Artist: Mike JonesTitle: Who is Mike Jones?Rating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Mark Cilantro
It is not often that an artist is known for his Sprint PCS cell phone number. But that was before Mike Jones, who? Mike Jones, came on the scene. Sometimes you like an artist because of his music and sometimes you like an artist despite his artistic shortcomings. Mike Jones is the latter.
Who Is Mike Jones? (Swishahouse/Asylum) is the long awaited offering from the Swishahouse camp out of Houston that has been creating a buzz from the blogosphere to the New York Times. The rapper with the H-town drawl and a penchant for repeating himself has been carrying the flag of Houston Hip-hop. The sound is not quite Dirty South and certainly not East Coast. It lacks the polish of the Dr Dre L.A. sound but mirrors its materialism and simple lyrics. After creating a grassroots following on the underground for a while and treading the path blazed by Lil Flip and the late DJ Screw, Swishahouse and its patriarch Michael Watts inked a deal with Warner Bros to take the chopped and screwed sound worldwide.
I will be honest with you if you are an East Coast purist or a left field experimentalist this may not be the album for you. However, Dirty South afiricionados and fans of that thugged out Midwest vibe, this is for you. Except for a few standout cuts the production is basic at best and filled with out of tune vocalists on the hook. Mike Jones subject matter sticks to his new found fame and fortune, past days hustling, wood grain in his whips, princess cut diamonds and endlessly repeating his name and phone number. At times the album feels more like an infomercial than anything else. Much like The Game on The Documentary, the album is about the album. Call it reality show rap. A circular creative process where the album is not so much about love lost or an epic journey, the album is about what Mike had to go through to make this album. I cant recall an artist referring to the album you are listening by name so often. In fact the first words you hear are in order: the title of the album, the title of the next Mike Jones album (The American Dream), Mike Jones phone number, and the website, www.mikejones.com.
But with all that being said I still like the album because I like Mike Jones himself. His story is of a hard worker who listened to his grandmother and persevered through the titanic trials and tribulations one faces in the US of A. Even the incessant repeating of Mike Jones is actually explained, a feat I did not imagine could be done. On Grandma Mike reveals it was a suggestion from his number one supporter to be proud of his name and make people remember it. When people were ignoring him and taking him for a joke he released his own mixtapes, put his own phone number and told people to holla at Mike Jones directly if they felt so inclined. He racked up a six figure phone bill in the process. Someone get this man a sponsorship deal.
But someone did beat him to the punch on the sponsorship game. All one has to do is watch BET for a few minutes and see that Mike has taken advantage of the ring tone hustle in a very aggressive and admirable way. As much as you may want to call these cats ignorant based on their content their hustle is digital and is taking advantage of new media in only ways a real hustler could.
Besides “Still Tippin” which features fellow Swisha House soldier and part time jeweler Paul Wall and the Boss Hog Slim Thug check for the “Cuttin (remix)” (the yodeling sample is buttery fresh) and “Know What Im Sayin” featuring Bun B. I would have not have minded Paul on a few more cuts and I will definitely be on the lookout for his album which I believe is next up for Swishahouse. Slim Thug may be the best lyricist out of the whole crew and his sole verse on “Still Tippin” a standout.
Although this is the music business I believe what is ultimately being sold are the artist and their message. Over the years they have been less than stellar MCs who have been able to achieve success based on their character and the strength of their message. Nice and Smooth, EPMD, and even Kanye make up for their lyrical shortcomings with their style, musicianship and personality. Put Mike Jones in that category. Whatever happens you certainly will remember his name.