Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Who Is Mike Jones? The Review

Cheah, it's here. I know that I have been talking about this "Who Is Mike Jones?" review for awhile, and I apologize for the delay. But, I figured that since it took two years for the album to finally get released, despite numerous mentions of its 'imminent' release on mixtape after mixtape, it would be bad form to promptly deliver on my promises. I hope that you appreciate this blog-imitating-art-imitating-rap-imitating-life or something like that.

I had planned on giving a background/history of the Houston rap scene, looking at the Geto Boys, UGK, DJ Screw and all that has come before. I'll save that for future posts, as I don't want to try to cram all of these amazing sounds and artists into one measly post. For once in my miserable, neurotic life, I am going to play it cool.

Anyway, onto the review. Who is Mike Jones, you may actually be asking? Well, he is a young Houston rapper, a rising star to some, a fraud to many others, possessor of a Southern drawl, an unfortunate repeater of the same lyrics and catchphrases in song after song, an average lyricist on his best day, kinda fat (we prefer portly or stout). In essence, a strange choice as one of the first picks to capitalize on the newfound attention on Houston's rap scene.

Mike Jones' "Who Is Mike Jones?" is the first major label release for him, after a few years of underground albums and numerous mixtape appearances. It's actually the first release as a major label for Swishahouse, the label run by DJ Michael "5000" Wattts, which has a label that has served as a great launching pad for Houston rappers, such as Slim Thug, Chamillionaire and Paul Wall. The label is now distributed by Warner Bros, meaning . That's right, the Major With a Major Deal.

It is this news that has left me anticipating the release of this album so much. Just seeing posters for the album at record stores on 11th Street in Philly, alongside Beanie Siegel and Purple City, left me hyped. This scene that has been plugging away for years in regional obscurity is hitting the big time, and it is wonderful to see it happen. It is nice to see these artists get their props and bank, as it is the major labels that make people rich and famous. On the other hand, there is the fear that this is the end of the scene that I had come to love. These majors want profit, and oftentimes that comes at the expense of creativity and originality.

Who Is Mike Jones? reinforces both of these thoughts, providing a unique example of an album and a scene at the crossroads. All in all, this album is alot better than I expected; it ain't no classic, but it proves that there's more than hype to Mike Jones. There are 6 great tracks on here, tracks that I keep coming back to. "Still Tippin" is THE classic, a song that has been getting air time on East Coast radio and MTV Jams. It has been out for more than a year, however, so there isn't much new to say about it. Got It Sewed Up (Remix), Screw Dat, What You Know About, Cuttin' and Know What I'm Sayin' hit hard, as well, as they capture the style of Houston best. They feature the slow beats, the drawls, the Houston dialect. They remind me of the shit that got me into this music in the first place. They reflect the reason why people have supported this scene for years without the attention of the rest of the country, major labels and nerdy bloggers like me.

However, the rest of the album ignores this lesson, and it sounds like any of the other hip hop albums that drop every year from the likes of Fat Joe or [Insert average rapper here]. There are too many slow numbers, as only "5 Years" warrants repeat listening from this style. This preponderance of slow numbers kills the flow of the album, and it comes across as such a fucking forced format. It reminds me of Lil' Flip, one of the first to break out of H-Town, whose major label releases have been uneven and disappointing. All of the things that make Flip interesting gets taken out or watered down in the miosguided belief that all hip hop has to sound like everything else. Regional sounds, language and obsessions scare everyone because they don't sound like everything being put out on the East/West Coasts. It's like all hip-hop albums have to have the exact same format, out of fear of not appealing to every possible consumer demographic.

Beyond this, Jones still relies too much on gimmick shit, like giving out his cell phone number digits (which has been disconnected for awhile) and shouting his name constantly. It's kinda cool the first few times you hear it, but each subsequent one makes you think that this guy needs these lines to make through a song. He is hurting his own cause, as his voice and flow more than make up for his lyrical shortcomings in my book.

Cocaine Blunts and Hip Hop Tapes already put his thoughts up on this album, and I agree with most of what he says. I actually like "Got It Sewed Up (Remix)", as I think that the DJ Paul/Juicy J (the men behind Memphis legends Three 6 Mafia) production sounds good to these ears and was a nice surprise. I don't think that it comes close to the original from The Day Hell Broke Loose Part 2 either, but I liked the fact that they did something different. The Memphis sound is a little more driving, and I like hearing the slower Houston flow deal with that.

Okay, on to the important stuff: the mp3s. Here are three of the hottest tracks, the best of the new stuff from this album (I assume most people already have "Still Tippin'"). I have included the choppped and screwed versions to give everyone a sense of what this term means, as there will be much more to come on this slowed-down style. Like Cocaine Blunts says, this is one of Michael Watts' best jobs on a screwed CD in some time, so this is a good chance to act like you know about screwed music. It is a great album, screwed and chopped, as all the songs sound better and make better sense.

R.I.P. Robert Davis

Screw Dat (regular speed)

Screw Dat (chopped and screwed)

What Ya Know About (feat. Paul Wall and Killa Kyleon)

What Ya Know About (chopped and screwed)

Know What I'm Sayin' (feat. Bun B and Lil Keke)

Know What I'm Sayin' (chopped and screwed)

If you download these songs, please leave some thoughts and feedback. Curious to hear what people are thinking about this album.

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