SL JONES: Defying Categorization; Establishing Self

Upon pending dates, the prepackaged gimmicks will expire. These lyrical infants tussle for Rap’s fleeting spotlight. Cognizant of the status-quo, Little Rock’s own, SL Jones, continues to invest into his creative cache. His diverse skill-set challenges categorization; that’s the problem. An artistic battle ensues when the MC is both the arch nemesis and the hero. […]

Upon pending dates, the prepackaged gimmicks will expire. These lyrical infants tussle for Rap’s fleeting spotlight. Cognizant of the status-quo, Little Rock’s own, SL Jones, continues to invest into his creative cache. His diverse skill-set challenges categorization; that’s the problem. An artistic battle ensues when the MC is both the arch nemesis and the hero. How will the fickle public respond to an unpredictable artist?

An intense ebony glimpse conveys SL’s perspective. Unprecedented confidence concludes his comment, “I don’t even think; I just create. I have to master the craft… My job is to ensure excellence and to just be better. It’s my job as an artist to convince. ” These are his words:

Building Business Relationships

In whatever situation you’re in, always keeping that student-mentality you can always be in-tune with what’s going on. From being able to benefit from the things around you, you won’t get outdated. Sometimes you’ll do something for the position that it’ll later put you in verses the now money. The now-money, will hinder you from [reaping] later-money. You’ll play yourself for a small check versus grinding.

People are only going to respect you as much as you respect yourself. If what you’re doing is amateurish then that’s how you’ll be treated. People may not know that you have your sh*t together; so, they may come at you— they got to respect the fact that this is how you want to eat. If they feel disrespected by it, then you shouldn’t do business with them. You didn’t come into this sh*t to be homies.

And everything costs. Then you give it away for free. I would never complain about it. On the artist, don’t cheat the people. The worst thing you can do is have a project come out and it under-delivers. You’ll get that now-money, but you’ll never get it again. It’s better for it to be the opposite, for them not to expect much and then when they come you wow them. Then you got them for life.

 Securing featuresMutual respect or healthy budget

It’s love. I’m new; so, when I first meet somebody I don’t come off hella thirsty. It helps when they already know about you. It’s really, God. I’ve been blessed to where they may of heard about me through somebody. With me and Rittz, we used to be around each other kicking it—cracking jokes and sh*t. I didn’t even know that he rapped.  We’d be in there getting faded, kicking it, having a blast then—it was through Burn One, because we both kinda knew each other. He was doing a show in Atlanta and we linked. I came out. There was a song that I did called “Wild Side,” it’s off Flight Risk. He was like, ‘Yeah, man; you sick.’

Another way that I secure features is by putting them on dope songs. When they get the record they’re like, ‘Damn.’ If I don’t know them, or have a solid connect, my motto has always been approach it like business. A favor will always get swept under the rug. People respect you when you don’t ask them for nothing for free. When you come at them like, ‘Yo, let’s do business.’ Now they respect your mind. The first time you may do business with them, and the second time it may be just love, because y’all started off building on the right foot. It’s happened a couple of different ways. They way I’ve been able to do it there’s always love involved.

On  “Grind 100 Hustle”

I ain’t gonna lie; whenever we get into the studio together it’s heated. I feel like Killer smashed it. He just took off. I’m the one who always goes first. Usually, I’m the one who’ll pick the beat out. It’s just fun. It’s a sport, too.

I still got love for the sport. We really didn’t even think about it. When I think about it, it may have been the homie who picked the beat. He was like, ‘Y’all need to kill this sh*t.’ he had a bunch of old instrumentals. I want to say it was the homie, G. Before you know it it was done. Initially, I was trying to find an original beat, because like to do songs. Write a hook, and then have everybody do verses. But, that sh*t just happened; it was crazy.

Demonstrate depth of talent while remaining cohesive

I guess that’s the part that I have to figure out. With C.O.L.O.R.S. that was just me wanting to exist. I didn’t even know that people knew about it. I don’t feel like I had the best beat on there, or the best mixes. That’s why people gravitated to it; there were zero expectations.  When it dropped, it created opportunities for myself; it got me here.

Naturally, you’ll hear the sound; there’s growth. If you listen to it there’s always going to be something on that one that’s a glimpse of what you heard before. The first time I listen to something I don’t judge it. It is what it is. Listen and look at the tile of the project. Do the features make sense? Does the music connect with the title?

