The Come Up: SL Jones

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On His Creative Background and Growing up in Little Rock:

SL Jones: “I was an art student. I used to draw for the homeys in the hood and everybody just in general because Little Rock is a gang city, so I used to draw tattoos. Homeys that are dead and gone, I drew as a picture and they went and got it on they skin. I used to be on some graffiti shit, but not like spraying it on the walls but just drawing a comic book or something—anything, I just loved to draw. Music was something that I did for more than me. I lived in a war zone, I lived in the worst part of Little Rock, so they had made youth programs specifically for us to try to [keep us] away from being in a gang. But they don’t really understand, or maybe they did and they were just trying something. It helped, but everybody is still gang affiliated, just by default. By the time you’re 11 years old and you’re living in the hood, you’ve already got it on your mind. Then when your homeys start dying, it’s in your heart by then. But the programs helped because they gave you other options and it gave you knowledge of self.

“[In those programs], that was when the music started. Just like basketball—everybody is playing basketball in the hood but realistically its not like, ‘Okay, just because you’re playing good you’re going to the NBA.’ You’ve got to go to school and do other things before you can become a professional athlete. But with rapping, all you got to do is say, ‘I’m a rapper now.’ I was so good at drawing that I used to tell myself that I wasn’t even going to pursue music unless I could be arguably the best. If you could take a verse from me and break it down technically next to somebody who’s popping or is respected, that’s when I would pursue it. And I would do it humbly and it wouldn’t be on some trying to let everybody know shit.”