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It's OK to Admit Jim Jones is a Good Rapper

Backseat Freestyle
It's OK to Admit Jim Jones is a Good Rapper
By Jayson Rodriguez • Issue #31 • View online
Welcome to Backseat Freestyle. This is my weekly hip-hop newsletter I send out every Friday focusing on one big thing that happened over the past seven days. I also include links to what I’ve been listening to, reading and watching. You can check out the archives, here, and read more about me, here. If you’re already a B.F. subscriber, thank you for your continued support. Please share this newsletter with your circle so that they can enjoy it, too. If you’re arriving to this issue by way of a forward, LinkedIn or social media, please subscribe below. With that said, let’s get into it….
Editor’s Note: This issue is actually last week’s edition that I didn’t get to finish in time; I’ll have another new issue in your inbox on Sunday/Monday. And I’m still working on the sequel to the 2021 predictions post. Stay tuned.

Jim Jones // Credit: Shula da Don (VampLife/Empire)
Jim Jones // Credit: Shula da Don (VampLife/Empire)
Front Seat
I’VE WANTED TO WRITE about this topic for a while. I first had the mind to touch it (or not) when Dipset and LOX were announced as a Verzuz matchup. Figured if The Diplomats would be able to curate their records just the right way and if Jimmy was able to anchor things during the last few rounds with “We Fly High” or “Crunk Muzik” then maybe Harlem had a chance. And what a moment that would have been for Jones. But what’s a moment when you have momentum? Things didn’t work out thanks to Jadakiss. Jimmy, though, has continued the tear he’s been on since releasing 2018’s Wasted Talent and fresh off the heals of his DJ Drama-assisted We Set The Trends it’s time to give Capo his due.
Back Seat
JIM JONES HAS COME A LONG WAY since “Me, My Moms and Jimmy.” The lumbering track, from Cam’ron’s 1998 album, Confessions Of Fire, was an introduction to Capo on the microphone. Back then he was largely known for standing behind Cam in music videos and standing on the corner of 135th and Lenox. After a slew of Dipset mixtape, compilation and album appearances, Jimmy made his official debut as a solo artist in 2004 with the release of On My Way to Church.
That project caught many by surprise with Jones’ ability to put together street heaters like “Certified Gangstas” and “Crunk Muzik.” A year later he returned with Harlem: Diary of a Summer and did it again with a couple of heat rocks in “G’s Up” and “Summer wit Miami.” A year after that he came back with Hustler’s P.O.M.E. (Product of My Environment) and once again delivered with the seminal “We Fly High.” 
The Max B-assisted single burned so bright it blinded people for a long time into thinking Jim was a one-hit wonder. The track’s success really put Jones on the map: He scored a high-profile A&R gig with Warner Music and his next album found him partnering with a major for the first time in Sony Music. But “We Fly High” followed the path that many of Jones’ best material did: a feature to carry the load and/or a notable producer, of which you can debate the influence of their input. However, one thing is always for certain, the final product often is loaded with a distinct Capo DNA. (Some mean ad-libs, a gruff attitude and chock full of gangster shit.)
That time was invaluable for Capo. You know the Gladwellian deal, right? The whole 10,000 hours thing. 
Of course, Jim milked “We Fly High.” Remixes, the Giants adopted the anthem, etc. That’s what you did back then when you had a hit; there wasn’t the streaming ethos yet that demanded more and more. His next album, the aforementioned Sony release, Pray IV Reign, didn’t arrive for another three years. That project’s breakout, “Pop Champagne,” rang out in New York clubs, but it was more emblematic of the AutoTune era than anything else.
From there, Jimmy’s popularity spiked more because of TV appearances and feuds. He also went underground in the early and mid 2010s. He birthed his VampLife movement and pressed up mixtapes and merch himself out of his Garment District studio on Broadway.The material he made around this time felt experimental. Jim was honing his voice while Cam was off starting the U.N. and Juelz Santana and Freakey Zekey were caught in between his and Jim’s rift. 
That time was invaluable for Capo. You know the Gladwellian deal, right? The whole 10,000 hours thing. 
Jimmy managed to work through aping trends, his Diplomats crew style and came out the other end a more fully formed version of himself with an ironed out delivery.  
