Mike Jones speaks with Okayplayer about the good ole’ days in the H-Town, his original rap name, and how he may be working with Lil Yachty.
The adlib that will forever be tied to the legendary Houston rapper, whose real name is actually Mike Jones. By now, a few other songs may have popped into your head: “Flossin’,” “Cuddy Buddy,” and “Back Then” — home to the iconic “2-8-1, 3-3-0, 8-0-0-4” line.
Mike Jones the artist, who at one point was one of the biggest celebrities in hip-hop, gave his real-life telephone number for the entire world to hear. Mind you, this is the early 2000’s when streaming platforms had not yet taken over. During a time when pushing hard-copy albums and going to radio stations to have your records played were two things at the forefront of any up and coming artist — Mike Jones did not fall short.
At one point, he was running the H-Town, breaking into the mainstream scene and taking over airwaves all around the city. Besides the nostalgia that ensues upon hearing his famous line, “Back then hoes didn’t want me / Now I’m hot, hoes all on me,” the hit record landed him his first-and-only top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist — peaking at #22.
Despite the fact that that line may not work in 2018, Mike Jones knows the impact he had on Houston hip-hop, giving legends such as Z-Ro and Paul Wall a run for their money. We got a chance to chat with the enterprising rapper about back-in-the-day H-Town, his original rap name before using his real one and possibly working with Lil Yachty.
Okayplayer: For a generation who might not be as familiar with you and your music, can you talk about how the whole “Who? Mike Jones?” adlib got started?
Mike Jones: The adlib really got started when I was just trying to get people to really know about me and my music, and people were being really sarcastic at the time. So when I went back to my grandmother’s and I was telling her what happened, she was just telling me to throw it back in their face. When they being funny about it, just throw it back in their face. And now I am like, ‘Who? Mike Jones! Who? Mike Jones!’ And now it’s like household thing.
OKP: Can you talk about why you chose to use your real name instead of creating a rap moniker?
MJ: I chose to use my real name because I just wanted to be me. That was gonna be something that I was gonna have to live with for the rest of my life, so I didn’t wanna have a name that I was gonna have to hide behind. Mike Jones is mine [and that was who I was gonna be].
OKP: Did you ever have one before you professionally used your name? If so, what was it?
MJ: I did. It was ‘Sace. I called myself ‘Sace because I used to always wear the Versace shades. People used to always call me ‘Sace because they saw me with the shades and they knew I was smooth with the flow.
OKP: Recently, your manager told us about your Spotify situation. Can you talk about how you adapted to the change from physical sales to streaming numbers?
MJ: I think we were able to change [our ways] and stay the same from physical to streaming because we always came in through the physical. The fans stayed with us and I think when it changed over to the streaming—because of the success we always had—it just placed us right into it.
OKP: How do you feel that has impacted your hit records and what they mean to the buying public?
MJ: I think it means a lot now to the buying public because that’s what they look at as far as what’s needed or what’s in demand. Right now, Spotify is how people dictate if [one’s music is] successful or not. We didn’t have Spotify when I came out, so all we had to do back then was sell records. Now, all we gotta do is get a million streams. So it changed the dynamic of what the game was and what the hustle is all about.
OKP: The theme for this month is Nostalgia. What were some of your most memorable moments from the old days of Houston rap?
MJ: My biggest memories back then was everybody was coming together. Everybody was trying to come together, but the goal was to put the city on. Because at that time, the city didn’t have the light. They didn’t need it. Now that the city has the light, everybody just feels like they can do it themselves. But if everybody comes back and feel like we gotta put the light back on for the city, it’ll get back that feeling.
OKP: How would you say the legacy of Houston rap and hip-hop has impacted the culture?
MJ: I’d say it impacted the culture-heavy: two cups, drank, and lean. Everybody [is] screwed up [these days]. I mean, just a little bit of what we did [went everywhere], and we finally got opened and accepted in the game.
OKP: Speaking of, “purple drank,” or “lean,” it has been documented in numerous ways. For those on the outskirts who might not be familiar, can you talk about how it originated?
MJ: From what we know, it’s been out for a minute. It just got popular and publicized through Houston, and throughout the South. So when we started using it in the videos—showing it—it really just got popular [and more exposed].
OKP: The dangerousness of “lean” has taken some of Houston’s greatest minds away from us at an early age. Despite that it still remains a hip-hop staple, why do you think it has remained as popular as it was back in the day?
MJ: It’s because the people that it affected—R.I.P.—but it’s a small percentage. And it’s like anything that you mess with, you can die off of. Drinking too much water, you can die from. You can die from smoking too many cigarettes. Anything that you mess with too much, it can mess you up. And it’s still people that still sip lean and it’s nothing happening to them. People just take what a story says and blows it all the way up. If I take a story and say, ‘Cigarettes will do this if you smoke two of them,’ then the next story [after that] will be crazy.
