Mike Jones! Who?

The story of a Houston rapper who got bigger and bigger until he shrank back down to earth

Before Jones went by Mike Jones, though, he was Sache, the Texas Lone Ranger. He and friends such as Brown, Michael Workman and T. Flowers, who would go on to become his business partner and manager, made a few attempts at rap groups, and MC Sache even appeared on a locally produced album as part of a quartet called "Souf Folk." Jones tried hard to get a major deal. When he couldn't, he faked it.

Former friend C.T., who has "Ice Age" tattooed on his hand, remembers Jones stopping a local concert with the following announcement: "We want everybody to know. It's going down for real. We just signed a deal for 15 million!"

C.T. and the others celebrated with their families. Then they waited. During a supposed trip to New York to work out the details, Jones was caught instead at a nearby motel.

Magno, a.k.a. Magnificent (left), says the album he and Jones put out in 2003 is like a family portrait. Only he's been rubbed out of the picture.
Mike Giglio
Magno, a.k.a. Magnificent (left), says the album he and Jones put out in 2003 is like a family portrait. Only he's been rubbed out of the picture.
Slice was Jones's road manager and personal DJ when he hit it big. He says he was threatened by angry fans and promoters when Jones started blowing off shows.
Mike Giglio
Slice was Jones's road manager and personal DJ when he hit it big. He says he was threatened by angry fans and promoters when Jones started blowing off shows.

"We found out this nigga been lyin' the whole time," C.T. says. "We done threw parties and stuff, bought all types of food."

DJ Big Red had a gig at the Ice Cream Castle, a small but popular strip club on the North side. One day Jones came in with his demo, and Red turned him down. But Jones came back, again and again.

"He wasn't giving up," Red remembers. "He always came to me with another CD. It was the same songs, but just a different color."

Eventually, the girls were dancing to Jones's songs, and so was the entire club. Red put Jones on his mix tape. He began bringing him to shows, driving to the apartment to give Jones a lift. A childhood friend of Watts, he then introduced Jones to T. Farris, the Swishahouse A&R man who eventually signed him to the label.

Red traveled with Jones as his career took off, occasionally answering his famous phone, which was eventually ringing off the hook. In the summer of 2005, Jones finally got his major record deal, with Warner Bros.

"From then on, I don't know how his career went. I just know what I seen," Red says. "One moment you're there, and the next you're not."
_____________________

"I'm gonna stand next to these speakers so y'all can fuckin' hear me!"

At the Arena Theatre, Jones's microphone cuts in and out. When it's on, it's too loud, and his words are nearly inaudible. Some of Jones's friends wander aimlessly on the stage. But the 200 or so fans are on their feet and packed around it. Jones raps hard, like he can't see past them, squinting and scowling, rocking furiously at the waist.

"I done did this before!" he screams into the mike. "I don't need no help! 2-8-1, 2-0-6..."

A few hours later, Jones walks through the after-party with a bowl of Honeycombs. There are about 25 people inside Jones's modest mansion, friends and a few girls his hype man Jaime Pena (who is often confused for Paul Wall on the road) managed to scrounge from the show. Everyone is in the large kitchen, casually drinking Budweiser and smoking blunts. Jones plops down at the counter, eyes drooping from the weed. He finishes his cereal and reclaims his place in the center of the room.

Jones plays DJ with the stereo against the wall, singing along to songs such as Lil' Flip's "We Blow Endo" freestyle. People crowd around to watch.

Lo Key stands off to the side. "Mike gave me that name," he says, pointing to the letters stitched across his backwards cap. When Jones blew up, Lo Key mostly kept out of the spotlight. But he remembers meeting Snoop Dogg when Jones and his crew traveled to California. He got to wear the Ice Age chain. He was in — or at least at — every video. You can check for his hat.

Lo Key looks at least 30. Other than Jones and his longtime girlfriend Alicia — who wears oversized sunglasses and has "Mike Jones" tattooed across the back of her neck — the rest of the people at the party are much younger. They treat Jones like someone they know from TV. Pena was brought on within the last year.

Jones switches over to instrumentals, changing the discs often, because most of them skip. He starts to freestyle, his hands shaking fast at his sides, like he's just grabbed a hot pan, whenever he's about to unleash a great flow. His verses are full of rants about haters and doubters.

Pena and a few bold guests join in. Some are pretty good, and Jones is polite, letting them cut him off and jamming extra hard to their raps. They go for more than an hour. Then the onlookers break off and head home. The freestylers begin to drift away, too.

Jones stays in the center of the kitchen, eyes pressed shut, hands flailing almost nonstop, killing it to the skipping beats.
_____________________

[A phone rings twice.]

Hello?

Mike Jones?

Naw man this Magno.

Hey is Mike Jones there with you?

Fo sho, you know we're ­hangin' together like two titties.

— "Skit Intro," from Mike Jones & Magno: 1st Round Draft Picks

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