Who is Mike Jones?
Matthew Munhall | Sunday, March 30, 2014
Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool, especially in the music industry. Live concerts prove to be reliable sources of income for musicians, even long after their creativity peaks. It’s the reason why the Rolling Stones continue to play “Gimme Shelter” to sold-out arenas fifty years into their career. It’s the reason why crowds flock to see Jay-Z play the hits, even after his recent string of uninspired albums. And it’s the reason why a crowd of Notre Dame students went to see Mike Jones at Legends on Friday night.
At this point, the Houston rapper is almost nine years removed from his peak in the mid-2000s. Still, the exuberant crowd roared when Jones took the stage dressed in a black hoodie and black sunglasses. A hype man in a striped hoodie with a drink in hand accompanied him on stage, awkwardly rapping along to every word.
Curiously, Jones began his set by parading through his biggest hits, running through “Mr. Jones,” “Still Tippin” and “Back Then” in quick succession. Although frontloading a show with familiar hits was an odd strategy, it was still exhilarating hearing the familiar sample from “Still Tippin” blast through the speakers at Legends. Unfortunately, this was stopped short as Jones yelled, “Hold up, DJ,” harshly ending numerous songs throughout the night.
Jones’ talent always lay more in self-promotion than in rapping, and this skill was on full display Friday night. Nearly every song found him leading the crowd in his famous chant: “Who? Mike Jones!” His name became somewhat of a mantra through its repetition, never allowing you to forget whom you were watching for one second.
There was a certain power in hearing the crowd scream Jones’ old phone number — (281) 330-8004 — in unison. For a generation that has grown up thoughtlessly saving numbers in their cell phones, it was oddly impressive that so many still remember that phone number by heart.
It was to his credit that Jones was able to keep the crowd engaged during his new material. This was partly due to their repetitive choruses and Jones’ self-aggrandizing stage presence. These songs included “Polo Boots,” which repeats the titular phrase throughout most of the song, and another with the chorus, “I be sippin’ syrup / I be sippin’ drank.”
Yet, there was a sad irony watching Jones perform his hit “Back Then,” which is about people who are only attracted to you for your fame. “Befo’ the ice was in my grill, befo’ I got my major deal,” Jones rapped on Friday night, “Befo’ my paper came, befo’ I got my game.” Of course, Jones is no longer on a major label and is desperately clinging to his bygone fame. Nine years after his debut album “Who Is Mike Jones?” sold 2.5 million copies, it was rather depressing watching someone whose career is so deeply invested in reliving the past.
At the same time, however, the crowd was there for the same exact reason. As college students incessantly worry about careers and the future, there is something reassuring about any remnant of the past. For example, we voraciously consume BuzzFeed lists about the ‘90s and watch Disney movies. Hearing Jones croon “I’m ‘n Luv (wit a Stripper)” out of tune surely evoked memories of middle school dances and first iPods for many in the crowd.
Reliving the past assuages our fears about a rapidly-changing world, so we seek out nostalgia wherever possible — even at a Mike Jones show. Although Jones is certainly not the best live performer, his familiar and energetic set Friday night at Legends transported the crowd back to 2005, for better and or worse.