Fast forward to 2016. I found myself Uptown, inside the Harlem apartment where Jim used to cook up. It was an inventive way to preview material from his forthcoming digital project, The Kitchen. Jimmy regaled Chuck Creekmur, Rob Markman and myself with tales of he and his partners fast lives back in the day. It was a week or so ahead of my wedding and I was trying to refrain from the drink and smoke he was offering (had a trim suit I wanted to fit in.). But I was the only one of us three that enjoyed a social vice. So I sipped some tequila, leaned into conversation with Jim as I recalled when I lived on 131st during grad school and would see Jim hold court on the block for entire Saturdays.
And I listened. Jimmy really tapped into something with that collection. He thread his experience together on record in the most cohesive way he’d done at that point in his career. “Married to the Game,” “Harlem” and “Two Keys” were among the standouts. 
“Laps Around the Sun” is about as good of a Jim Jones record as you’ll find.
He matched that early three albums in three years run to start his career with Wasted Talent (“Dust & Powder” is my shit), El Capo and El Capo deluxe (becoming maybe the first rapper to introduce a deluxe version as a wholly new album). 
The El Capo series is his career zenith, so far. Reuniting with The Heatmakerz he rang it up on “NYC” featuring Fat Joe on a Chipmunk Soul-esque number, on “My Era” he and Maino connected for a Nu Boom Bap track and “Pardon My Thoughts” is the type of low key, menacing underground New York record that’s made favorites out of Roc Marciano and Stove God Cooks. 
He doubled down on the latter style by way of his The Fraud Department project produced by Harry Fraud. It was a palette that paired well with a dialed back Capo. “Laps Around the Sun” is about as good of a Jim Jones record as you’ll find. He taps into his younger experiences, his later decisions and ruminates on the landscape of this country (as it’s always been, not just recent years) as he notes another year he survived it all. Prime stuff. 
Earlier this month, he released Gangsta Grillz: We Set The Trends. It’s the most muscular set of his career. The album is forceful, seeking to parlay all those hours of work into something more. The features are more acute, the production more varied and yet Jones is still top billing. It’s as if he recognized where he stands when he compares his discography to his peers. There may be more skilled rappers but there’s very few artists in hip-hop making better music than him right now. You don’t have to say it in hushed tones anymore. Jim Jones is a good ass rapper.
Trunk
Music, news, reads, podcasts and videos that I’m checking for.
As per usual, YouTube’s biggest artist, NBA Youngboy is dominating the trending music tab on the platform with his latest set, Colors. It’s his first release since he was released from prison late last year and placed on house arrest in Utah. It’s billed as a mixtape instead of an album. Makes sense considering the pace is more frenetic than 2021’s Sincerely, Kentrell. [Listen]
In or out of jail, NBA YoungBoy racks up the views on YouTube and his first release since is busy this week. The Baton Rouge rapper connected with Internet Money as a part of the collective’s first blast in 2022, “Flossin’.” [Listen]
J.I.D does justice over this well-worn sample of Aretha Franklin’s “One Step Ahead” for his “Surround Sound” collab with 21 Savage and Bay Tate. The young spitter brings about three different flows on this one. [Listen]
Young Dolph’s Paper Route Empire roster pays tribute to their slain leader with this eight-track collection. [Link]
Nick Grant is back with an indie release and he’s as invested in his lines as he’s ever been. [Listen]
The Game is taking it “Eazy” in his latest, laced by Ye. The magic of their past collaboration is gone but there’s some smirks to be had by a bar here or there. [Listen]
Justin Credible put together a heater of a compilation, Hunger Flow, Vol. 1, to start the new year right and newjack Geechy, who he dubs the future Rookie of the Year, brings the fire over Mobb Deep’s “Survival of the Fittest” (complete with a Havoc co-sign.) [Listen]
Hottest kid in Latin rap, Eladio Carrion, ended 2021 with a bang, dropping his third project of the year, Sauce Boyz 2, last month. [Listen] Related: 20 questions with Eladio Carrion. [Read]
