Two questions will be answered after Joseph “Jim” Jones drops his fourth album and major label debut, Pray For Reign, this December. The first is whether the Dip Set capo can drop another “We Fly High.” The ubiquitous Billboard top 5 anthem had everyone screaming, “Baaaaaallllllin" and helped him independently push 438,000 copies of his third album, Hustler’s P.O.M.E. (Product of my Environment). His latest single, “Pop Champagne,” featuring Ron Browz and Juelz Santana, should answer that, as it has already become one of the hottest hip-hop songs of the moment. The second question is whether Jones can build on the gigantic buzz he generated from his independent success -- that ultimately led to his joint venture with Sony Music -- and catapult himself into the pantheon of A-list rappers like Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne.
If Jones fails, it won’t be for lack of effort. He has already spent $4 million in the last year and a half, recording a mix of potential radio smashes like the Ryan Leslie-produced “Precious” and thought-provoking records like “Frenemies,” a track that provides insight into his falling out with childhood friend and Diplomats crew leader Cam’ron. If Jones is feeling the pressure, it's hard to tell. Rhapsody caught up with him relaxing in his new $2 million Manhattan recording space, after a meeting with his business partner Dame Dash, to talk about his recent legal issues, unflattering comments he made about T.I., and his beef with former protégé Max B.
You just remixed Kid Cudi’s “Day N Nite.” Are you feeling other new school rappers like Charles Hamilton, Mickey Factz or Wale?
Jim Jones: I’m actually doing a Charles Hamilton remix of “Brooklyn Girls.” I like him. He’s from Harlem. I like Kid Cudi. I like some of [the Cool Kids’] sh*t. I like the beats they pick out. I f*ck with Sa-Ra. I don’t know if Mos Def is considered that type of lane, but I love Mos Def. He’s one of my favorite rappers. I never even heard one of his whole albums. But the way he freestyles and be tearing beats down, I’m a fan. [16 Blocks] with Bruce Willis was ingenious the way he portrayed his character and made it a little Rainman-ish. My favorite thing that he’s done was when he was hosting Def Poetry Jam and he did a freestyle for five minutes straight.
A bouncer from the New York nightclub Tenjune sued you a while back because of an altercation at a Chris Brown record release party. What happened?
Just a little altercation with one of the bouncers. We ended up getting in and there was a little miscommunication. They said one of the bouncers ended up getting slapped. I don’t know what happened there. They ended up putting a warrant out for my arrest after that. I got locked up. [The security guard] had an order of protection but the judge lifted it. I had to do fucking community service ‘cause a n*gg* snitching. It ain’t nothing but some b*llsh*t assault charges. Suing is a form of snitching when it comes to them type of situations.
Over the years, what’s the biggest charge that you’ve gotten off on?
Probably the trial that I had going on a couple years ago. It was over a shooting in Harlem. They said I did some things that I didn’t do. My life ain’t a publicity stunt and never would use me getting in trouble with the law to be more famous or look like a badass. I got vindicated on the same day that Irv Gotti was acquitted. But you wouldn’t know that. But you definitely know Irv Gotti got acquitted because it was posted everywhere like it was some type of stat to be playing with the Feds. I think you should be more humble in saying your prayers as opposed to making it seem like you beat the Feds. I’m not referring to no one [in particular]. I’m talking about gangsta rules.
You had an incident where you were allegedly involved in a shooting.
The charge was possessing a firearm and shooting a firearm or something like that. It was unfortunate. A few people did end up getting hit during that shootout. Two of my close friends and a young kid also got hit. God bless him because he spared their lives. I helped one of my friends to the hospital. They tried to say I sent them to do it, and I had nothing to do with it.
Now that you and Cam aren’t really on good terms, is there regret on your part that you went to bat for Cam and got into a beef with Nas?
Nah. F*ck Nas. I don’t give a f*ck about Nas. He’s a rapper that just lost his pizazz. When I was in high school, he was the sh*t. He was the n*gg* that got us hyped. “New York State of Mind,” Illmatic and all of that.
Is there any possibility of a reconciliation?
What kind of reconciliation? I was never cool with him. I seen Nas a few months ago in L.A. with Dame. We was staying in this hotel right above the Ferrari dealership. Dame seen him and was talking to him. I was laying back on a couch laughing. He didn’t know what to do. I was looking dead at him. [Laughs.] And then Dame was like, “You know Jim?” He started [stammering], “Ah? Ah?” Dame is just burnt out. He not thinking about none of that frivolous [beef] sh*t. Me neither, for the most part. Nas was never on my level ever. Ever.
What was your reaction to Cam telling Miss Info he sold Juelz' contract to Def Jam for $2 million?
No one sold anything, first of all. Juelz has his own equity. He’s becoming a platinum artist under the Def Jam and Diplomats umbrella. And it was just a business move that came in time for Juelz to do things on his own because he didn’t feel like he was getting dealt with justly. He signed up at a very young age where a lot of people are naïve and they just looking to get into the game. This was all business.
So, Cam selling Juelz contract for $2 million is false?
He made some money off the transaction. But this ain’t slavery. Ain’t nobody sell nobody. That’s the difference.
With Dame and Cam being close, has Dame ever tried to play mediator between you two?
Well, yeah, Dame is always trying to be the mediator. But sh*t, Dame can’t get no responses neither. We all in the same boat. [Cam’ron] don’t hit back nobody. He’s on his own tangent right now.
