Jim Jones: Fly Like An Eagle

Relevance in the rap game is occasionally a long time coming, and frequently elusive. Jim Jones, who only recently became a major artist in his own right after years in the Diplomats’ trenches, seems to have a handle on the importance of strategy in prolonging his run. Through his tactics of aggressive competition and frequent label maneuverings, most recently with Sony, Jones has kept his name buzzing heavily in the media. And while the Diplomats collective is in an apparent state of disarray, Jim Jones is pushing forward with a movement of his own, Byrd Gang. Not one to idly sit back and enjoy the fruits of his recent rise to rap stardom, the Capo is investing heavily in the group he built from the ground up with resources from Warner/Asylum. Consisting of Jim Jones, Max B, Mel Matrix, and N.O.E., the Byrd Gang is now preparing to infiltrate the mainstream with their debut album due this winter. In an earnest entreaty to defend his position and win the ears of listeners beyond Byrd Gang’s present day following, Jim Jones speaks to AllHipHop.com about the internal strife that has befallen the Diplomats, the question of loyalty, and the formation of his new team. AllHipHop.com: Let’s start off by addressing the Cam’ron situation. Your rise to success seemed to coincide with Cam’s retreat from the game. Was that a coincidence, or did your success affect him in a negative way? Jim Jones: I don’t know if it affected Cam, Cam be in his own world sometimes. At the end of the day, I can tell you Cam is still my brother. But right now he’s going through something that he’s going through, and ‘til he snaps out of it there is nothing you can tell a grown man. He is still one of the more talented people as far as music; you can’t take that away from him. I’m still a Diplomats artist; I’m still Diplomats ‘til the day I die. Byrd Gang is a subsidiary of Diplomats, one of my business ventures – it’s my own thoughts on everything I felt I should be doing as far as having a label or a movement. It’ll be another Diplomats album, definitely, and with that one comes a lot of controversy. So we’ll still sell some records; it’ll shock the world. AllHipHop.com: Do you think that Jay-Z, by responding to you and not Cam, and 50, by taunting that Cam was demoted to soldier, exacerbated the tension between you and Cam? Jim Jones: That s**t between me and Cam ain’t got nothing to do with those comments. It’s just deeper and more political. It was so crazy at the time that it made it look like that. But the s**t that me and Cam was going through, we was going through regardless of whether all these other things were happening or not. We was bound for what we getting into right now, whether the Jay thing happened or whether the Cam and 50 feud happened. Without all that, me and him was bound to bump heads. That was just written. AllHipHop.com: At the same time, your rapprochement with 50 Cent and comments about Cam’ron have made some question your loyalty. How do you address those criticisms? Jim Jones: Business is business. That s**t that Cam had going on with 50 was frivolous. At the end of the day, people gotta understand, 50 is still the number one artist in the world. [Not] too many people are selling more records than him, I don’t care what genre you in. And at the same time, 50 Cent is still in our generation, as far as how we run through this game. And there’s supposed to be some kind of rapport, some type of alliance among us as far as being peers. I’ve been watching the game and nobody dying. Where I’m from, if you beef somebody gonna end up dead, shot, stabbed, something gonna happen. So for me, it’s all jokes until someone cross the gunline. So until that happens, I’ma go get my money, I’ma do my business. I am Diplomats ‘til the day I die – nobody can question my integrity or question my loyalty. I have no plans to do nothing other than Diplomats business, whatever that may be. It’s always Diplomats first. AllHipHop.com: Hell Rell’s recent comments about you do seem to suggest a divide in the group… Jim Jones: Hell Rell and 40 Cal, that’s a touchy situation. If you listen to Hell Rell, he made a couple of statements that he retracted in his recent interviews. But I heard him on a few more interviews and he refused to say anything crazy out his mouth. Hell Rell is just an artist. If you want to put it in street terms, he’s just a soldier. If you want to put it in chess, he’s just a pawn, you smell me? So his opinion really don’t make no money, regardless how you say it, so the s**t don’t count. He’s like a kid who feels like his parents are going through a divorce, which they’re not. He’s just venting how he feels, but he’s opinionless, really, if you look at it. He had an album coming out, he was trying. AllHipHop.com: What led to the breakdown of unity in the group? Jim Jones: There’s really no breakdown in the unity in the group, it’s two brothers going at it. I know a lot of brothers that’s always beefing. With Juelz Santana nothing changed, it’s no picking sides; it’s no big divorce going on. It’s just something me and Cam is going through, everything else is still Diplomats. If people see me going hard on the ventures and on my business, that’s because that’s what you supposed to do, give it your all. Right now I got a chance to do a Byrd Gang venture and I gotta give it 150%, I gotta go hard with it. Right now Dipset is at a standstill, I gotta step on to the next thing. I always gotta make money, you