In music's digital age, when we receive thousands of requests to listen to new records every day, especially in hip-hop, rappers don't often stick out in our minds and the ones that do are often lucky to capture the public's attention for longer than a few weeks. That means we've all now been rummaging through someone's iPod for the next song when we exclaim, "Ah! Remember ____? I forgot about this record, I wonder what ever happened to ____?" Well wonder no more because my wonderful friends at RefinedHype/DJBooth have offered me the chance to delve deep into the afterlives of hip hop's greatest Lost Ones on a weekly basis and examine the question we've all asked ourselves at one point: “What ever happened to ____?”
When I originally developed the idea for an article examining rappers, whose brush with fame was abruptly ended, I polled my closest friends for article subjects. My iPhone was inundated with great ideas, but one name stuck in front of about every list I received and it belonged to debatably-legendary Houston rapper,
If you were socially coherent enough to be listening to popular music in 2004, you're sure to remember the brief love affair rap had with the South and more specifically Houston's chopped and screwed scene. To this day, nothing makes me want to slowly swerve back and forth dangerously on a residential street more than the whining violins of "Still Tippin" and it's easy to see why. From the opening verse, Slim Thug raps while receiving fellatio in an Escalade (watch the BET uncut video) to Paul Wall's obvious stand out appearance, Mike Jones climbed his way to 14 on the US Hip-Hop Charts and Warner Bros. Records signed him and placed him on one of the year’s biggest hits, "I'm in Luv Wit a Stripper." His album "Who is Mike Jones?" climbed to Number 1 on US Rap and he capitalized on this success with a video and single release for "Back Then", which sampled a line from "Still Tippin" as it's hook. "Back Then" earned honors as number 6 on US Rap alongside the third single, "Flossin" which garnered less public support.
Mike must have gotten a bit of an ego after his cameo on "Prison Break" because after the double-platinum success of "WIMJ?" he left the house that made him- Swishahouse - and started his own label, Ice Age Entertainment, and even contracted out a phone number for any fan to call. If you didn't call 281-330-8004 as a kid then first off, go back in time and punch your smaller middle school self for being scared that he’d pick up (didn't everyone have that one friend that swore Mike Jones actually answered?). And two, you missed out on one the most overt, yet effective publicity campaigns in music.
On a less humorous note, 2007 featured a weak charted single "Mr. Jones" (shout out Lil' Wayne for
on the classic "Drought 3" mixtape) and his EP "The American Dream" was solid, but a bit disappointing on charts and sales, Mike Jones was beginning to lose his buzz. No big deal though, right? Like De La Soul's Posdonus said, "Everyone cools off from being hot / it's about if you can handle being cold or not." As "The American Dream" EP was giving Ice Age a disappointingly short selling first project, Jones worked his best to follow up that November with the single "
" featuring another good Lost Ones candidate, Hurricane Chris. The weak single seemed an omen and despite huge, and I mean huge, album assistance from Lil' Wayne, T-Pain, Mike Dean, JR Rotem, Mannie Fresh and more, "The Voice" album has sold only 65,000 copies to date, yikes. For those of you keeping score, Mike Jones was one for three on successful albums at this point and trending in a downward direction. If anyone out there has access to the "American Dream" biopic/film, I'd love to see how his foray into acting went as well.
At the Ozone Awards, a night celebrating hip-hop's most southern folk, Trae the Truth and Jones got into an altercation backstage, where it was reported that Trae got three solid punches in and broke Jones' nose during the beatdown (Update: apparently the pair are totally cool now after some talking it out). The next three years were completely quiet. Absolutely no music, interviews, videos, appearances or anything similar. Rumors were flying that Mike had contracted AIDS, gone bankrupt and even reported his death. All of a sudden, a light shown on August 20th, 2012 from Jones' own YouTube channel
. The video was Jones' first update to the public world since 2009 and as Jones promised viewers in the description, "SIT DOWN WIT CHA BOI LET ME TELL YOU WHAT HAPPEN."
When I got a hold of it, I was incredibly surprised to see that the video had only 9,000 views (that’s right I got there first this time hypebeasts). I'll hold off on hilarious speculation about who the man/boy/white suburban child behind the camera could be, but I will say that the almost 25 minute video sees Jones lamenting his struggle against the label, relationships with rap peers, how he lost 100 pounds eating Subway every day (no joke) and why he's coming back better than ever. It really is eye opening and probably the best bit of insight in this article about Jones’ actual whereabouts in hip-hop.
As of extremely late, he hasn't quite made good on those promises. A trip to his
site reveals he's definitely been in the studio albeit releasing rough snippets of a half done mixtape "Money Train" and a weekly Ice Age Fridays series that hasn't quite caught viral foothold. There's also sections for his music videos and
showing him hanging out around Houston and
, but the most interesting piece to the website is a recent video posted on February 14th, 2014 with Riff Raff showing him being brought on stage as the special guest at Riff’s Arlington, TX show.
Even a recent January interview with XXL has Jones touting his album as not only finished, but as album of the year. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Jones hit the scene again briefly as almost a novelty, but he'll need a musically solid push if he hopes to combat the hiatus he's created since 2009. Best of luck to him and as I'm sure you were all wondering, 281-330-8004 is out of service; at least until his next hit.