Today’s age is one of constant hustle and performance. If we’re not hustling, if we’re not performing at our best, what is our worth? That question is what led Theophilus London, an artist impossible to define, to take a nearly five year hiatus from the music industry.
For those who knew him during his first set of releases between 2009 – 2014, London approached music like he did all creative feats; without limits. He morphed genres, experimented with styles, and collaborated with the unlikely. But his music wasn’t sticking.
“I’m a voice,” says London, “So I can be a voice on reggae, I can be a voice on country, I can be a voice on rap. I can be a voice on whatever. But it’s like, I knew I had to finally get a cohesive project together or my career would be over.”
Theophilus London to Complex
2014 was an interesting year to be in hip hop. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum and musically, trap was becoming a defining genre of the decade. It was a time when other genres were experimenting with crossovers; it was the year Taylor Swift switched from country to pop, and other indie artists, like Lana Del Ray, were gaining pop culture recognition. But this trend wasn’t crossing over into hip hop. Regardless of Kid Cudi and Lupe Fiasco’s alternative hip hop influence, there was still a division between hip hop and other genres. Because of what was going on in the world socially, hip hop artists had to pick a side – and that wasn’t London’s style. So Vibes, his 2014 genre-bending album that he saw as his career lynchpin, fell flat. Defeated, he retreated.
Fast forward five to six years and the world of music is a different place. Because of how quickly music can be recorded and uploaded, artists who stick to definitive genres are almost boring to listeners. London’s approach to music is now what listeners crave; it’s what keeps our attention. “I’m a voice,” says London, “So I can be a voice on reggae, I can be a voice on country, I can be a voice on rap. I can be a voice on whatever. But it’s like, I knew I had to finally get a cohesive project together or my career would be over.”
This project is London’s 2020, Beybey. A joyous, eclectic album several years in the making, Bebey takes the best aspects of London’s music – his easy, cool demeanor and deep bag of flows and deliveries and uses them on songs ranging from 80s pop (“Only You”) to UK Grime and trap (“Whoop Tang Flow”) to indietronica (“Revenge”). This album brings us to the heart of London’s creative ignition: inclusivity, collaboration and freedom of expression. “Tame Impala [plus] rap, that’s like Run-DMC working with Aerosmith to me,” says London. “I looked at a collaboration like that, it’s important for music. It’s important for the youth that two artists from genres like that collaborate from time to time to give you a new perspective on music.”
We tagged London’s Beybey using our AI and saw the range of genres – 17 total – he united into a single album. By using AI to analyse the song itself (and not its metadata), we can see the true essence of a song (or album) that the artist intended. And for London, that’s not only his album, but his essence as an artist.
Listen to Beybey on Spotify here.