Mike Jones: The Vapors
Mike Jones ain't no joke either, just ask him about his grandmother's love, his rise to stardom, or being one of the only multi-platinum artists you'll meet, who sat unwillingly on label shelves, while A&R's arguably picked apart an album, that albeit dusty, has still made significant radio rotations over a year before release.
On a cold New York day, Mike Jones puts his lunch to the side to talk to HipHopDX in a busy Atlantic Records studio. He talks about weight loss, about his compromised image at last year's Ozone Awards, and about the influence of his grandmother on his life. Although a minor delay prevented the Ice Age CEO from his then-intent of releasing The Voice on April 14, the anniversary of her death, Mike Jones has a lot more than re-introducing himself in mind with this album.
A little over 20 years ago, some Rap fans had trouble taking Biz Markie seriously too. But "The Vapors" will get you.
HipHopDX: With its rags-to-riches tones and theme of going from undesired to in demand, do you ever compare 2005s Back Then as perhaps a Texas version of Notorious B.I.G.s Juicy?
Mike Jones: First off, Juicy [click to watch] is my favorite record from Biggie. Before Back Then [click to read] was even made, when I heard Juicy, there was a lot of stuff that he [said] that I went through, that he still was able to make a negative turn positive. I always took that from that song. He was considered a fool / Cause I dropped out of high school / Stereotypes of a black make misunderstood / But its still all good. Like, he peeped it, and he aint trippin on it. Im still shinin, I was like, Man, thats me! He couldnt picture Nintendos, and now hes picturin a whole bunch of stuff.
Back Then had its own way like that. I wasnt tryin to take nothin from nobody elses stuff; a lot of people tell me that it reminds them of [Biz Markies] The Vapors. The topic is very [similar]. Its just the point of people not wanting to show you love, and now people wanting to show you fake love. Thats just the topic. Juicy was basically the same thing, he just had a more persuasive way of tellin the world about himself and how he overcame it. I was like, Man! I liked that. That was my song. I used to just bang [the song] everyday. Birthdays was the worst days. Who didnt have that? Now we sip champagne when we thirsty.
[When] I came out with my album [and Back Then], I wasnt even thinkin about no other records, when I wrote it. I was so shocked on how people treat you the same person [changes] when they think you have money or they think that youre broke. It amazed me. Thats why I started off real easy. Before I came up in the game, nobody showed me love / They used to see me in the club and treat me like a scrub / They wouldnt holler cause my dollars wasnt swole enough / Turn! I bet they changed they mind when them 84s come rollin up. Its like a before and after. Its just amazing how I can have the same outfit I have on now and a girl can look at me and say Im not hot. But I get on TV and come back, and shit, Im hot again. As that formulated, and came out, a lot of people was really lookin at that song and bein aware, like, Damn, that is true. Back then, she aint want me. I aint have a car; she wasnt tryin to holla at me. Now I get me a new Toyota, she cant stop callin my phone.
Or, I used to be overweight. People come to me all the time, women and men, kids, Yo Mike Jones, I was a 100 pounds overweight, man. The girl Stephanie didnt want to holler at me, but man, I lost 60 pounds, and now she thinks Im this, this, that. So not only me, it built up a lot of peoples self-esteem, confidence from that record, just like Juicy built up my self-esteem and my confidence from [Biggies] record. Hopefully, in time, someone else will come with another record that will build up peoples confidence. It doesnt matter what time of record it is, as long as its a record thats uplifting, because theres so much wrong and so much crazy stuff goin on that you need something to uplift you.
With me, I called my album Who Is Mike Jones? I wanted people to know who I was. I couldve just came out and [said], Oh, I got 100 whips and 100 broads, this, this, this. Nah, I want to let people know this is how we ride [with] Still Tippin. People know me for repeating lines [in songs]. Thats the main idea of my verse. You hear the whole verse, you hear me repeat stuff at the end, thats the part that I really want you to understand [and let it] sink in. Everybody has their way of explaining stuff or sellin stuff. This is my wayjust off of [saying Back then they didnt want me, now Im hot, they all on me] in Still Tippin, people fell in love with that quote. And it made me say, Damn. If thats what everybody likin, may as well do a record, talkin about that!