Do you feel like since you kind of came in under Cam and trusted that he would do right by you, you entered the game naïve, too?
I didn’t come in naïve. I came in understanding two n*gg*s coming up from nothing to have a bond and above all was supposed to be loyal to each other and everybody could get their equal share. That wasn’t the case. We definitely moved like brothers. We used each other, but it was his artistry and him being Cam was the reason why we got here, and a lot of my hard work standing behind him or standing in front of him.
Is there regret that a good friendship was ruined by the business?
There’s never no regrets. As you get older, you lose friends. But you make new rapports and it’s all about the money and taking care of your family. It was a good friendship though.
You think that can be reconciled?
I don’t know about that. That’s another conversation.
Would you consider making another Diplomats album with the original members?
Yeah, why not? It would be worth a lot of money. I’ve been trying to do that for the business and money's sake.
A lot of people were surprised with your comments to Complex regarding T.I.
People took it the wrong way. I wasn’t really deliberately doing nothing to knock T.I. I was just saying what I felt regarding swagger and who sets the precedent for it. I know for sure that people have said, "Yo, you looking like Jim Jones. I’m trying to get that 'Jim Jones' look." But I haven’t heard people saying you’re looking like T.I. or whoever. Where I’m from, n*gg*s don’t run to go look like no Kanye. I don’t hear n*gg*s in the ‘hood like I need to get that jacket Jay had on.
Well, Jay did get everyone to start rocking button-ups.
Yeah, he caught that. But that was in his moment when he was hot. He was able to dictate sh*t. But that was because Dame was around him and gave him a little bit of “cool” factor. Sh*t, what can he dictate now? He’s dressing like me. I seen him with some skull scarves and some Louis Vuitton scarves and all types of sh*t. That ain’t Rocawear. If that’s what you own, you should be vested in what you own. You should be wearing that sh*t all day because it should be some fly sh*t that you wanna have on. It should be like Ralph Lauren where you know I got some fly sh*t. But no n*gg*, you see him dressing like me and turn Rocawear into skulls and ****. [Laughs.]
Has T.I. or anyone from his camp reached out to you regarding your comments?
It’s not even that serious. I don’t care about that sh*t. When I see him, it’ll be like, "What’s up, What’s poppin?" N*gg*s can’t tell me nothing in this game, period, even if you had a problem. I ain’t tripping on nobody. You can’t never use me for a publicity stunt. I’m always gonna get cabbage. I’m like the Fruit Man. I’m waiting for a new shipment of cabbage. So, I can just give out some humble cabbage.
Dame Dash: Cabbage is a vegetable. [Both laugh.]
Jones: The Vegetable Man then.
Have you seen T.I.’s clothing line, AKOO?
I haven’t seen it. I seen an ad and his jeans look like some Pepe Jeans. But that’s another story. I ain’t mad at nobody in this b*llsh*t game.
Do you think the press misconstrued your comments regarding T.I.?
I don’t care what the press did. They misconstrued it or they got it right. You can take it how the f*ck n*gg*s wanna take it. I suggest they take it in f*ck*ng stride.
Former Byrdgang member Max B has been posting videos taking shots at you and saying an alteraction took place between you two. What are you thoughts on these?
There’s one thing about YouTube, people get up there and say what they want, but there’s never, ever any proof. If there was anything I’ve ever done, believe me, somebody validated would tell you about it. And besides, I own him. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. So, you tell me when his album’s gonna come out? He sold his publishing to me for like 100 stacks for whatever the bail was when he was cryin' to me to get out of jail. That's my sneaker money. I own him. He signed to me. Not no Asylum. He won’t be coming out with an album anytime soon.
So, any deal he does, he has to go through you?
Yeah, I’m the Don Dada. You gotta come speak to Daddy. I’m Steinbrenner in the situation. Who’s your daddy? Dada. Padre. Me. Let’s get to that. Did he look good showing the car that was tore up? How would that story go? Like, I would never wanna show my car being tore up, there’s no way around it. Like, how did it get tore up like that. “I was trying to get away from crashing cars.” You sound wild. I don’t know what happened that day, you smell me? [Laughs.]
Was there any truth to his claims that he punched you in the face?
This is me. Let’s be realistic. That’s why I’m laughin'. When I was coming at n*gg*s, it was dead serious, like when I see you n*gg*, it’s on. Not when I see you, you start runnin’ from me. I don’t know no gangsters that do that type of sh*t.
Who do you feel like right now is holding it down for New York?
All these n*gg*s have been around and they still not doing nothing. They trying to catch up to me right now, literally. I’m the point of interest right now. Who’s been more relevant than me the past three years as far as New York is concerned? As far as style, fashion, speakin’ my mind, political awareness and stuntin’ on n*gg*s. Ladies love me. Police know my name on a first and last basis. They respect me for a [being a] G. They ain’t trying to lock me up for weed, so I’m having a ball. I probably smoke like a half an ounce a day. N*gg*s know how instrumental I am to New York. There’s no one gonna be able to do what I’ve done as far as the work I’ve put in, the things I’ve accomplished, and the things I’ve escaped unscathed for another 20 years. I don’t have to have nothing out and I still shut sh*t down. Me and Juelz go on any stage in the world and shut the whole thing down.