In retrospect, this was a last big hurrah. It was June 2008, a few months before the financial markets crashed, laying waste to the economy and ever vulnerable thing in it, including the record industry and the mood for anything flashy or expensive.
Like everyone else, Mosley was way overextended. He’d been indiscriminate about who he worked with and let record companies, desperate for hits in a dying market, throw him together with anyone who might stick: Ashlee Simpson. The Jonas Brothers. New Kids on the freaking Block. The music sounded wrong in the new, less buoyant atmosphere, and it wasn’t long before the Timbaland-beat-as-panacea became a kind of industry joke. “Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the chart,” Weezer jeered in a 2008 song. “Maybe if I work with him I can perfect the art.”
Even for those who wanted them, few people could afford “Timbo on the track, 250 for the beat,” as Jay Z put it in a song cut from The Blueprint 3. Maybe he could, but they remained estranged. Maybe Timberlake could, but he was busy with his movie career.
As for Mosley, he was far from diversified.“The thing about Tim is that his fortune hasn’t been made from clothing lines or fragrances,” says Nelly Furtado. “It’s all been from music.”
Mosley went from working with everyone to working with no one. Occasionally he resurfaced in sad tabloid stories. In 2010, creditors threatened to foreclose on his condo in Miami. The same year, he filed a $1.8 million insurance claim for a watch he claimed had been stolen. Shortly after, Idlett’s mother phoned 911 after Mosley drove off, then texted to say he was “tired of the stress.” “He’s by a cliff in the canyon,” she told the dispatcher.
Back at the Setai, Mosley dismisses the incident with a wave of his hand. “Ain’t no damn cliffs,” he scoffs. “I just took a drive to Starbucks.” He was upset about the loss of the watch, he says, and just wanted some alone time. “Everyone thought I was going off the deep end or something.”
Typical, according to Missy Elliott: “So as long as I’ve known him, since high school, I’ve never seen him cry.”
He does admit that at the time, he went through a period of being addicted to painkillers. “When I got shot, I had pain medicine. I start abusing then,” he says. He’d picked the habit up again when he started lifting weights, which aggravated his injury. I ask him why he decided to start talking about it now. (He’d recently given an interview to Revolt TV about the subject.) “So people know I’m not perfect,” he says, sounding surprised.
“I think he was overwhelmed,” says Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, the producer that replaced Danja as Mosley’s right hand. “He had a lot of obligations, a new family. He had a best friend, they weren’t friends anymore. Maybe it all hit him at once.”
Not long after, Mosely apologized to Jay Z. A mutual friend says Mosley’s wife pushed him to do it. He says it was more like an epiphany. “I’m very religious so I’m gonna put it in this terms: God done work on me,” he says. “That’s the best way I can put it. God did a lot of work on me, and when I looked in the mirror I saw a different person. I did some changing, and the first person I apologized to was Jay.”
To do so he recorded a song, “Sorry”: “I missed your 40th, and that hurt me so deep / Accept my apology, my apology, nigga, please.” Then he flew to New York, where Jay Z was performing with Kanye West. “As soon as we saw each other, we were okay,” he says.
Mosley and Idlett have decided to get a divorce, but he and Jay were back together. Soon they were working on Magna Carta Holy Grail. It was an idea Jay Z had had for a long time, but now the time seemed right. Timberlake was ready for a new album, too. “Justin and Jay, they are my brothers,” Mosley says. This time, they agreed, the tone of their work needed to be different. “More mature,” he says. More perspective was needed. “The hip-hop community needs to stop talking about all this money that we really don’t have,” he says now. “Man, the world is in trouble. Taxes. Europe is in financial debt. We got great jobs, but we like, everybody not gonna have the money that me, Jay, and Justin got. It ain’t happening.” New Tim was more magnanimous about sharing credit. “Like [Magna Carta’s] ‘Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit,’” he says. “That’s Boi 1-da that did that track,” he says, referring to a young producer from Toronto. Those “old-new keyboards that sound like Sanford and Son” on “Suit & Tie”? That was J-Roc. “It takes a big man to say, ‘I didn’t do that,’ ” he points out. Around the same time, he apologized to Furtado. “He talked a lot about how much he had changed, he’s more mature, he’s a father, he kind of figured it out. The way people do.”
Not all the critics picked up on the album’s nuances: The New York Times called The 20/20 Experience a “paean to brand maintenance,” and Rolling Stone dismissed the production of Magna Carta as “woozy and grand—another luxury possession.” The world is a more cynical place when it comes to the work product of multimillionaires.
Magna Carta Holy Grail and The 20/20 Experience Part 1 sold 1 million and 2.3 million copies, respectively—but records are never going to sell like they used to, so Mosley is exploring other career options. Last summer, he joined Jay Z’s management company, Roc Nation, as a client. “I’m too great, and I’m not capturing all my greatness,” he said he realized. “I’m holding myself back.”
The company, he hopes, will help him grow his brand beyond the traditional channels, connecting him with start-ups and technology companies that need musical content, among other things. This spring, he’ll curate a series of music festivals for a South African beer company and teach a class in London on beat-making. In November, Mosley was one of several celebrity ambassadors to appear at a party for Frigo, a line of Swedish underwear for men. Mosley looked ill at ease when he showed up at the pop-up shop in the meatpacking district, posing for photos next to Derek Jeter and Carmelo Anthony in his tight-fitting floral blazer, but within twenty minutes, he was smiling contentedly in a circle of girls. Sex and the City types, just like he said.
What can he do? Women are fascinated by him. There’s only one that holds his interest. “What I say is this: Music is my girl,” he says. “She’s not faithful to me. But she’s faithful just enough.” Which is why he’ll always come back.