Mike Jones – The Voice [Review]

Mike Jones - The Voice

When most people hear the name Mike Jones, they say ,”Who?”. They’re either in on the joke or they have no clue who he is. When I heard Mike Jones went DOUBLE platinum off of his debut studio album Who Is Mike Jones?; I found myself not saying “who” but more like… WHAT?! And Lil’ Jon was nowhere in sight.

Granted, he came out at an awesome time for the Texas scene. Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Lil’ Flip, Chamillionare, and himself were tearing up the charts and the radios. It had to be considered a banner 2004-2006 for anything Texas at that time. Of all the names mentioned, I just can’t quite put my finger on how Mike Jones did so well. I can name redeeming abilities from every other rapper mentioned, but I can’t help but look at Jones as a spirited tag-a-long with an infectious gimmick [Can’t knock the hustle. If repeating your name gets you 2 mil sold, well…….].

I’ll give him his credit, his obnoxious flow makes for a good party song and it’s catchy in a simple way. However, he stumbles hard whenever it’s time to turn the swag switch off and hit on some other subjects. I liked “Back Then” and “Still Tippin’” as much as anyone and recent features have shown growth in his flow. Can he prove he’s more than just some catchy singles? From what I’ve heard about the track “Mr. Jones”, he may very well shock us with some lyrical content yet.

Recent interviews and even his own intro suggest that Jones is looking to shock some folk with his latest offering. So after the delays and drama leading to the release of The Voice, 4 years removed from his debut, is Mike ready to show the game something different so less people ask who he is? I certainly hope so.

1. Intro
Not even a track. Mike gives himself a pat on the back for his platinum plaque and already begins the hype train for Expect the Unexpected, a future studio album [ALREADY?!] coming soon. Quick shot at his haters and we lead in to the first real song of the album. Quick 48 seconds, has no real weight on the album one way or another. Was the mixtape DJ echo REALLY necessary though?

2. Swagger Right
Produced by Big E
Mike’s in his element right here; boasting, bragging, and taking shots at current and past haters. The beat is a mix of synth, Three 6 Mafia style drum rolls, and the commonplace repeated sample hook.

Good way to start off the album on a head nodding note, just don’t expect anything out of the ordinary from Jones. His usual “who?!” gimmick, speaking on lean and bling, and lets not forget the repeat of the verse he just dropped. Still a fun track regardless of the clichés and not a bad opener for the first song.

3. Houston Oilers
Produced by Mike D
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the oil he’s referring to. Clever. Too bad the song’s not quite that. The beat has a space age feel to it with a hook that repeats “I’ma Houston Oiler” multiple times. He screws his voice for a few of the punchlines, but this song would have been a prime candidate to be screwed and chopped; to add to the disorienting vibe is trying to give off. Jones is doing way more repeating than rhyming on this one, with the rhymes he does spit not being all that memorable. Average track, dying to be more than it is.

4. Boi!
Featuring Young Problemz; Produced by Dat Boy Chyco
I could imagine the conversation when they made this song.

Mike: Ay, you know that song “A Milli” by Wayne?

Dat Boy Chyco: Ya mayne, that shit’s raw. What about it?

Mike: I’m wanting that, but without the Bangladesh price.

Songs like this make me realize the effect “A Milli” had on the rap game. It seems like every rapper is trying their own version of the Grammy-winning single. I must say though, this is definitely a bright spot for the album and tailor made for Mike Jones style of flow. The repeating “Boi, I got so many” may sound out of place when it starts, but fits like a glove as the song powers on.

Problemz bring good energy to the track, this being my first time hearing them. The first member especially starts this track off on the right note as everyone looks to match up. Jones drops merely a verse, but sounds confident and even drops a Kid Cudi metaphor for good measure(!). If you can get past the glaring similarities to “A Milli”, furthered by the Wayne allusions they drop throughout their combined lyrics, you’ve got a banger waiting to happen right here.

5. Cuddy Buddy
Featuring T-Pain, Twista, & Lil’ Wayne; Produced by Jim Jonsin & Bigg D
T-Pain anchors the hook here, a breeze for him at this point in his career, with solid flows by all the players involved. Unfortunately, Jones weaknesses are further accentuated in such good company; it’s criminal to compare and contrast verses, but in the interest of fairness….

Jones’ verse….
“Even though she (got a man)/
She already (Known the plan)/
She already known the deal, known the deal/
Known the deal, known the deal/
Even though I’m chubby chubby/
Your chick/
She loves me loves me/
She might be with you now but/
She’s still thinking of me/
Yall out there makin love/
I couldn’t make em love me/
In the back of the lap with it/
Just … that!”

