Words by Mr Freddie Campion
Like a lot of New Yorkers, Mr Theophilus London has no problem telling a complete stranger about the hidden powers of coconut water. "It's the best thing to hydrate you," the 22-year-old rapper says from his NoLIta apartment, which also doubles as a studio, office and, as he puts it, "global headquarters".
Unlike a lot of New Yorkers, however, he isn't letting his love of the drink go to waste. Following in the footsteps of hip-hop drinks magnates P Diddy and 50 Cent, he's now looking to expand into the niche beverage market, and is working on releasing his own, as yet unnamed, brand of coconut water some time next year.
"We're going to try to sell a clean aesthetic," he says, when I ask how his brand will stand out in the already crowded coconut water market. "I don't really want my music name on it, or anything like that."
Whether or not Mr London will soon be joining the ranks of Diddy and Fiddy is still to be seen, but what is clear is that it's not his first foray into this kind of cross-branded self-promotion, and it certainly won't be his last.
Mr London counts Mr Hugh Hefner among his idols - along with Mr Karl Lagerfeld and Heisenberg, the fictional drug kingpin persona assumed by Walter White on Breaking Bad
Even before the release of his debut album in 2011 - the 1980s pop-infused Timez Are Weird These Days, the follow up to which he's just begun working on - he'd already collaborated with brands such as Cole Haan (designing a pair of suede bucks, which feature a shade of blue he claims has never appeared on a shoe before) and luxury slipper-maker Del Toro. And this week also sees the launch of a capsule collection with California surf and streetwear label Stussy.
"I sketch while I'm on tour," he says. "I've also got some stuff with Surface to Air in the works. It's a good hobby."
Almost all of these projects (yes, even the coconut water) take place under the banner of LVRS, the creative company he founded in 2010 to broker a deal with Mountain Dew when it offered to release one of his singles on the company's Green Label Sounds imprint - "I didn't want to do it with my full name," he explains - but which he soon hopes to turn into his own global lifestyle brand.
"I started it as a creative agency, as a way to work with creative people and flush that money through," he says. "Now it's also like my in-house design imprint."
Mr London performs at Bing Bar during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, January 2012
The singer at the launch of the 2012 Pirelli Calendar by Mr Mario Sorrenti at Park Avenue Armory, New York, December 2011
Mr London at the Chanel The Little Black Jacket exhibition, New York, June 2012
As far back as he can remember, Mr London has always had a flair for marrying style and entrepreneurship. Growing up in Brooklyn in the mid-1990s - he was born in Trinidad but moved to the US soon after - he was obsessed with Air Jordans, and he and his cousins would pass the time designing their own sneakers ("Mine were called the Air London," he says) complete with their own fantasy advertising campaigns and launch concepts.
Soon after leaving college in Pennsylvania (he won't say which one, just that it was "some shitty college" and that he left at 19 after only one year) he and a friend attempted to turn an old strip-club-turned-church back into a working strip club again. But, he's quick to point out, "not an aggressive one, like you're thinking". This was going to be a respectful joint, aimed at bringing in local college kids.
Needless to say it didn't work out. But still, it highlights the kind of fashion-conscious, globetrotting playboy that London has long since aspired to. He still counts Mr Hugh Hefner among his idols - along with Mr Karl Lagerfeld and Heisenberg, the fictional drug kingpin persona assumed by Walter White on Breaking Bad ("there is nothing he can't get done, and that's inspirational to me," Mr London explains) - and says if he's able to turn LVRS into a full-blown house, the ideal customer would be "anyone between 13 and 50, who's down for the full lifestyle experience... partying, travelling worldwide".
Timez Are Weird These Days is out now on Warner Bros Records
His style on the other hand is a little more idiosyncratic. He was a trendsetter in high school - he counts "headbands, backwards goggles and boat shoes" among his many triumphs - and today he's known for mixing Rick Owens and Prada with flamboyant jewellery and quirky vintage store finds. He's the image of the modern-day hip-hop dandy businessman.
It's a taste that has opened up a lot of doors, and it's not uncommon for him to perform at high-profile fashion events in front of some of the fashion establishment's biggest players.
"Being invited by Calvin Klein to perform at the amFAR Benefit Gala, and getting emails from Anna Wintour once in a while, are the kinds of things I find inspiring," he says. "I also played the Cannes Film Festival last year in front of some of my favourite actors. That was incredible. Me and Kanye were like the only black dudes in the room."
As we speak, New York Fashion Week is fast approaching, so I can't help but ask where and when he'll be making appearances.
"I'm going to leak the plans next week," he says.
Do you have a lot of secret plans, I ask?
"Yeah," he says.
Are you going to tell me any?