As a newly signed artist to a major label, your only focus is having a hit record followed by an even more successful album premiere. For a lot of industry rookies, this feat can be more difficult than Chinese math.
But back in 2004, an 18-year-old newbie by name of Jerrell “J-Kwon” Jones passed his first test with a song called ‘Tipsy,’ which reached the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, while selling over 2,000,000 copies (of the single); and soon his debut album Hood Hop followed with a gold plaque to match.
Every star seemed to be aligned in the proper order for the young hopeful: A powerhouse label backing him all under the watchful eye of music giants such as Jermaine Dupri and L.A. Reid.
Then soon after, Arista Records dissolved into many other sub-divisions leaving the native from St. Louis, Missouri at a crossroads.
Now at the still-young age of 22, the boy who rapped about drinking alcohol when he was barely legal enough to vote or buy cigarettes returns as a man with a better grip on the “the biz” and more importantly—life.
iHipHop.com: What have you been up to these days?
J-Kwon: Well, you know about the whole label “switcha-roo” situation, but that really wasn’t a factor… I really had to just step back and take a look at the game, and really realize what it was that I wanted to do.
So basically I’ve been like an artist developing myself, and I want to make sure I have everything ready, and get on my whole new routine. I want to make sure everything is in order for Hood Hop 2, so believe me; I’m not missing a beat…
iHipHop.com: So what exactly happened to the last situation you were in?
J-Kwon: Arista [Records] had folded, and they shut down, and sold off all the contracts. A lot of people went over to Jive [Records], like Usher, The Clipse, Ciara, and lot of other people.
We never got off on a good start, like putting out the second album, and we didn’t get to where we wanted it to be. But there ain’t no bad blood, and I ain’t mad at nobody.
iHipHop.com: How was your mindset at that time? Did you feel like you still had a shot at re-emerging?
J-Kwon: I felt like I was going to re-emerge and do what I do. You can’t hold a good dude down, and if so, not that long. The only person that can kill me is me; period…
Sky’s the limit with me either with a label or with no label, with no help, or with some help… God is all I need, that’s the biggest promoter I can ever have, and that’s real talk…
iHipHop.com: Do you still have a relationship with Jermaine Dupri?
J-Kwon: Yeah, JD and me are real cool… I go to see him from time to time…
iHipHop.com: Did you work with him on your new project, Hood Hop 2?
J-Kwon: Nah, I did all that myself, but we did do some records. But what I’m doing now is a whole different swag, and a different movement. This is what I wanted to do, I have my producers and me; and we work well together. I feel like this is the best thing for me, so this is the thing that I’m going to do.
iHipHop.com: How did you hook up with Gracie/EMI for the release of Hood Hop 2?
J-Kwon: It was crazy, because they contacted me… They called me… I had cooked up Hood Hop 2, and then I was promoting here and there by putting music on the Internet, and jumping on YouTube talking. Then I was sitting in my bedroom, and they called me. The phone rung, and they were like, “We’re trying to fly you out tomorrow.” After that I flew down there, and we’re doing a deal, period…
iHipHop.com: Do you think it will be difficult to re-capture the success you achieved in the past with your first album?
J-Kwon: I ain’t going to say it’ll be hard to do that again, but timing is everything too. The type of situation we’re doing right now; this ain’t going to amount to the type of success that you’re going to see from me. Right now we’re just trying to get the streets back, and it just so happens that I’m making money while we’re doing it.
It’s not like one of those things where you say, “Oh, he’s signed to Def Jam, so that means he has a $1,000,000.00 budget behind him.” Nah strictly “Kwon” is going to put this out, and this is like a mixtape for me… [Laughs]
That’s the type of situation this is right here, so when I get back to where I need to go, I’m going to kill that too. With my first album, during the first week it sold about 200,000 copies, so I have to match that, I have to go hard. When [they] spend their money with me, I want all my fans to know that they’re spending their money VERY well…
iHipHop.com: Was there any deciding factors that made you put out this project out as a digital album?
J-Kwon: Well it’s just not that same situation… This is more of an independent situation to get the streets wet. I’m going to be doing some old fashion records, and I’m getting that album together too… So this right here isn’t an official second album, its intermission time.
You’re going to get Hood Hop 2, Hood Hop 3, Hood Hop 4, and when I get to ten I’m quitting. I’m going to have that mainstream album out there, but this one is for the gutter…
iHipHop.com: How was your creative process during the making of the project? Were you a little rusty?
J-Kwon: Hood Hop 2 should’ve been out… I never quit, and I never missed a beat… People just didn’t know that, because they weren’t in-tuned like that. Check my resume, there were still records coming out, with no label and all… Even when it came down to paying my way off of Jive [Records], there was a $650,000.00 price tag on my head.
So instead of me putting out records over there, I wanted to get released. I’m working constantly, this is what I do, I never had a 9 to 5, I hustle music and this is everything. I never stopped, I’m right here with you.
iHipHop.com: What’s one of the hardest things you’ve learned in the music business so far?
J-Kwon: The hardest thing I had to do in the business so far was to walk away from a lot of people… Like a lot of people I wasn’t ready to walk away from… But now I see that I had to do it to get myself prepared to have this interview we’re having right now; you know what I’m saying? That was probably the hardest thing I had to do.
Like walk away from my first family; the Trackboyz family, Jermaine Dupri, and L.A. Reid. It was a perfect little team, but I had to start my own. This rap game is like living at your mother’s house: Once she’s sheltered you long enough, it’s going to be time to get out and get your own crib—and that’s what I’m doing now… Hood Hop Music, we got now and next…