Wayne’s verse….
“I make her hollar like when/
Mama brought her into the world/
Like I’ll let him buy you dinner tonight/
Then at the end of the night,/
You’ll be my dinner tonight/
You see he dark, you always dim in his lights/
And that girl wanna shine/
I bring her into the light/
Wa la!/
I become her Ala and I swear/
That thing feel like la, la, la/
And since he feed her lies,/
I’ll be her dessert on the side”

-Shakes head-. Crazy isn’t it? Not that Wayne hasn’t made a point of ripping other people’s songs, but it’s not even close on this. Twista has a worthwhile verse as well. It’s songs like these where Jones’ wants to branch out, but lacks skill to really own the track. He can’t use the same style he uses on say, “Swagger Right”, which he does on something like this. Jim Jonsin delivers another syrupy-smooth beat with assistance from Bigg D. Jonsin has been on a roll lately. This beat in particular I could see being used for early 90’s new jack swing groups.

Enjoyable, definitely for the ladies; Jones weaknesses are crystal clear given the excellent features chosen here and it’s dangerous to let that happen.

6. I Know
Produced by Pretty Todd; Featuring Trey Songz
Obligatory “holding your man down” song. Trey provides an enjoyable hook here; good emotion. The beat is okay, nothing truly standout about it and Jones runs through the usual “thanks for standing by me, baby” lyrics. “21 Questions” this ain’t. This suffers from Jones being…well…Jones. He’s got the same emotion, tone, etc pretty much every track. If she’s all that, act like you care eh? You’re not missing anything here by any means. Well, except Jones bringing “tenderoni” out the mothballs….[It’s due for a comeback, I say!]

7. Drop And Gimme 50
Featuring Hurricane Chris; Produced by Mr. Collipark
What can I say about this song? This song isn’t really about lyrical content, the ladies and the gents know that. They got the right man on the beat and the combined energy of Hurricane Chris and Jones makes for a proven club banger. What they lack technically, they make up for in spades with command over this catchy party track. All you can really ask for on a joint like this and definitely gets the party jumping. Easy thumbs up.

8. Give Me A Call
Featuring Devin The Dude
A light beat accented by a modest drum roll. Devin The Dude amazes me with how smooth his flow is, yet keeping it so raunchy and gritty. His adaptation to the subject matter and beat is a sight to behold; unfortunately, this is not his song alone. Jones at least sounds inspired for the track, but comes up short in the creativity department. Again, his feature outclasses him, showing him how to own a track that Jones barely gets a handle on from the start. Worth it just to see Devin cut loose, otherwise, skippable.

9. Happy Birthday
Produced by Mike D
-long pause-

I was trying to think of the best way to describe this track. A full write-up would be just too much. I’m going to turn in as much effort as Mike Jones did on this track. Two words can sum this…thing that claims to be a “song”.

Hot. Garbage.

The beat may have had a chance, but it is dragged into a void of sheer wackness by Mike Jones’ uninspired flow. The first 5 seconds, you want to like it, and you slowly realize you’re listening to auditory bullshit that should have never made the album. I hate to be venomous, but DAMN, this track is sorry. Possibly a contender for worst song of 2009. If you’ve got one worse, I’d love to (not) hear it. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

And for Mike Jones’ supporters. Download it. YouTube it. Whatever. Listen to it and HONESTLY tell me it has redeeming value OTHER than the beat? If you can do it with a straight face, you should be in politics. Next.

10. Next to You
Featuring Nae Nae; Produced by J.R. Rotem
Rotem does it again. I like this beat, a number of artists come to mind that could have done wonders with this beat…..Mike Jones is not one of them. Admittedly, his words aren’t so bad this time around (for him)….

“I aint tripping about the lime light/
cuz when im with my shawty/
She keep my mind right/
When we up in the mall/
She feel up shopping bags/
She love to pop them tags/
She love to drive the jag/
Whenever we alone/
She throw away my phone/
Cuz she dont want no interruptions while we going strong/”

Again, we suffer from lack of emotion or change in tone really. He’s not as LOUD as usual, but just not hearing the care in this track. Again, we’re going through the motion. Nae Nae reminds me of Nivea in regards to her voice and she shoulders her part on this track. Given a rapper with more squabbles [T.I., Slim Thug, Bun B, even Plies] this could have been a standout. This is a hard average and again, this is squarely on Jones. Not liking that trend.

11. Swagg Thru Da Roof
Featuring Swole; Produced by Swole
Swole does a Swizz Beats and not only produces but takes up hook duty on the vocodor, and he definitely adds to this classy number. I love how upscale this beat sounds. Jones keeps his verses brief, filled with compliments for his lady. Even while leaning on his “who” gimmick, it can’t kill the feel good vibe this one gives off.