understand? AHH: So the Byrd Gang venture is your focus right now. How did you go about picking the Byrd Gang team? Jim Jones: I picked those individuals that I thought was the most talented in more than just one way. Not just the music, but the life that they living. They are talented as far as staying alive in the streets and avoiding all the obstacles that the streets may show you. The easiest thing is being in the studio and getting in the booth. The hardest thing is making it to the studio and surviving in the streets. Some of these ni***s had to go to jail just to get here, some of us still go to jail trying to get a better life. As far as the music is concerned, these ni***s is the bomb. They way more talented then I could ever be as far as music is concerned, they really get it. I’ve been doing this for a minute and I got a little knack for picking people who are really good at doing music, having that food that the people in the streets need to eat. AllHipHop.com: With that street credibility comes sobering events such as the death of $tacks and the legal troubles of Max B. How do you face those risks and losses, both from a business angle and a personal angle? Jim Jones: These are things we have been dealing with all our lives as far as taking risks and losses. Unfortunately, I lost someone that was close to me. $tacks was growing to be a little brother of mines. And we just been cheated in life. More than anything he was a friend, rapping was just one facet we got to see of his life. We didn’t know what else the Lord had in store for him. AllHipHop.com: What would you say each of the members bring to the group? Jim Jones: Max [B] is just a different individual when it comes to music, he chooses to harmonize his music in a different way. Some people call it singing, we call it that wave. And he raps real hard, like he got a lot of different styles to him. He’s more of… how could I say… he got a couple different people in him. He got a little Rick James flair with him, then he got a little Biggie with him, then he can go Makaveli. He got lot of spices with him. Mel Matrix is just so gutter. When I met Matrix, I went to his block – he from Marcus Garvey in Brooklyn. The first time I took him out he damn near ain’t never been in Manhattan. So that goes to show you what he been into in his life, he really been in them streets of Brooklyn. That’s not an easy place to be, and that’s what he depicts in his music – all the struggles he been through and all the struggles he still going through. And that gangbang affiliation he has is a whole other realm, that is a whole other obstacle we go through in the hood as far as gangs and kids killing young kids, and all that’s in the music. So woo woo to Mel Matrix, keep your head up, homie. N.O.E. is like a real mature hustler’s mind, he really paints a real vivid picture in a different way. Everbody’s flow varies, everybody definitely has a different lane that we all follow. But it’s all towards one course, so it’s a real good sound. The kid NOE got some shit some people would he sounds like Jay-Z, but he spit hard. AllHipHop.com: Without $tack Bundles around, would you say that the group had to collectively step its game up? Jim Jones: With $tacks gone there’s a void that will never be able to be filled, no matter how much we step our game up. He had his own s**t that was priceless, he can’t be copied. But they say what don’t kill you only makes you stronger, the s**t that happened with $tacks, that’s all that it did, man. I gotta make sure that boy gets to live his dream out vicariously through us and through our music. I don’t know how it’s changed the flow, but it’s getting done. Lord knows I get tired of this sometimes, ‘cause I know this music industry is about a bunch of bullshit. But it pays the bills and it got me living the life, so I can’t complain at the same time. But this one definitely is for $tacks, by all means. AllHipHop.com: Are you happy with how the album is coming out? Jim Jones: The album is a beautiful thing. I just want people to really get a chance to be able to listen to the music, and not just the hype. People always get caught up in the hype, like, “Who’s on there? Do I know him?” These n***** can rap better than 90% of the industry, like literally, they get it. This music is crazy, this music put me back to ’94 ’95 when a n**** was really trying to come up and hustling. And that music’s what you put on to get hyped when you got outside. This is that music, this is the soundtrack to the streets, this they inspiration to go out and take them risks, ‘cause they ain’t giving us nothing. AllHipHop.com: What level of success do you anticipate for Byrd Gang? Jim Jones: I don’t like to anticipate, I don’t like to tell the future, I don’t like to do none of that. I know one thing: just the opportunity alone that was given to us, as far as being in this game, as far as being able to put an album in stores, as far as being signed to a major label. Just to have this opportunity to sell some real records, I am grateful. And it all depends on how hard we work and how wavy we make the music. And I think we can do it. We got longevity in this game. I think each one of these artists will step out and get they own solo career going on, or the group deal. They’re capable of carrying it on, but it’s gotta be done right. I gotta bust my ass as an artist also, as Jim Jones is concerned. Because the more successful I get makes it easier for them to be successful. So we play by the rules.