DX: You were poised enough to apologize after the Ozone Awards situation. I dont want to ask about that as much as ask, if you care to commentyouve always been very human, by all means a nice guy. I think thats what people get from your records and respect I respect that about you. In 2005, that was an against the grain move. With whatever headlines may have been, do you feel that you compromised that image at all, or that image was compromised?
Mike Jones: I honestly think thatlike you said, people that have followed me from 05 and [in] the underground [previously], they know that I dont carry myself as a violent person. Im a personI like to go to work, make money and chill. Im not finna mess with you [if] youre not finna mess with me. Im not gonna be the one thats gonna be the cause of a problem; Im always in the defense, if anything. Just by looking at the [Ozone Awards] situation, you can look at that and look at my rap sheet and [know] that Jones would never even indulge in [an activity like that].
At the same time, we all livin in reality. Some people do see a chance to take their career to another level [when] they cant do it on their own. They dont do [those things] when cameras arent around; they wait till cameras are around. Its gonna keep happenin from now till the end of time, whether its me and [Trae], or whoever the next group of people is. People just sit back and [prey on other artists fame]. Even though we all know how people plan [these things], people are still gonna talk about it afterwards. My thing is, I just pray that everybody who knows me as a person and knows how I get down, knows that I wasnt intending to put a bad image on what happened at the Ozone.
I came to the eventme and my mom, first off. I brought my mom. When you bring your mom to anything, you really arent trying to bring that [element] to the forefront. I brought her, I brought my brother, my homeboy from out of town and my mom brought a few of her homegirls. The way it kicked off, we wasnt even able to make it to our seats. When everything kicked off, it really just not only disappointed me, but disappointed my mama for one. As my mama, she knows I dont get down like that. [Then] my fans. Like you said, you know that aint my character. And three, they gonna pin it on Mike Jones cause I have the name. You not gonna pin it on the other people, cause they dont have a name. Just think about it.
[Trae and his entourage] wont tell you that they seen me a week before the event and looked me in my face; they wont tell you that. Here it is, lights, camera, action, this is the perfect time to make it happen [for them]. Thank God that my mom was cool, I was cool; its cool. The records gonna speak for itself.
DX: You mentioned family. A few minutes ago, you and I were talking about your grandmother and the significance of this release date. Tell me about following up Grandma, and also of family in your life
Mike Jones: Man. Honestly man, my main dream forever [was] basketball. In 98, I used to play ball, all the time. In 99 I was supposed to graduate, but I didnt graduate. I was already down from that. My dreams, that kept me going to school was basketball. Youve got to pass if you want to play. When you switch schools, from school from school from school, youve got to wait a year, wait a year, wait a year. After a while, I was like, Man, forget it. My grandma, she was always that helping ear, was always that guidance, was always thatshieldin me to the right place. I never seen my dad, never, ever. So I grew up without my old man, never ever, but Im not mad at that. My grandma, she just gave me enough game that I needed to know that I can still make a change and make a difference.
It was a time when I didnt want to use Mike Jones; I had another Rap name. She was like, Use Mike Jones. You need to be proud to be a Jones. So I started doin it. The reason I really started [marketing my name] was because Id go to a deejay, and be like, Hey, I need you to check out my CD. Theyd be like, Who are you? Mike Jones. Who? Mike Jones. Man, dont nobody know who Mike Jones is.
Id just take back to her everything that theyd told me. She was like, Shoot. Let em know who Mike Jones is then. From there, I [decided] I was gonna call the album Who Is Mike Jones? She was like my manager, myI dont know what to tell you, but it worked for me. I always promised her that when I made it, I was gonna forever look out for my grandma, because not only did she look out for me financially, but she looked out for me in spirit, heart, words. April 14, 2003, she passed away, right when everything was startin to grow for me, startin to blow. April 19, 2005, two years later, I had dropped the album, Who Is Mike Jones? I dedicated it to my grand-mama. I dedicated a track to her called Grandma [click to read]. It wasnt a single, but people fell in love with the fact that Im not just talkin about ballin and shot-callin, Im lettin people know about my personal life, and lettin people know that I do have feelins for my grandma, and Im glorifyin it. She is the main reason why Im called a marketing guru, or this and that, cause she gave me the tools or the game, the insight, and I listened to her, and took it to another level.
