The first time Theophilus London performed in Brooklyn, as a lanky, self-conscious 14-year-old at the 2002 Flatbush Fair, he was wearing a pink shirt, white pants, and a white hat—or, “the worst outfit of all time!” as he refers to it. Not coincidentally, the dozen or so people in the audience greeted him with a fittingly lukewarm reception. It was a very different scene—and a very different, far more confident singer—that showed up this past June at the Brooklyn Museum, where a crowd of certified London fans packed inside the atrium and joined him in a chant of “Where Brooklyn at?” (a reference to the famous freestyle by his childhood hero, the Notorious B.I.G.). “It spiritually fucked me up in a really positive way,” he says. The Trinidad-born, Flatbush-bred musician began to hone his skills in 2008 when he released JAM!, a mix tape homage to Prince and Michael Jackson. But it was his second effort, This Charming Mixtape, released the following year, that showcased a maturing, musically omnivorous talent that seamlessly integrated Kraftwerk, Bill Withers, the Crazy Cousinz Bongo Jam, and, of course, the Smiths with his own tracks. The 23-year-old’s recently released major-label debut, Timez Are Weird These Days (Warner Bros.), highlights his chameleonic ability to inhabit different genres while retaining a romantic pop sensibility. The slow jam “Why Even Try” includes guest vocals from Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quin, while the vocoded falsetto hook on the fist-pumping electro anthem “Love Is Real” is straight out of the Kanye West–Usher radio-ready songbook. His distinctive eclecticism is also visible in his high-low fashion sense—pairing Lanvin suits with Air Jordans, vintage gold jewelry, and a Borsalino hat. His advice for looking good? “Dress down,” he says. “You gotta learn your body, how clothes fit on you. Dressing up, for me, is looking like an idiot.”
Photo: Theophilus London in Brooklyn, June 2011. Blazer: Hugo Boss. Shirt and Pants: Louis Vuitton. Hat and Jewelry: Artist’s Own. Grooming: Asami Matsuda/www.TheMagnetagency.Com. Special Thanks: Fast Ashleys.