Where is Mike Jones?
Matthew Munhall | Thursday, March 27, 2014
Where is Mike Jones?
It’s a question worth asking ahead of his SUB-sponsored show at Legends tonight at 10 p.m. The rapper broke out in the mid-2000s as Houston rap exploded onto the national scene. Jones’s career blew up almost overnight, along with his Swishahouse labelmates, including Chamillionaire and Slim Thug.
For a moment in the aughts, Jones seemed poised to become a genuine cultural force in hip-hop. He was signed to a deal with Jive and Warner Bros. His debut album “Who is Mikes Jones?” was certified double platinum. He scored a top-10 hit with a feature on T-Pain’s “I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper),” in which he boasted, “Mike Jones don’t ever trick.” His catchphrase — “Who? Mike Jones!” — became a pop culture touchstone.
Jones’ greatest artistic feat was his debut single, “Still Tippin’,” which remains one of the most unappreciated rap songs of the 21st century. Salih Williams’s fantastic production is largely responsible for its greatness. Jones, Slim Thug and Paul Wall rap over the brilliantly woozy beat that employs a bass-heavy drum machine and a pitched-down sample of Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”. Jones’s signature drawl oozes on his verse, as he raps about “finger flippin’ and syrup sippin’.” Wall presciently brags, “I got the Internet going nuts,” in an era before the Internet played a major role in breaking new artists. The song ranked at No. 87 on Pitchfork’s Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s, with music critic Tom Breihan writing, “After ‘Still Tippin’,” every rapper on the song got a major-label contract, as did half the rappers in the city. None of them became stars, and none of them recaptured the magic of this song.”
His rise to prominence ended as quickly as it started. Jones released a second album, “The Voice,” in 2009, which only sold 65,000 copies in the U.S. Jones disappeared from the music industry for the next five years, seemingly destined to remain a reminder of middle school years for most millennials.
When I called his well-publicized phone number this week, (281) 330-8004 — which he shouted out on tracks and was printed in the New York Times — it appeared to be out of service. Yet, a Google search revealed that Jones is preparing for a comeback this year. In an interview with XXL in January, Jones attributed his absence to label troubles.
“Fighting politics, learning politics,” he said. “It was just a lot of misunderstandings.” He also announced he was working on new music, planning to release a mixtape called “Money Train” and an album titled “Where is Mikes Jones?” later this year.
Jones’ website has a message to his fans, brimming with optimism about his future: “I’m telling ya’ll, no lie, I’m back, with no politics and finally in charge of things!” Whether Jones is able to successfully engineer a comeback remains to be seen, but there is no doubt his show at Legends this weekend will be an entertaining mix of old hits and new material.
Jones performs at Legends tonight at 10 p.m.