Mike Jones

Two years ago few outside Houston's mixtape circuit seemed to know who Mike Jones was. In fact one of Jones's favorite anecdotes is how he used to go to local strip clubs and hand out his demo, trying to get people to listen. Often the response would be "Who?" Disappointed but not discouraged, Jones would come home to his grandmother and tell her his dreams of becoming a star and the struggles he was enduring in his quest for fame and fortune (see "Grandma").

But that's changing now. Jones has rather quickly become to H-Town what T.I. was to ATL upon the release of his 2001 debut, I'm Serious: a talented, promising, and versatile artist who could one day conquer the masses. The key to Jones's success? Shameless self-promotion. Indeed, if you don't know the name of Swishahouse's most promising signee by now, he'll gladly tell you. Throughout his ambitious debut, Who Is Mike Jones?, which is executive-produced by heavyweight DJ Michael "5000" Watts, Jones drills both his name and his now-famous phone number (281-330-8004) into your head. And chances are you'll remember who he is, not only because he makes it a point to remind you, but also because he's surprisingly good.

Yet don't be fooled by the codeine-flavored, violin-driven monster single, "Still Tippin'," wherein he spits between fellow Houston MC's Slim Thug and Paul Wall. There is actually more to Jones than that. Who Is Mike Jones? showcases his ability to ride both screwed-and-choppy beats ("Back Then," "Screw Dat," and "Know What I'm Sayin'" featuring Bun B) and glamorized pop/R&B backdrops ("Flossin'" and "Scandalous Hoes") that slowly unravel Jones's thick flow and humorous wit. Throughout the disc he displays a sense of maturity well beyond his 24 years. In addition to the aforementioned "Grandma," "Five Years From Now" finds him contemplating the war in Iraq and the future of the world as a whole ("If you care about your future, please listen to this song," he pleads).

Perhaps the key to Jones's longevity will be his innovative concepts, from his music to his unique "marketing plan." He isn't afraid of sounding ridiculous for saying his name 500 times on the CD, nor is he afraid to step outside the box and show his softer side on songs such as "Grandma" (Jones even croons on the hook). But, like all superstars-in-the-making, he gives you the sense that he has room to grow, both personally and lyrically.