Theophilus London isn't looking back. The 23-year-old rapper-crooner's first wide-release, full-length album, Timez Are Weird These Days, dropped today on Warner Bros, and he's fresh off of a massive publicity run (from Newsweek to Billboard and back).
He's already carved out a pretty large following for an artist without a major album, but the press hasn't always been in love with him. A Pitchfork review of his mixtape, Lovers Holiday, eviscerated the young rapper for his "smug entitlement, unctuous self-satisfaction, and cornball loverman raps," calling him a "gaping void."
When The Huffington Post asked him how he feels about that review today, he says his family taught him how to handle criticism: "I never take it the wrong way -- I don't know where that writer was at when he wrote that. Maybe he saw me in GQ and didn't like the shoes. Maybe he just broke up with his girlfriend. Maybe it wasn't about the music. You gotta grow with [my music], you gotta grow to like it."
"But really," London adds slyly, "I couldn't even believe I was on Pitchfork."
London told Interview he was hoping to get Jamie XX to remix his album, and he says he's still trying to convince his friend to make the time. "I was on [The XX] before any magazine was on that band. I like meeting brilliant, talented and skilled people, and Jamie is definitely all those things."
London has cited a number of brilliant people as influences -- from Morrissey to Marvin Gaye -- but he says he wasn't always so interested in how music was crafted.
"There were times when I was just listening to albums for the hype of it," London said. "Some albums I would just put it on in my car and me and my friends would just drive, that we'd wild out to, get arrested to."
This all changed with one album.
"The first time I really listened to an album and thought, 'this album is mine,' was Kanye's Late Registration," he said.
As London put it, that record "changed [his] life." He became a completist in the most extreme sense of the word, picking apart every track and examining it on a minute level.
"I skipped school and stayed in bed all day to listen to the whole thing and understand every single song," London said. "Every time I listened to a song I'd read all the credits, to know who the guy was who did the horns, you know?"
At just 23, London is sharply aware of the scene unfolding around him, and the young artists who fall into his golden circle are as varied as his influences, from Lil B to Justin Bieber. As a digital age artist, Lil B "defines this moment," London said, and similarly, Bieber's use of technology fascinates him.
"Justin Bieber, I know that's a wild card," London laughed. "But the power of the internet, the power of your fans coming to the label and saying f**k the labels, we are supporting this, we found him first -- I feel like it puts the label in their place."
While he's more unrecognizable than the other artists London mentioned, John Maus -- an experimental musician with bizarre sensibilities -- is perhaps the one he feels most warm to. He even inspired the title of Timez Are Weird These Days.
"He's been the hugest inspiration to me," London said. "It's an underground cult thing, and it's just written so well, it's written off the spirit. We met a couple times, he's super weird."
London makes crossing the line from cult to mainstream seem effortless. He says everyone from VH1 to MTV to the "Twilight" film franchise has come calling. "I can market the shit out of myself, I'm a marketer's best friend," London said. "I don't have to walk into a room with a promotional t-shirt on ... I understand demographics." Given that he's collaborated with everyone from Gucci to Nike to Mountain Dew, it's hard to argue with him. "People want to take this music and make it live somewhere else, and that's what I've always wanted to do."
Morphing into somewhat of a fashion icon, London's affair with marketing extends to the clothes he wears. But just as with music, it also walks a fine line with his passions -- he may be a marketer's best friend, but he also has a soft spot for grandma's brooches and hats worn by Orthodox Jewish men. London was clear. This is not a gimmick, and it's not about making a statement.
"It's more like 'oh my god, I need this. I can rip off these corny black buttons off this blazer, and patch it with something royal, 18th century," he said.
"The statement is made later. It's made when I walk in."
Be sure to click through for London's Exclusive HuffPost Playlist
Exclusive: Theophilus London's HuffPost Playlist
10 Tracks The Rapper Thinks You Should Be Blasting... Now
1. Beyonce - We Like To Party
2. Ace Of Base - All That She Wants
3. Amy Winehouse - It's My Party (Quincy Jones Cover)
4. Arthur Russell - You Can Make Me Feel Bad
5. Blackstreet - No Diggity
6. Bon Iver - Lost In The Woods
7. Francis And The Lights - For Days
8. Prince - I Wanna Be Your Lover
9. BG Feat. Cash Money Millionaires - Bling Bling
10. Geneva Jacuzzi - Love Caboose
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