OKP: The story of your come up is legendary and the people you were affiliated with have an equal measure in the game. Can you talk about any never-before-told stories involving you and Paul Wall or you and DJ Screw?
MJ: I never met DJ Screw. I never met him, but he’s still a legend. Me and Paul, we got earlier stories… just us on the grind. Just trying to come up together to do things to help each other out to get to the top. It was a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of grinding, but we finally got up there.
OKP: Any other stories you got from H-Town?
MJ: Just the love. Just the city, man. Ice Age for kids, [going to] Boys and Girls Club and showing love to all the kids—it was just a big accomplishment and a big deal for me to be able to do that for my city.
OKP: Walk us through that moment where Houston was running the entire game. MTV was documenting the then-current and upcoming stars from the city, and H-Town was all over the airwaves. What was that like for you as a direct reason for the city’s success and what perks did you enjoy then that you still do today?
MJ: I enjoyed then like, ‘Wow. I was really responsible for a lot of this. I really was a reason why some of this was moving.’ Man, it was wild. I gotta be really responsible for how this goes because I don’t wanna let the city down. I don’t wanna just come any type of way. I gotta really take my time. So, it was a lot going on at the time, and even now people still respect me for what I did lay down back then. So I still can be blessed and thankful today.
OKP: What do you think of these new cats?
MJ: I like the new cats. All the new cats are just finding their way [in the game]. Everybody new is just trying to get it and find their way.
OKP: Lil Yachty recently freestyled over your record “Still Tippin’,” did you hear it and what did you think?
MJ: Man, that was crazy. A lot of people were hitting me up [and] telling me about it. A few people [even] sent me the link. So I checked it out. I reached out to him and told him that we’re actually finna start a “Still Tippin’” remix.
OKP: That’s dope!
MJ: Yeah! I told him if you with it, let’s get it. So I reached out to Yachty, reached out to a few people, and we finna get ready to put it together.
OKP: Can you talk about the evolution of Mike Jones? How are the records you’re putting out now different than the ones from back then?
MJ: I think to me, they’re the same because it’s still me. I think that I’m just growing. I’m more mature. I’m more evolved. I’m more on a mission to give the game to the people now. I got to come out and be real. I can’t come out and say, ‘Back then they didn’t want me,’ because they already know that. I have to come out with the new now. I got to come out and let them know what’s up. I got a responsibility to do that for the game.
OKP: You’re actually creating opportunities for others, as well. Can you talk about how your construction company came about and why you felt it was important to build such a business?
MJ: My partner, Fred Carrington, and I came together and we did Jones & Carrington Construction. We were just really trying to come up with something that helped people get homes at an affordable price. We really just were thinking of ways to really help out the homeowners that are stuck in high-interest rates and losing homes because the interest is overtaking us. We finally came up with something that’s really helping people own their own homes at a faster pace and with a better plan.
OKP: Your commitment to giving back to the community is admirable and appreciated. Ultimately, what do you want your legacy to be?
MJ: [I want my legacy to be] that I was just trying to help the people. I was never greedy. Of course, we work, we grind, and we gotta eat, but I’m never gonna do something devious just to make it. People could see that, should see that. I think I just always want to push the game further. Even when I came out, like, ‘Okay I’m on. I’m successful.’ But it was bigger than that. I had to give you “Back Then” to let you know, when you become successful, watch out for this. Look out for this. I still want to leave you something to hold on and to remember.
OKP: Is there one thing that you wish you could’ve done differently and why?
MJ: I don’t know… that’s kind of hard to say. If I were to say the one thing I would have wished to do differently was trusting different people, you could, but then, you still can’t say. Everything happens for a reason and all the blessings are coming around, so I’m happy.
OKP: For those coming up in Houston and elsewhere, what is some advice that you have for someone who’s trying to make it and make it big?
MJ: Stay grinding, never give up, and just stay on your craft. Stay getting better and just stay perfecting and building. Never get complacent with your own craft. Like if I’m building something, I’m gonna try to put something to what I’m building every day. Or every other day. Not just, ‘Oh I’ll get to it.’ Because that’s your house that’s gotta get finished. That’s your dream.
OKP: Anything else you wanna let Okayplayer know?
MJ: Check out WhoMikeJones.com. Check out the new single, “Sauce,” by going to Google or YouTube. I love y’all man.
Shirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based writer who grew up in the Bay Area. She lives, breathes, and sleeps hip-hop, and is literally on top of new music the moment it is released. If there’s a show in L.A., you can find her there. Follow the latest on her fomoblog.com and on Twitter @shirju.