In a newsletter earlier this month, I considered who would level up this year among Gunna, Latto and Cordae, among others. Well, Gunna is making his move; he scored a number one album over The Weekend and also, P! And his latest, “P power.” [Info] Related: Gunna sat down with The Breakfast Club. [Watch]
My pick to level up in 2022, Latto, recently scored a number on on urban radio with “Big Energy” after the same record topped rhythmic radio for two weeks. [Info] Related: Latto touched that “Super Gremlin” beat. [Watch]
The Tupac Shakur.Wake Me When I’m Free exhibit is open in LA. [Info
Drake is now the subject a college course at a Toronto university. [Info]
The premiere of “Few Good Things” starring Saba and directed by my guy Cam Robert is next Monday, January 31 at 6pm EST. [Info]
Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti And Others Team Up to Block Rap Lyrics From Being Used in Court. [Info]
Congrats: Juliette Jones to Alamo as COO and Amber Grimes to LVRN as EVP/GM. [Info] [Info]
A couple interesting reads on Earl Sweatshirt, who I rather read about than listen to, if I’m being completely honest. (I’d put Vince Staples in that category too. Please don’t unsubscribe!) [Read] [Read]
Jamilah Lemieux on Dave Chappelle’s “Black Ass Lie” ( that Black men have it worse than any other group of Black people.) [Read]
Vibe gave D-Nice the cover treatment complete with this dope conversation between my brothers, D and Datwon Thomas. [Read]
The LA Times put Remble in the spotlight. He’s not that comfortable being there. [Read]
This is why he’s not: “The Assassination of Drakeo the Ruler.” [Read]
I’m dubious if this is really a trend, but Complex has an worthwhile idea to explore the battle rap scene on Twitter Spaces. [Read]
The first except from Dan Charnas forthcoming book on J Dilla. [Read]
Shameless self-promotion: This week’s episode of The Bridge: 50 Years of Hip-Hop podcast features Doug E. Fresh. [Listen]
Few things are as unbelievable to me as Shyne’s return to the states last year. As someone that attended a number of his court dates and who personally broke the news of his deportation, I never thought he would be back in the mix again (as a politician, no less!). Here, he gets the Drink Champs treatment. After N.O.R.E.’s recent Kanye and Big Sean gets, this is a nice follow-up. Don’t sleep, though, on the Kool DJ Red Alert episode either. Or Anuel AA. [Watch] [Watch] [Watch]
Shenseea goes for the limelight with this one, but not sure she shined bright enough given the moment. Meanwhile, Megan Thee Stallion delivered a blitzkrieg of a verse and left ashes in its wake. Peep the candy-colored visuals. [Watch]
Don’t count out Cordae on the level up. He dropped a smooth video for “Chronicles” featuring H.E.R. and Lil Durk. And he blazed his LA Leakers freestyle. [Watch] [Watch] Related: Cordae sat with Nas and Miss Info on an early episode of The Bridge. [Listen]
Rod Wave’s music video aesthetic is Instagram FOMO post and I’m here for it. The deep crooner offers up his first treat for the new year with “Cold December,” his first new selection since last year’s excellent SoulFly LP. [Watch]
It’s been a long time coming for Big K.R.I.T. and he put extra effort into the treatment for “So Cool” with cameos by DJ Wall Spark, Trinidad James and more. [Watch]
Burna Boy and WizKid kick it (get it?) in their team-up for “B. D'Or.” [Watch]
Dr. Dre puts out “The Call” to Snoop, Mary, Kendrick and Eminem in this ad ahead of their blockbuster Super Bowl halftime performance. [Watch]
Backseat Freestyle is written and produced by me, Jayson Rodriguez, for Smarty Art Media. If you have any comments, feedback or questions, feel free to email me: jayson@smartyartllc.com. If you would like to discuss sponsoring an issue of the newsletter, contact: holler@ smartyartllc.com. And follow me elsewhere:
(I recently added a couple of new links below because I might experiment with promoting Backseat Freestyle on TikTok or Twitch, etc.)
Instagram: @jaysonrodriguez
Clubhouse: @jaysonrodriguez
YouTube: smartyartllc
Podcast: coming soon
Disclosure: I’m employed by Spotify and given that I frequently include public news and streaming numbers from Spotify in the newsletter, I want to note that the views and opinions reflected in Backseat Freestyle are solely my own. Also, as the showrunner of Nas’ podcast, The Bridge, I work closely with him, however, any inclusion of his music is without influence. 
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