1 January, 2005@12:00 am
Many of the longstanding problems with hip-hop music can be summed up into wise old adage which says “rappers want to be hustlers; hustlers want to be rappers”. Granted, there are a few out there who are good at both (Jay-Z, for instance), but when it all comes down to it, most are really only talented in one of the two areas. For the sake of art, it’s usually better when the rapper actually excels on the mic, rather than the corner, but that’s not always the case. Take Mike Jones for example, a hungry young Southern upstart hellbent on making sure the world knows Who Is Mike Jones, as the album title suggests. By the end of the album, while you may not care, you’ll know who Mike Jones is – and you’ll have his phone number memorized.
As a pioneer of the new Southern movement, Mike Jones joins several new and now familiar faces as trailblazers on the scene, most notably fellow Swisha House mixtape alum Slim Thug and Paul Wall (not to mention ex-homie Chamillionaire). The trio blew up nationally thanks to the infectious violins of “Still Tippin’”, which gave equal shine to all three (and a show-stealing verse from diamond-grilled white-boy, Paul Wall). The formula of chopping, screwing, and looping his lyrics as hooks helped propel “Still Tippin” to success, so he’s not shy of repeating the process for other tracks on the album. The technique is also used on 808 thumpers such as “Back Then” (hoes didn’t want him, now he hot, they all up on him – you know the line) and the innovative use of a yodeler on “Cuttin (Remix)”. He comes off best on his rawer selections, such as the pair of “Screw Dat” and “Know What I’m Sayin’”, both tailored for Texas Tea, the latter with another stolen spotlight, this time from UGK’s Bun B.
But even on these few better tracks, Jones’ is forced to name drop himself repetitively, and shout out his phone number any chance he gets, sounding like a lazy way to bail himself out of writing another 16 bars. Without exaggeration, it’s done to death all over the album, to the point that it becomes laughable. That being said, things take a turn for the worst when the songs already suck to begin with. Only three tracks into his debut and we land it “Flossin”, perhaps one of the worst songs recorded this year, on so many levels. Poor keyboard production and an excruciating crooned hook suggest that if Jones’ paid more than two dollars for this beat, or for Big Moe’s guest vocals, he isn’t quite the hustler we thought he was. While the production improves slightly on both “Scandalous Hoes” and “Laws Patrolling”, Jones’ again outsources hooks to Lil Bran, who belts out Mike’s pain for him, making the listener feel it too (literally). This is probably better than when Mike Jones sings the hooks himself, as found on his more introspective selections, such as “5 Years From Now” and “Grandma”, where Jones confesses “I want to kiss you and hug you girl.” Say what?!?! Well, maybe not.
Still, “Turning Lane” might crunk up a club or two, and “Still Tippin’” will probably bang for the remainder of the year, but at the end of the day, all Jones does is exemplify the hustler turned rapper. While nobody can disrespect the amount of hunger and hard work Mike Jones has put into making a name for himself, it doesn’t necessarily make for good music.
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