Mike Jones: Money Train

Houston rapper Mike Jones’ moment in the pop cultural sun was brief but intense: He scored a multiplatinum hit with 2005’s “Still Tippin'”, broke his city nationwide, promptly fell out with his labelmates, and became a symbol for “too rich, too fast,” all basically by 2007. The line separating “icon” and “souvenir” is always perilously thin, but Jones made the leap more quickly than most rappers. By 2009, he only appeared in news feeds for getting punched by colleagues or robbed by friends.

Like T-Pain, with whom he appeared on “I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper)”, Jones has been quietly climbing back up his reputation cliff with a series of lower-profile, solid releases. “Where’s Mike Jones? I heard he back to runnin’ shit!” he proclaimed on 2011’s “Leanin On Dat Butter”, and while that certainly wasn’t true, the song was another notch in a long comeback campaign.

The Money Train, a mixtape dropped at the start of the New Year, is probably his most visible solo project since 2009, but it’s not much different from his other work. He very loosely approximates Quavo’s jumpy, bunched-up delivery on “On My Momma” and “Hallelujah”. “Call Me When You Need Me” and “What We On” feature digitally processed singsong that faintly echoes Chicago bop, but otherwise Jones doesn’t have much to offer to rap-listening kids who are probably too young to remember “Still Tippin'”.

The people Jones seems to be aiming for with Money Train are his old fans, people now in their 30s, who wonder what the hell happened to him. His next album, after all, is called Where’s Mike Jones?, but “What Happened to” would have made just a suitable name. He drops a few verses on “I Remember” that hint at his struggle and his come-up, but unlike T-Pain, who returned with a searing take on his post-fame exile, Jones has nearly nothing to say about where Mike Jones is, or what happened to him. He could have spoken on losing hundreds of pounds, weathering AIDS rumors, falling out with Paul Wall and others, and starting from square one, but Jones has never been interested in autobiography apart from “back then, hoes didn’t want me.”

Money Train is a well-made project: The viscous, fluttering “Foreign Whips”, produced by DJ Plugg, is moody and rich. Along with “Let Me Show You” and “Champaigne Music”, you can hear Jones mixing some of Drake’s melancholy into the tarry, slow-moving Houston mix that he has borrowed so much from. But the tape has a generic, stamped feel that makes it hard to care about. People moved by mild curiosity to download it will probably nod approvingly, but Mike Jones never did much as an artist besides exist, which is maybe why he also disappeared so easily in the first place. 

from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1IMDVsg

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