DX: This past year, when Big Moe passed, we did our research [and not much has been written or said]. You were probably the biggest artist he worked with, in terms of sales and commercial success. You did that at a time after his single and all that. Talk about that, because I dont think hes somebody that the history books are covering, and I hope that they do one day
Mike Jones: Wow. Big Moe, a legend [of] Houston, Texas. Even [Lil] Wayne [click to read], now, he has records where hell say a whole Big Moe line. I dont know if you heard it, but hell rap a whole Big Moe Bar Baby line, and hes showing respect to Big Moe. Before I even started doing the music in Screw or rappin in general, Big Moe already had radio locked down [with] Wreckshop Records at the time.
Big Moe was doin the man. Big Moe could sing. Even though he was [physically] big, people didnt care about that, they loved his voice, and fell in love with his heart. Big Moe used to sing and freestyle, and people were just addicted to Big Moe. [He] passed away before his career could really go to the next level, like a Fat Pat or DJ Screw or any of the others that cameI alwaysIm a fan of music, whether its Houston music or out of state music. Im a fan of music. I love Big Moes music.
The movie, The American Dream, I got D-Wreck from Wreckshop Records to shoot the movie. I was a fan of the way, independently, he put Wreckshop Records on the map. And I want to put Ice Age on the map, independently, in the same structure. So me being a fan of that, I got him to do the movie, and I [placed] Big Moe on my first album [on] Flossin [click to read].
I wrote the hook and was like, I cant sing, but I can write. I wrote it. Big Moe [read it], and he sung it, and it sounded perfect. It hurt me that much that when that record came out, it was the #1 most-added record at urban mainstream [radio], but the machines at the major labels started turnin off, and the record started goin down. So we never got a chance to see it explode, [like] a Still Tippin or Back Then, but the numbers showed that it was the most-added record before [the push stopped].
When Big Moe passed away, I reached out to his mom, and we did this big, big Big Moe party, and we donated the proceeds to his mom. I was just tryin to do somethin to show people it wasnt just all about, Oh, we did a song with him. It was about reaching out to the fans; Im a fan too.
DX: Earlier, you called yourself a marketing guru. A lot of writers have agreed. Were in the Twitter-era now. As you see every artist in Hip Hop going there, do you feel you were a pioneer in granting that kind of access to who you were as a platinum artist?
Mike Jones: Oh, fo sure! Especially to the point where I had to take the backlash. When I was the first one at the time, everybody didnt have a problem makin fun of it. Now its a central tool that artists use to help market themselves, something that I was doing years back.
So yeah, I do feel that a lot of them should thank me. But Im not even trippin like that. My whole thing is, if you come with a concept, and I feel like I dont think its gonna work, then I just keep my feelings and my thoughts to myself, and we keep it movin. But when you publicly let it be known, Oh, hes stupid. Hes a gimmick and then three years later, youre doing everything you said I was doing, Ive got to ask, Okay, am I still what you was sayin, or are you just not hip to the game?
DX: Tell us about the labor of love that went into The Voice, and whats gonna be there
Mike Jones: For one, I been wantin to drop this album since the success of the first one. You know how when you place a bet, and you go from no money, to a million! Youre like, Okay, Im gonna run that same route again. I never got a chance to run that route to at least be able to say I failed or I succeeded. Somebodys tires on the car stopped me from getting to know my outcome I hope you understand what Im sayin.
The first album was Who Is Make Jones? Someone gave me somethin to sell. I sold it. Two million sales. In my time-frame, where Im from, it aint been done. Double-platinum, out the gate. My second album, [I wanted to top it], so I made Cuddy Buddy, Next To You, Drop And Gimme 50, so my question to you is, if I wouldve came out with those records, right after the success of the first album, it would be a different conversation, to what were talkin about right now. But, since the tires went on flat and the alternator went out, and all that happened, I was still forced to hold everything in my backpack, until I felt that stuff got more smoother for me to release it.
Now that its smoother, and politics are in my favor, and now that I lost weight went from 285 to 190, and now the girls are sayin, Wow. Now that all this is happening, and now that the record that people said I couldnt do [sings Cuddy Buddy], Im like, Damn boy, I remember when everybody said that Mike Jones fell off with this record. Just imagine if I had the opportunity to drop it in 06, right after my big year. What you think? I know what it did for me in 08, just imagine what it [could have] did for me in 06. So thats why Im so excited to bring The Voice out.