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Interview

Jim Jones’ Guide to Getting Better With Age

By Dylan Green on

Jim Jones has left an indelible mark on rap music. From his early days on the rise with legendary New York rap group The Diplomats to a slew of solo releases over the last decade, Jones has persevered as one of New York rap’s most dependable figures.

Jones’ last two albums—2019’s El Capo and 2021’s The Fraud Department, a collaborative album with producer Harry Fraud—both display how sharp his writing, delivery, and charisma remain nearly 25 years into his career. And with a handful of other projects set to drop later in 2021, Jones isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Here are Jim Jones’s eight keys to getting better with age as a rapper.

Live life. “For the most part, it’s about my life experiences. I’ve been able to live through a lot of different things and I always want to be able to write about it. The more I’m able to live life, the more I’m able to write about it and add pages to my book. I’m just writing about things I’ve seen and things I’ve observed and give my opinion about things. I also love to be able to talk to youngsters through my music about the mistakes I’ve made that, hopefully, they won’t have to make. They can just listen to my music and not follow in my footsteps.”

Be confident in your skills. “If you wanna compare me to a basketball player, my jump shot is phenomenal. I’ve always had a mean handle and known how to get to the basket, but right now is like when [Michael] Jordan had that jump shot and no one knew what to do with it and his whole game took it to another level. I could shoot your eyes out or I could take it to the hole. They say the best defense is a good offense.”

Stay hungry. “I think we’ve come to a point where no matter how far in we are, we always feel like we have something to prove. Even when a person retires from their regular job, they gotta prove to themselves that life’s not over.

“At this point, I’m conquering a lot of things for myself, things I haven’t dwelled on as much in the past. This rap I started as a hustle turned into a passion to be in the hierarchy of this game and in the history books. That’s one of the things I’m digging for. I’m close enough to say if the king tilts his head wrong, I’ma snatch the crown.”

Train your body. “I’m in better shape now at 44 than I was when I was 24 and I know I’m in better shape than 90 percent of people who are 24 right now. It keeps my mind sharp and young and feeling fresh. Everything’s always about energy when you get to that booth. Nine times out of 10, whatever your mind and body are going through is what you’re gonna project in that booth.”

It’s all about your energy. “Age is a number but it’s also your energy. A 40-year-old this year is way different from a 40-year-old a decade ago. That helps me a lot with the music and to understand the younger generation. I don’t feel separated from them because of my age. I’m staying active. If you ain’t got no health, how you gonna spend the wealth?”

Be observant. “Journalists have to reflect on the signs of the times and that’s current events and things that move the culture. I’m always gonna be on that pulse. When I stop being on that pulse is probably when I’ll stop doing music.

“It’s not about reinventing yourself; it’s about staying current with what’s going on. That’s what we’ve done over and over again to maintain our relevancy. It’s a conscious effort to stay in the mix of what’s happening without chasing it.

“Every good artist is a journalist. It’s journalism, no matter how you wrap your head around it. If you write and get paid for writing, that’s journalism; whether you’re writing music or articles or biographies or a book, it’s all journalism. But a good journalist has to reflect the times.”

Embrace modernity. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is by watching how [younger artists] put their music out and how often they put their music out. It’s also helped me with staying abreast of everything going on from trigger words to lingo. It’s a lot of different things. I love to feed off the youngsters. A lot of these older artists don’t get it because they should be embracing the younger artists way more than they are.

“That goes for the youngsters also. They know how to bridge the gap between the generation before them and the one that’s coming up after them. Those are the people who are gonna win big time. Music isn’t about what’s going on right now; it’s about the music that will be created from the music being created right now. It’s a cycle like the food chain.”

Keep fueling your engine. “I’ve done so many things in this industry, from where I’ve been to the music I’ve put out. At this point, I think I’m proving everything to myself. I’m capable of doing a lot of things that most people aspire to. Me being here, where I am right now, I’m only using 15% of my brain capacity for music. I’m the illest motherfucker to do this shit, ya heard? I need to get it done [in] a timely fashion because my life isn’t gonna be caught up in doing music forever. There’s way more living I gotta do.”

Photos by Flee Flicks.

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