It is a peculiar trait about names: they forge an identity in us early that we fight to escape, like sullen clouds hanging over our morning windowsills. As if our given names were nothing more than idle placeholders until we discovered our existence was really something that superseded those temporary monikers. We are and will always be our names. Try as I may, I am not a Paul, nor am I a Brandon. Yet most of us spend our formative years dashing around fate, either searching for others to imitate or becoming people we know we don’t want to be. We want footsteps to follow, a comforting path. I don’t know why - in the end, you’ll still be your name; I’ll still be mine. And if you take my fatalistic view, you’ll have little luck escaping the attached identity. Unless…you molded not your identity to your name, but rather, your name to your identity.
Born in Trinidad, but raised in Brooklyn, Theophilus London II, has a name that sticks out to say the least, mixing biblical obscurity with a city known best for its high exchange rate and highbrow accent. A quick search for the name reveals a critical element to understanding the aim of “Theophilus London” the brand (inclusive of the rapper & DJ & style maven), who at 24, has created a market for himself with just one official album release:
“No one knows the true identity of Theophilus and there are several conjectures and traditions around an identity.”
This is Theo in a nutshell. An amorphous figure in music and most notably, fashion, who largely survives off of his name first, identity second. To see him, which I have on a number of occasions both onstage and strolling the blocks of some of lower Manhattan’s best brunch spots, is to immediately assign name to style, style to music - in other words, the carefully crafted brand. What do you do with a name like Theophilus London? Just make it the focal point.
As he burst onto the scene with “JAM!,” his first mixtape, followed by “This Charming Mixtape,” which captured the essence of progressive rap, then “I Want You,” Theo capitalized off of the buzz unlike any new artist in recent memory. He aligned himself with Mountain Dew and Bing. He sat front row at Lanvin’s menswear show, after wearing the brand at Cannes. He secured more deals with Cole Haan to co-design a shoe, Bushmills Irish Whiskey, Gucci in anticipation of his first album. To top it off, he became the ad hoc face of Tommy Hilfiger. Yet, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who can really explain why he has been able to position himself in this fashion. Let me offer some thoughts.
He’s effortlessly cool, Borsalino and all, with an organic confidence that actually makes him a more appealing figure. His musical talents are not to be understated, even if you don’t post his lyrics on Twitter. He’s a black rapper from the home of Biggie producing New Wave records. Not one bit of this feels like a shtick, however. This is a part of his identity, and now his name, Theophilus, reflects the same qualities. ~Nik