Houston’s Mike Jones has returned with a vengeance with his third major label release The Voice. Still tipping on four fours, wrapped in four vogues, Mike is now a little lighter on the scale after losing 100 pounds from his once 280-pound frame but his music stays stacked like Oprah. The Texas lyricist recently chopped it up with Hip-Hop Wired and had a few things to get off of his chest from H-Town being overlooked for its lyricists to label hassles with Asylum/Warner Bros., which prolonged his release. Mike also talks about what lead to his lifestyle change and adapting to the new music industry.
HipHopWired: Wasn’t your last project The American Dream supposed to be a double album? How did you come to release it as an EP with a movie instead?
Mike Jones: Nah, it wasn’t ever a double album. It was always just a movie and an album. The movie was something I put together that I wanted to give to the people to show them visually how I came from nothing to something to living the American dream. When I recorded “Cuddy Buddy” and “Next To You,” people didn’t like those songs back then and didn’t want to use those songs on the album. I didn’t want to put an album out if it wasn’t put out and marketed the way the Who Is Mike Jones? album was. So I just kept it and held on to it and it took me three or four years to finally get “Cuddy Buddy” out the right way and now “Cuddy Buddy” done took off. I lost over 100 pounds and now people are like, “Wow.” I’m like, “Back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.” I guess it come back around for the songs too, ya know.
HipHopWired: Who made the decision back then that the songs weren’t hot because normally songs get dated but fortunately yours didn’t?
Mike Jones: I try to make all my songs non dated. I look at it as if when I die, I want people to still bang Mike Jones. I want people to still be able to have them songs. Like Michael Jackson, he got songs that people are going to forever jam. I just try to hold it down and do it like that but it’s the big boys. When you get on a label, the big person on the label makes the decisions. Don’t nothing get sprung unless they say, “Approved.” And if they personally don’t like something then they can turn it into a business decision and there it is.
HipHopWired: How hard was it having to fall back since you come from an independent grind and normally put stuff out when you want?
Mike Jones: It was hurtful. I did Balling Underground and did 250,000 on my own and then to go and do Who Is Mike Jones? which went double platinum and then to not come out with another album… And to have to hear that ya’ll don’t have faith in the project. Nah man, I wasn’t feeling that. I didn’t want to put an album out. I was like since ya’ll already got the movie, ya’ll already got these songs. We just going to put out the EP, the album and that’s what we did. I wanted to at least let the fans see a vision of me while I was going through that war. But now everything is fine and great. The album The Voice is out now. Asylum/Warner Bros. is on the team with this one. We get to pushing you know, family fights. But at the end of the day, we all smiling right now.
HipHopWired: What’s the growth from Who Is Mike Jones? to The Voice?
Mike Jones: The time from ’05 to ’09. There’s four years of growth. I’m still here to live and breathe so I got to let ya’ll know what I’ve been through and how I’m still good. I’m just trying to give a lot of aspiring artists that’s on the come up some game. They thinking that all you got to do is make hits…that’s the last thing you have to do.
HipHopWired: So who did you work with on The Voice and what can the people expect to hear?
Mike Jones: On the album I got “Cuddy Buddy” with T-Pain, Lil’ Wayne and Twista. Jim Jonsin made that one. I got Mannie Fresh producing “Give Me A Call” and Devin The Dude is on that one. Amadeus produced “I Know” with Trey Songz. I got Big E on the track “Swagga Right” which got over 2 million views on the Internet video. Mike Dean produced like six tracks on the album and mixed and mastered the whole thing. Most of it is me just explaining to the world where I’ve been because so many people have been asking. Every record I made has a reason behind it and best believe I didn’t disappoint my fans.
HipHopWired: There was a time when artists seemed to stand above their fans as if they couldn’t be touched or come off their pedestal. You came out giving your phone number and connecting directly with your audience. How does it feel to have been ahead of the curve as artists are pretty much following in your footsteps now with outlets like MySpace and Twitter?
Mike Jones: I thank you and everybody else that knows I was ahead of the curve because people were calling me a gimmick rapper at first. That’s all you would here about me and now you got everybody giving out their phone number so I’m like, “Damn, are they gimmicks too?
HipHopWired: What’s with the status of your label Ice Age and the artists you had coming out?
Mike Jones: We still moving forward but a lot of bumps came into the middle of the road but we just had to move them out the way and keep going. Now we got swag through the roof and Ice Age is on its way. Right now I had to remove a lot…the whole staff. It’s just me right now but we’re actually in the process of signing other artists. We just got Nae Nae. She’s on the “Next To You” record so we moving forward.
HipHopWired: Every artist now a days wants to be CEO of their own label. You actually launched your own label and career so can you speak on the process and how it’s not easy as it looks. It’s almost like it’s the cool thing to say but most artists aren’t built to be CEOs?
Mike Jones: Really man, anyone can run a label. You just got to be prepared to deal with the politics. My answer to this question would have probably been different four years ago because I didn’t know what I know now. I know that the reason Ice Age isn’t here because it was a lot of un-loyal dudes around. I prayed that everybody would stay together forever but when stuff happens, sometimes you have to shake it and move on. The album is out and it’s been over four years so I feel so good it’s finally come. It’s been half a decade and I’m blessed to be able to be coming out again and let the world hear The Voice. A lot of people ask me about Soundscan and stuff which is cool but I ain’t tripping off that. Because at the end of the day, I know the whole world will hear The Voice in time.
HipHopWired: True indeed….So let’s switch gears for a second. Despite delivering some good Hip-Hop music, the talk around you has been the enormous weight lost. Congratulations on that and how much weight did you lose and how did you do it?
