By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
"People was coming out and throwing shit at us. We were like sitting ducks," Slice says.
Eventually, Slice says, he'd field calls from angry promoters demanding Jones return their up-front money (typically half). Only Slice couldn't help them. Jones had simply stopped returning his calls, and instructed the rest of his crew to do the same.
"He started x-ing me out first," Slice says. "Then he started x-ing everyone else out."
G-Dash, who says he stepped in on similar calls directed at Farris, swears Jones even had a special trick for avoiding calls — he'd answer, say hello and then somehow cross the lines.
"Mike will fucking shake you like Michael Jordan," Slice says.
Jones's crew — notably Slice and rapper King Mello, Jones's protégé — was supposed to come into its own on Ice Age Volume 2 (Volume 1 was the strip-club mix). It had drawn considerable interest. The songs were ready, the pre-orders were in and offers were on the table. Jones strung it out until it faded away.
"A lot of people might bash him, but, I mean, it's a lot to handle. And sometimes he would do shit to piss people off," says Flowers, who now lives in Atlanta and, though he last spoke to Jones about a year ago, still considers him family. "I understood [his ways] more than anybody else, and sometimes I didn't even understand it. But it always came out right at the end when we were doing it. So we would ride together."
Most successful rappers put their entourage on salary. But Jones insisted on paying people like Brown and Workman by show, and he wouldn't pay them much. They say he'd hold onto their money and just pay their bills, leaving them dependent on him for spending money. K.D., the barber who accompanied Jones to the BET awards, says the whole crew would come to his shop together for cuts. Jones would pull out his wad of cash and pay, as if they were his kids. G-Dash remembers that if someone was hungry, he'd have to wait for Jones to eat.
"He been like that forever. He didn't change," admits Brown, who dropped out of pharmacy school to join the entourage full-time. "You see all the lights and cameras, and you don't know what to do."
With the album stalled and shows drying up, Jones began to run short on money.
"We had 11 cars, and they all had to come back," says Alicia, who recently had a messy breakup with Jones. "My house [Jones had bought her a big one on two acres in Missouri City] got foreclosed — and they put me out."
By the summer of 2008, Jones was living in a condo and driving a Cadillac and a Le Sabre. Brown had already bolted, and Workman would leave within a couple of weeks ("Wastin' my time, wastin' my life," Workman says now). Over the past year, Jones had become close with a friend of Workman's, whom Jones's old crew refers to simply as a "get-it guy." One night, Workman says, the three smoked weed and passed out in front of the television as usual. When Workman and Jones awoke the next morning, the friend and the Ice Age chain were gone.
Brown says he'd tried to steal the chain himself, but it was at the jeweler the day he went to get it.
"Before I leave, I'm fin to leave this all with something," he remembers thinking.
They smile in my face, behind me they hate, they want what I got but don't want to grind, they just want to shine / (Preach!) / They wishin' they was the man that I am while they still the man that I was, are you feelin' me cuz? / (Preach!) / They want me to feed 'em thinkin' I need 'em, but I don't, and I won't let yo yappin' stop me from rappin'. / I'm in the booth speakin' the opposite of a lie, no lie, I'm just speakin' the truth.
— Mike Jones in "Preach (Acapella)," from Runnin tha Game
Mike Jones is locked inside his mansion. A large man, Jones's younger brother, stands at the door and stares out the glass.
Jones sits at the kitchen table next to a box of dominoes, which peek out from a plastic window in the lid. The alarm beeps once every 30 seconds, as if Jones long ago gave up on turning it off and got used to the sound. It is three weeks after the album's release. It has dropped from 12 to 60 and off the charts.
In front of Jones are two small bags of Sun Chips and a box of gingerbread cookies. He finishes one bag, then the other, then the box of cookies as he talks, often with his mouth full. He drinks the crumbs from the bags of chips.
"If you wanna be a rapper," Jones says, "be prepared for pol-o-ticks."
Jones blames the four-year delay on Warner Bros., saying the label wouldn't support songs like "Next to You" and "Cuddy Buddy," R&B-heavy efforts (which have both been hits) that are a stark contrast to his gritty and warped debut. Jones says he makes songs now that appeal to the nation, not just Houston. He says his ungrateful friends — for whom he paid rent and bills — robbed him and left him when the going got tough.