The late 1990s brought waves of graffiti artists through Cincinnati by way of Scribble Jam, an annual hip-hop festival held in August. Among the most influential visiting artist was Philadelphia writer Steven Powers (a.k.a. ESPO). Leon IV began to adopt ESPO's recent strategy of applying illegal graffiti in daylight, while absorbing the tactics of advert manipulation as developed by Ron English, and graffiti writers Barry Mcgee (a.k.a.TWIST) and KAWS. As a result, Leon IV consolidated his influences into a functioning street installation program by placing road signs and altered adverts in broad daylight under the guise of a city ordained construction worker. Pivotal to the new process was Leon IV's childhood friend and artist Andre Hyland (a.k.a Buddy Lembeck) who participated in these initial street installations and added a white construction hard hat to the disguise. A reflective vest would be added to the costume after Leon IV's stay in Brooklyn.
Leon IV's Move to Brooklyn, NY in 1998 proved transitional. While attending Pratt Institute he met film students Quenell Jones and Brad Downey. The pair were interested in filming a documentary (later titled Public Discourse) on the burgeoning New York street art scene and asked Leon IV if he would be their first subject. With Leon IV's approval, the three became a street art trio, often executing and filming installations simultaneously. After months behind the camera, Downey began assisting in Leon IV's installations and gradually shifted gears from documentarian to street artist.
"Brad soon found himself working alongside Leon, eventually donning a costume himself...Leon remembered exactly how it felt to be new to the scene, how hard it was to learn the ropes and secrets...So he willingly took Brad under his wing. He shared all of his years of experience, all the trials and errors, never making Brad pay his dues to nearly the degree expected of him earlier in his own career."As author Ed Zipco writes in "The Adventures of Darius and Downey". Thames & Hudson, 2008. While on summer break ('00) in Cincinnati. Leon IV made a drastic creative decision. He put a complete end to writing VERBS, and at the suggestion of friend Andre Hyland, began signing his new works under the pen-name Darius Jones (a faux name he gave to a reporter when interviewed as VERBS). The new vein of work was characterized by sweeping roller-paint graffiti laced with positive and witty messages. The artist Swoon recalled:
"In one conversation with Darius, he told me how he realized there was already so much negativity in the city, especially within the public's perception of graffiti." [he said] "Why don't we try to make something that is big and illegal and positive?"
In the Fall of 2003 Leon IV moved to London to attend graduate studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Downey made the move to England as well and the two resumed their street collaborations from a distinctly British standpoint. This period in both the output of Leon IV and Downey is noted for a highly subversive approach to street art.
''"Last year, sharp-eyed Londoners may have noticed a three-foot high sheet metal figure painted green in the classic pedestrian crossing pose, looking for all the world like it was about to cross Tottenham Court Road...Meanwhile Bristolians may have come across a metal sculpture of a spider installed on a bricked-up window of an unoccupied house...Even fewer people will know who is behind these and many more unsigned sculptures- two American artists now operating in the UK, Darius and Downey."Wrote Gavin Lucas for London design magazine Creative Review (2004). When curator Scott Burnham asked him to comment further on his creative process for British based ICON magazine Leon IV stated:
"I occasionally stumble upon an area so devoid of either life or humour that I have an incredible urge to contribute something. This is when I take pictures of the area, study them and develop a piece around what exactly is missing from the space. I look at it like a tailor measuring a client to make the best fitting suit, or a doctor examining a patient to prescribe the right medication."Due to their similarities in style, Leon IV and Downey are referred to collectively as Darius and Downey first in European and British press.