Mike Jones: I lost over 100 pounds. I ate a lot of Subway and counted my calories.
HipHopWired: As far as weight lost, it takes a lot more than that though. What else did you do because losing weight is more of a mental thing than physical?
Mike Jones: It’s definitely a mental thing. It’s like crime. You know that you’re not supposed to do crime but if you do you have to be prepared to do the time. Everybody says they want to lose weight but you have to mentally push yourself to want to lose weight. Some people wait till they have to go to jail and are forced to lose weight and work out. But if it ain’t in your heart, it ain’t never gone stay there. I had to put it in my heart to make me want to do it. Somebody could throw you a girl but if you don’t like her with your heart, you’re not gone treat her the same as a girl you really feel for. I had to really feel for what I wanted to do and I wanted to work out and lose weight. I wanted to come back and show the world that Mike Jones wasn’t a 1-hit wonder. I wanted to show the world that I’m still on my road to making my goals and I ain’t fumbled the ball yet. I wanted to explain to the world what happened and why it happened and why it won’t happen again and that’s why I called the album The Voice because you getting it straight from me.
HipHopWired: How has the weight lost affected your performance and creativity? You’re making these sex symbol records now showcasing yourself in whole new light.
Mike Jones: It ain’t just the performance. Anybody that looses weight is going to perform quicker but it’s not me. The media blew it up about me losing all the weight. All media outlets ask me about my weight every time they see me because they can’t believe I lost that much. And I tell them the truth, it’s the treadmill and Subway. People say, “You’re like Jarret.” But nah, I got my own thing. First I had to be mental and ain’t nobody get in my mind. I had to start running and eat right and that’s how I got to this point.
HipHopWired: So what are you doing to keep it off?
Mike Jones: I stay mentally running. I put exercise in my work schedule. We’re here in Atlanta right now but when I get finish with the sound check, I’m going to work out.
HipHopWired: Speaking of your work schedule, from the time you recorded 1st Round Draft Picks with your former rhyme partner Magnificent, has the music business been what you expected and have you achieved what you expected?
Mike Jones: From Draft Picks, I knew where I was going to go. I’ve been promoting Who Is Mike Jones? since the underground days. Everybody said I was stupid. I was a gimmick for doing it but they don’t see the vision. I did. So I just kept on mashing with it. I started and met some of my goals but you don’t never reach your goals and then say I’m done. I initially started to get my goal rolling which was to be a successful entrepreneur. Meaning not just music… But music, clothes, businesses, films, anything. I just wanted to let people know that I would take nothing and make something from it. I came with Ballin’ Underground and moved 250,000 by myself. Who is Mike Jones? did 2 million so that right there showed you I was getting started. And I had another record that was going to take me even farther in my career and would have made my portfolio look even better but a personal opinion shut down my machine. Everything I’ve done has been by myself. Like starting from scratch and coming to the top. Once I got to the top… I just didn’t know that the powers that be decisions mattered so much that a lot of stuff got shut down. But I learned a lot now and we moving forward and that’s why I call the album The Voice because I got a lot of explaining to do.
HipHopWired: UGK and Slim Thug just recently released albums as well. Now you’ve dropped and Paul Wall is following right behind you. Was this a frontal assault that was planned to bring H-Town back in droves?
Mike Jones: Nah, that’s funny because actually it wasn’t. I think really because we’re all signed to similar labels, they all felt like this person about to come out so we’re going to put out our artist that’s in that same genre out around this time too.
HipHopWired: “Scandalous Hoes, Pt 2” is another hot track on the album where you really go in and address a serious subject despite what the title may reflect? Five years ago that would have only been a dope album cut but the video and the song has a life of its own outside if what the label is promoting because of the Internet. Speak on the effect of the Internet and video outlets not making albums anymore?
Mike Jones: It’s more freedom now because all those eyes aren’t just on BET or MTV anymore. It’s more eyes on the Internet with sites like MySpace and YouTube. Back then if you weren’t on MTV or BET or that channel, you weren’t it. Now, you don’t have to be signed to the label. You can go to YouTube or MySpace and hustle and get on. “Scandalous Hoes, Part 1” was on the first album and we didn’t try to make it as a single. We didn’t even try to make it as a single on this one. We just shot a viral and were just telling a story and put it out there and the people just took off and ran with it.
HipHopWired: Lyrically Houston has some of the best MCs in the game above and underground. When the light shined bright on H-Town a few years back, why do you think it came off so quick?
Mike Jones: You got to keep in mind that that’s how the world is and people’s music span is so small. You get a record that’s hot, back then people held on to it. Now it’s hot two months or three and they move on to the next thing. So BET and MTV and all the TV networks follow what the people follow. People’s time span is very small… one month they on this movement and the next month they on to that movement. Just because the camera moves on to the next movement at the time doesn’t mean that we played out. When everybody was following New York and they were wearing the Timberlands and Yankee caps, people across the country were doing it. But when the screen went to Houston and people started talking about ‘64s and purple drink, people were still wearing the Yankee caps and Timberland boots out there. So I don’t get how they say we dead because they did us like they did everybody else. They just moved the camera but we never stopped doing what we do.
HipHopWired: So Mike, what’s next for you?
Mike Jones: Man, I’m good. I hear the haters talking but trust me. Ya’ll really just don’t know, I’m good. We just shot the video for “Swagger Right.” “Cuddy Buddy” is blowing up and letting the ladies know that if you ain’t treating your man right then he gone go and get him a Cuddy Buddy. “Next To You” is another hot record I got out right now that I made just for couples. Every record that I made has a reason behind it and if you like those four records, you’re going to love The Voice because I got way more baby.
Click here to watch Hip Hop Wired’s exclusive interview with Mike Jones.