If you’re going to listen to my music go ahead and take it all in. I got to say some crazy sh*t. I got a new mixtape produced by Metro Boomin—I knew people were going to feel indifferent about Way of Life No Hobby. That’s my job as an artist. That’s the type of artist I am. I experiment; I tried different things. It’s my job to push that line. When some people come out you know exactly what it is. They got two or three moves and they always go to those. With me, I can do a lot of different things. So, I’m going to try—sometimes you’re going to love it and sometimes you’re going to hate it.

I like it when you go in and do a whole project as fast as we did it you’re in a certain zone. To me, that was something that I feel good about. Ultimately, I’m out to make a project that people will either love or hate. I don’t want nobody to be cool on it. I don’t want nobody to be like, ‘It’s alright; it’s straight.’ I want you to be disgusted like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe he did that,’ or ‘I love it; I play it from one to thirteen.’ That’s how I look at it. Either f**k with me all the way or don’t f**k with me.  That half love will get you nowhere; you won’t have no career if everybody is ignoring you. There’s artists who have careers based off being hated.

Sharing Access to Gang Life

I have to put it out there. Honestly, I’m going to give you the mentality of who we are, and how we do. In itself, that right there promotes change, because people already know for me to be here is a blessing. So, that means I’ve made some right decisions. N*ggas from my ‘hood is dead; [some] are locked up forever. Or they just came home a couple of years ago. You can’t glorify or glamorize it, but you can hide it. You still have to document it. So, there’s a fine line you have to walk when you speak on it. And I make sure whenever you’re speaking on it it’s in truth.

DJ Burn One

Paraphernalia got a lot of love.  Burn One, is the only person that can get production like that from. So, when we went in he was making the beat right there. I’m writing the songs right there and that’s how it came about. So, naturally that sound is only going to be on something that I do with Burn One. It’s not like with every project that I put out it’s going to be me and Burn One doing projects back to back. Every other producer that I fool with, other than Burn One, is a trap. That’s kinda their roots. Metro got a range and if you listen to the whole thing then you hear songwriting. Like the song “Facts of Life,” anybody can relate to that. So, it’s like you have to listen to everything.

That one was the one that got the most attention. I couldn’t even do that again, because I’m not working with a producer that’s going to give me that again. That’s like a moment in time. We’re plotting on the next one. Burn One is putting together a project and we’ve just been sitting in there talking about all the stuff like what the vibe of the next project is going to be. If that’s what you want then you have to wait on the next Burn One project. That’s the only place that I can get that from. That’s like a tailor-made suit from Burn One. Every outfit that I put on is not going to fit like that. Nobody else does it like that.

Defying Expectations

I jumped on Ricky Fontaine’s project, TallTails. Ricky did a project with Burn One, iNDEED, that’s the name of his group. Rick did a solo project that I was supposed to jump on. This is the last day; so, I literally just left a function with Kenneth. We pulled up on them at the studio to knock out my verse. When I come in we’re going through songs to try to figure out what I’m going to do and I end up jumping on a song. I go in; I do the verse. When I come out, the first thing Ricky said was—it was hilarious, I can’t make this sh*t up—he was like, ‘Man, I’m so glad you killed it the way you killed it. You killed it, SL. I ain’t gonna lie. Man, I was a little worried. I just listened to America’s Nightmare, I didn’t know what SL was going to show up. Man, you’ve been on your wavy sh*t! I didn’t know if you were going to come in singing. I had no idea what you were going to do.  I’m glad you just went in and killed it the way you did.’

I was laughing, because people really look at me like, ‘What the f**k is going on in his head.’ When I listen to “More Than Wood,” when I listen to the section where my verse comes in, it’s obvious what I’m supposed to do. I couldn’t even imagine why they thought that I would have done something other than what I did. When I look at it, I can tell that I do be doing a whole lot; I be doing the most.

If a person goes to listen to some of my old sh*t, then they go to listen to some of my new sh*t, the new project is the furthest from what you’ve heard. It’s the most elastic. That was really the one of, Burn One, that was the other sh*t

Inherent Value

I possess a skill-set that allows me to become timeless. It’ll take people a little longer to get me, because I’m the medium with lyricism, character, charisma, and all that in one thing. In a game where everybody tries to put you in a box I’m the dude that when you look at me there is no box. There’s nowhere that you can put me and try to make me stay there. I do what I want to do. That’s the value with me; I’m something different. I’m influenced by everything; you’ll see glimpses of those things that influence me in me. Ultimately, I’m me. You’re not just going to see anybody do everything that I do all at the same time.

As told to Niki Gatewood