This is actually a case all around of a “big ups to your lady” track done correctly. Pleasant surprise and peep Swole hitting a “Computer Love” high note towards the end. Thumbs up. This look to be a single I believe and if so, good choice.

12. On Top Of The Covers
Featuring Essay Potna; Produced by Essay Potna
Is there an unwritten code that rappers HAVE to use vocoder/autotune? What can I say…it’s Mike Jones on the vocodor. It’s definitely an experience to say the least.

Was not a fan of this song at first, but it grew on me. He tries to channel Wayne, especially with his emphasis on certain words, but Jones is no Wayne of course. I will say he doesn’t make a fool of himself on it, but still suffers from verse repetition. Absolutely love the Pimp C sample used in this one and Essay’s Southern drawl gives him a unique sound on the hook. Not quite as good as Swole’s producer/hook turn in the song prior, but good. Worth a listen, this one will be an acquired taste though.

13. Scandalous Hoes (Skit)
Why he felt the need to explain a track named “Scandalous Hoes”, I’ll never know. Unnecessary. We could’ve took this time wondering why Rakim hasn’t made another album. Or if Crunk Rock is EVER going to hit shelves….I wonder…..

14. Scandalous Hoes II
Featuring T-Pain; Produced by Kojack
Standout. Among the best on this album. Mike Jones actually bothers to turn in some good storytelling on this number, with T-Pain providing smooth backup. Pain isn’t a favorite of mine, but he definitely adds more to tracks then he does take away. Kojack laced this one up properly and this is a fitting sequel to the original from Who Is Mike Jones?; where the original also stood out from the pack as well. This is a matured flow for Jones and I would have enjoyed more like this. Definitely a keeper.

15. Hate On Me
Featuring Tanya Herring; Produced by Mike D
We slow things up for a surprisingly reflective track, Mike D turning in another solid beat. Shame one of his contributions is going to be associated with a terrible track. This however is a hell of a redemption song and Mike AGAIN comes with the storytelling(!).

No verse repeats. No “who”’ing. And he saves the name repeating until the end, which is excusable. Mike merely explains where he comes from and asks why he receives the hate he does. I probably could give him a few reasons musically, but tracks like this really make you want to lighten up on him. Lovely track to help bookend this album and he needs more like this if he ever wants credibility. Not as reflective mind you, but at least as assured and steady as this one.

16. Grandma II
Featuring Kai; Produced by Amadeus
Another sequel on this album. Jones switches between some light verses and spoken word, Kai crooning in the background. Her voice is fine, but she lacks a quality that takes the song to greater heights. The beat is inoffensive, but also suffers from lacking a sizzle that takes it to another level; especially with the subject matter at hand. Sadly average, was hoping for more.

Bottom Line:
Mike Jones made a half promise. He did do some unexpected thing. Many of them not well thought out from what we have here. Mike Jones is the kind of rapper with limitations and his producers as well as himself should know what they can do and can’t. If you CAN’T do it, work at it. Your sophomore release is not the time to experiment without due practice. Biz Markie and Luke are two examples of beloved artists who had limits and just made it work within them. Either learn that or work harder to adapt.

When Jones sticks to his bravado filled bangers and high energy tracks, he’s in his element. It’s not a deep ride, but enjoyable nevertheless. Unfortunately, he tries to often to create “for the ladies” tracks that fail to hit the mark and only make it to the finish line thanks to strong features. It’s a definite problem when you think about who else could have ripped beats bestowed upon Jones while listening to HIS album. I appreciate the risks taken and he does some in the proper places like “Swagg Thru The Roof” and “On Top Of The Covers”, but his stumbles are glaring and frustrating. Must I speak on “Happy Birthday” AKA “The Song of Which We Do Not Speak”?

I wanted better for this, especially after the good word of mouth he’s been earning and getting a club buzz off of “Drop And Gimme 50”, but we’re still seeing the same problems and clichés from the last 4 years from Mike. There’s heat here that keeps it from reaching bottom of the barrel levels. Unfortunately, when you’re already the weak link in a strong Texas lineup, you better deliver and this was not it.

There’s no Houston hype-nitis [Limewire Canibus, he’ll explain it.] to cover for him this time and if this is any indication of what Expect The Unexpected brings; I’d rather not. The Voice is an unfortunate example of what happens when the gimmicks get old and you refuse to step your game up.

All it gets you is WHAT?! MEDIOCRE.

WHAT?!

You didn’t hear me the first time? –shakes head-

nappyPicks: “Swagg Thru The Roof”, “Scandelous Hoes II”, “Boi”, & “Swagger Right”

Download: Mike Jones – “Swagger Right”

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