the Lower East Side, was boiling hot and sweaty and filled with people flinging their bodies in every which direction, including one shirtless dude who kept attempting to bodysurf. Shit was loud, and there was Kanye West-adjacent royalty everywhere you looked: London and Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston and Luka Sabbat. But the party was also kind of transcendent.

London DJ’ing with Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston.

London—who also happened to be shirtless—blasted hit after hit, punctuating songs with political messaging. “Black lives matter,” he cried, and the crowd roared back in response. At one point, as he played “Blood On The Leaves,” a stranger grabbed my face. “I think I’m having a spiritual experience,” he said. I think I did, too. London told us that he actually just DJs off of iTunes, but after a set like that, it doesn’t really seem like he needs lessons. It was powerful.

We caught up outside, at 3 AM, for a surprisingly coherent chat. Well, London was coherent. I’m not sure if I was. Judge for yourself below.

You said multiple times during your set that “black lives matter.” How are you feeling right now with everything that is happening?

I’m angry. There’s still no justice being done. My heart goes out to the family. I retweeted [Alton Sterling’s] GoFundMe page, you know. You never know where these things at. People tweet and Instagram, but what can you do? So, I’ve been talking to Virgil and the guys. We’re like the new Avengers of the club life, so we might do something. I did something last week for Everyday People where half of the money went to Black Lives Matter. We’re gonna throw something―a free performance. But, we’re gonna wait until my new album comes out. I’m so happy. I just got a DM from PARTYNEXTDOOR and he’s like, “I wanna work with you.” He’s like one of my favorite songwriters right now, so the album is [going to be] sick: Tame Impala, Ariel Pink, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Dev Hynes, Skepta, Aphex Twin. I’m really excited.

That’s awesome. I know you and Dev Hynes go back a long time. You guys are good friends. How do you feel about Freetown Sound?

I love it. He sent it to me two weeks before it came out. I always support Dev. Dev used to play guitar with me. We wrote in 2009, we were the first black sexy hipsters on the scene; him from London and I’m from New York. We traveled the world together. We play fucking basketball together and you know, we just have a good time.

London with fans outside the club.

You’re very involved in the fashion world.

I don’t go shopping anymore. I get all my clothes for free. If I’m buying clothes, it’s going to be a $1,000 Dior jeans or [something]. But I get all my clothes on the internet for free. I have like three kids that send me clothes every weekend.

What are you into right now?

I love Dior pants, even though Raf’s gone. I love surf style. But, I’m a big fan of Karl Lagerfeld, that’s who I see me modeling my career after. And when I worked with him two years ago it was unreal.

So, when you’re 70 or 80, you want to be doing what Karl Lagerfeld is doing?

When I’m 30.

Theophilus London wants to be Karl Lagerfeld. We’re here for it.

What can we expect from the album?

I’m gonna spend just two weeks in Malibu and finish the album. I had a hiatus in LA for three years, and I didn’t know where I stood in this music thing. The whole indie rock thing died, and I was kind of a part of that. But, you know, you have to stand back and see where you [belong]―I went to every fashion week, every Art Basel―everything, they called me. I’m not like the rich white people who take vacation for the summer―like I don’t have people in my life like that. I worked for nine years straight. I had a three-year break and I’m back, and I’m happy to give away this inspiration for free.

“Tyler did a kickflip over the couch and Kanye was so scared because he has mad art pieces in his house.”

Is Kanye taking part in the new album? I know people always bring up Kanye when they interview you. It must be annoying.

It sucks to work with him because he’s so overpowering. I wrote his song “Waves” for him, and we also wrote a lot of [other stuff]. He’s so exhausting. [But] it’s amazing, I was looking at emails from three years ago—my email overflowed so I had to delete some emails, and I saw some emails from him like “Come to my Christmas party,” and “Come to this…” So, shout out to Ye. I never went to a Kris Jenner Christmas party though.

I want to go to a Kris Jenner Christmas party, dude! You missed the email!

I missed it. I missed it. But, I was at his house when Charlie Wilson and John Legend were singing “Bound 2.” Tyler, the Creator was there. Kanye just bought a brand new couch and Tyler did a kickflip over the couch and Kanye was so scared because he has mad art pieces in his house.

His last record, ‘Vibes,’ was great, but we’re ready for the new NY Theo album.

I wanted to ask you about Ian Connor. You’ve spoken out about him.

I think God is in control. I always knew this thing about him, but some kids are out of control. The new generation, they have so much stuff at their disposal and it’s so hard to use all of it. Imagine the ‘70s or the ‘80s though, you had to be best at the time of show. So, imagine when me, and Rocky, and Azealia Banks, and [FKA] Twigs, we have to be talented to come in this game, but this kid just beating off. But, shoutout to Luka [Sabbat] though―I love that kid; he’s going to shine.

Other kids just come from the street and don’t do their research; they don’t know their history. They just hang around other people to get love. That situation, it’s upsetting that it happened, but whatever. God is great. I just want to be truthful about everything. If you don’t like me, that’s too bad, I love you still. All my sons are gonna come back. He’s one of my sons. I’ve already changed the way he tweets, he’s tweeting hearts now. I’ve got photos with me and his mom. That’s my son. It’s all love, all the time.

Images shot exclusively for Milk by Jocelyn Silver

Stay tuned to Milk for more from Theophilus London. Additional images via Rolling Stone and Make the Trendz.

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