Last week, Complex’s Magnum Opus series that features artists talking about their biggest hits featured Mike Jones (Who? Mike Jones!) discussing “Still Tippin’.” The installment interviewed everyone involved with the record, as well as provided a context for the scene it came from and a play-by-play of how the track blew up. Just as impressive as the episode itself was Mike Jones’ staggering weight loss. We spoke to Jones about the episode and his secret to reemerging as a healthier (Who?) Mike Jones.
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The Magnum Opus mentions early on your music started getting a buzz from you making custom music for strippers. What makes for good stripper music?
You went off their favorite song, or a song they real like. After that, they want me to talk about a certain they they might do on the pole or a tattoo they have here or there to personalize the song.
As Complex’s Magnum Opus points out, when “Still Tippin'” blew up, it gave a voice to a part a Texas that wasn’t being represented nationwide and lead to an influx of Houston talent blowing up. Prior to “Still Tippin,” the only nationwide shot your scene received was for Big Moe’s Purple World two years prior. Were there any preconceived notions within the industry of the Southside of Houston that you had to deal with?
Like you said, watching the Complex video, there was already a version they were trying to work with at first that didn’t work. I went to Salih and I was able to find a track to put together what we were trying to accomplish. It just was a good feeling and was doing up regional.
Michael Watts mentioned how Salih’s version relates more to what people would expect from the South. Do you agree with that?
I totally agree with that because Salih captured the south’s sound. I’d been dealing with Salih for years before “Tippin’,” so I knew if there was anything or anybody that could make the track right, it was Salih. He was the perfect person, and he came through.
The track first got nationwide exposure through “BET Un:Cut.” Did you find after that rotation, you started to get more of a response?
Oh, of course, it was completely different. Then, it was organic. There were people peeking to see what we were doing. It was playing for all 2003, so when 2004 happened we were still underground. In 2004, it was only Lil Flip repping Houston, but when we came in 2005, it was me and a whole unit and we all were rapping Houston. It all got bigger and bigger.
That record began the nationwide catchphrase of people repeating you name. Prior to using your real name “Mike Jones,” did you have any other rap name?
Back in the days when I was freestyling, I use to call myself Sace, like Versace. People used to call me that because I was smooth on the flow, I could adapt to the track. My grandma said to “just do you, be you,” so I decided I’ll just be me, Mike Jones.
That also was around the time you started giving out your iconic phone number and, as mentioned in the Complex piece, you were really answering the phone and calling people back. Do any messages people left you stand out?
Every voicemail is unique and appreciated because, for people to even hit me was love. One of them was Cedric the Entertainer. He called me, I answered, and he couldn’t even believe I answered. It was a lot of cool people that called the line. But, what’s funny is that the reason I came up with the number was, in 2002, when Mike Jones started blowing up on the underground and people were booking big shows, my grandmother said to be accessible to the people. I started giving out my phone number so people could call me up about a show and find out if I’m going to be there or not. So, I started giving out my phone number to keep my business call. My number was like a business card, only I’m rapping my business card. When the number took off, it just went crazy, then people said it was a gimmick. People didn’t understand what I was doing or trying to push the envelop of, and now people are trying to do the same thing.
I wanted to let people know I was letting out all insecurities and everything. Back then, it was the truth. From ten years ago to now, people go through that. People don’t want to show love until you come up, so it’s easy to tell who’s real and who’s fake. I ain’t wanna come out just talking about poppin’ mollies and turning up and then within a year you forget about me. It’s ten years later and we’re still talking. It’s a message that people could really grab on and use in their everyday life.
What was your phone bill like?
It got to the point where I had two numbers, and the number was blowing up so big and at the time I didn’t have an unlimited plan. I was paying it while I was out doing shows. But somebody put me on to the unlimited plan, I think it was Nextel before they became Sprint. I was my own business card. There was a lot going on at that time and it was like trying to show a new invention and instead of people trying it out, they were hating it. All they said was “oh, he’s a gimmick rapper. Oh, all he do is say his name.” Now, everybody says their name a million times. They’re not “gimmicky” now, but I had to take that fall because I was the first to do it. But, it’s all love because I love being original. At the time, I was a nobody trying to make it but had the mindset to try to be somebody. With that, I was already trying to make moves and take it to the next level and we sold millions in ringtones and downloads on top of a song making history. Now people are tripping off just being on TV. It’s a very different world. It’s cool to me, I don’t need to be on TV every week. I can do events where I’m at and just do me.
Another striking thing about the Complex piece is your recent weight loss. What’s been your secret?
Honestly, to lose the weight, I just started getting on the treadmill and started running. When “Back Then” came out, I was 310 pounds and I was proud of my weight. I wasn’t trying to lose weight because the world accepted me at my size. But then, I was going through politics with the label and they weren’t liking records and I had to wait three years for those records to go top ten in the country. I wanted to do something to take time away from anything, so I went to the gym so that when I came back finally it would be with a new look. I lost 50 pounds, and then I lost another 50 pounds.
Are you happy with how Magnum Opus came out?
It was cool, I liked everything it showed and everybody who was on it was there. Every ingredient we had to do to get it was there.
Are you still tippin’?
Still Tippin’ man, forever.