He doesn’t like to use the word much, but Theophilus was depressed, to the point where he cryptically adds that “there were moments when I was down, and my mind couldn’t work, and I would just think about one or two things that don’t have any relevance to my creed.” Before his fate truly turned grim, though, London hit reset: He took a social media hiatus, and dropped his smartphone in favor of an old-school flip cellular, only adding essential people to his contacts. As 2018 approached, London finally began to set new intentions and goals, realizing that the life he’d lived didn’t feed his soul.
Theophilus had accomplished much and garnered the respect of many. “I had money, designer pieces in my closets, signed things by my favorite artists,” he lists. “I was riding in jets with ‘Ye. I was doing what I wanted to do. I was having one-on-one meetings with JAY-Z, and he likes me. And I just wasn’t happy. I had a lot of figuring things out to do. I had to take that journey as a man.”
He moved back to Manhattan, staking out in a hotel in the Gramercy sect, then was invited to stay with his brother in the boonies of Rhode Island. Out in his Providence bedroom, London would rummage through old emails dating as far back as 2007.
Theo had forgotten who he was. Looking back allowed him to time-travel to see his pure self at the start of his career, and what it meant to him. London found forgotten song lyrics, downloaded decade-old attachments, and created a mood board of sorts. “I was just building my armor up,” he says. For the prior two years, London was structureless, hiring and firing managers, traveling to Europe or South Africa on a whim. In Rhode Island, good routines sprouted.
“I’d just wake up, go to the gym and this Colombian restaurant to chat up one girl that worked there. I’d call Tremaine or Virgil. I hadn’t seen them in years.” He started planting seeds again, inching towards the direction of his best self. Steady doses of assurance would turn his once burdened mind into a place where morale rose. Or as he says, these were his “steps toward Graceland.”
Staying low-key, Theophilus would buy Peter Pan bus and Amtrak tickets to NYC for evening studio sessions in the heart of midtown or Union Square to record, yanking his Champion hoodie over his head and knotting the drawstring to cover his bearded face to keep to himself.
He no longer works with West, but Emory played a key consigliere role in Kanye’s prolific output as both an artist and sole producer for five albums released over five consecutive weeks at the start of 2018’s summer. He was sure to invite London to Wyoming for West’s sprawling bonfire release party in May, then to the Queensbridge, NY party for Nas’ West-helmed Nasir album. As the live-streamed functions played and images hit social media, London could be seen bro’ing out with West, soaking up the good times and building with old buds.
“He was low,” Emory says. “He was banged up. No matter how great you are, you need that cosign from your friends saying, ‘We fuck with you.’ I think this year, Theo is seeing that certain people fuck with him forever.”