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REVIEW: Jim Jones, Pray IV Reign

Jim Jones
Pray IV Reign
(Diplomats/Columbia)

Forget Terrence Howard—Jim Jones’s life story should be titled Hustle & Flow. The Diplomats’ de facto front man grinded his way from street corners to corner offices and from background muscle to front-page glory. With an ever-improving string of albums—2004’s On My Way to Church, 2005’s Harlem: Diary of a Summer and the almost-gold Hustler’s P.O.M.E., in 2006—Jimmy’s rhymes are finally paying dividends, too. Following 2006’s larger-than-life single “We Fly High,” Capo silenced skeptics with yet another club concoction, “Pop Champagne.” Now the indie king rides the Auto-Tune-powered anthem to the big leagues with his major-label debut, Pray IV Reign.

Jones has made a career by perpetually keeping his fingers on Harlem’s pulse. Look no further than the album’s intro for evidence, where he bounces on No I.D.’s soulful, harmonica-tinged sound-bed, summing up the ghetto’s plight with a silver-tongued smoothness (“The aesthetic of being a Black man/You was either athletic or selling them crack grams”). Even when griping about the street’s allure, on “Pull Me Back,” he still revels in the fast life, spittin’, “They call me Young Bust-a-Move/I can make the coke spin on its back like Krush Groove.” Unfortunately, the hood rhetoric grows tiresome on the trigger-finger folly “Pop Off,” a hard, braggadocious ByrdGang dud.

The realer reality for Jones is that he’s finally become a mainstream fixture. Fittingly, he flosses a little more this time around. Check the luxury-obsessed “Let It Out,” where he rides Ron Browz’s acoustic guitar and frantic percussion, contrasting the good life with low-income living. Then he sponsors shopping sprees and world tours for a special lady on the summery, two-step-ready “Blow the Bank,” while crooner Oshy supplies the smooth hook.

Behind all the ballin’, though, lies paranoia. The husky-voiced rapper is at his most cynical on “This Is the Life,” rhyming over sparkly keys and teeth-shattering bass lines, “Gotta watch my brothers, ’cause Cain can turn on Abel/Gotta watch the money, ’cause the fame can turn fatal,” before concluding, “All I need in this world of sin/Is just me and the pearl twin.” The origins of Jim’s mistrust become more lucid with the rock-infused “Frenimies,” where he dwells on a thick-and-thin friendship turned foul (Cam’ron, anyone?), before verbally spanking ex-prodigy Max B. (“I bought you out of jail/Without me, you’d be facing an appeal/But who knew this/You would be Judas?”). Jimmy’s actually at his best when he ditches “bling-bling” and “blam-blam” rhymes for truly transparent thoughts. The mournful “My My My” gleams especially, as he looks to the sky to salute slain comrade Stack Bundles over piano sprinkles. Elsewhere, Jim dedicates the introspective title track to Capo Jr., discussing futile attempts to shield his son from the thug life.

Passionate flow can take an artist but so far. Jimmy winds up playing lyrical lackey to Ludacris’s brash flow on “How to Be a Boss,” while Juelz Santana easily outswags Jones on the go-go-influenced “Girlfriend.” Meanwhile, the sexual-healing ode “Medicine” proves to be the wrong prescription, as Jim, Noe and Chink Santana run a train on a knockoff “Jigga What, Jigga Who” backdrop, in double time, with lame results. Fortunately, Jones manages to rise to the occasion with the surprisingly smooth “Precious,” where he serenades over producer Ryan Leslie’s jazzy bass strings and nifty drumsticks. With even more adventurous choices and evident spurts of maturity, Jim displays the chops to maintain his status as a compelling hip-hop figure. If he keeps this up, his reign on the top won’t be short like leprechauns. —JOHN KENNEDY

  • Pierzy

    Ugh

  • yoprince

    XL?? yea right.. we’ll see..

    nanana and blow the bank are pretty subpar… and the pray 4 reign track was mehhhh…

  • Avenger XL

    Dude this review is the worst I have seen on line. How much did Jimmy pay for this? I would have let you slide on charisma and production had you gave it a L (But I still would have suspected payola). But a XL is just not possible unless all of the other songs he hasn’t released to the internets are brilliant(which I would bet my life they are not).

    And the XXL moves closer to the sauce. Get real there is no way in hell Jim Jones diserves a XL unless you are a dipset stan and that swag ain’t the same without cam.

    • twoholla

      i agree with AVENGER XL…this magazine has definitely been CO-SIGNING jim jones for awhile now…not to mention they even gave that byrdgang LP. a ‘XL’ MUSIC REVIEW SO I LISTENED TO BYRDGANG FOR THAT SOLE REASON…AND THE LP, ITSELF, WAS VERY PREDICTABLE, BORING, & DEFININTELY NOT A ‘XL!’

    • Streetlife

      your mum……

  • Devon

    Man fuck jim jones when I Catch this nigga he gon fly high on my Dick Ya heard East coast

    • RDS

      I’ve seen a lot of your comments with similar themes and I just gotta ask…are you gay? Not that I care if you are or not, but seriously, if you look at your comments in the past, it’s easy to draw to that conclusion.

      Oh, and this album is garbage. The production is decent though. R. Les is that next producer for mainstream to watch for (after the Cassie tracks and shit he did for everybody else).

  • MR. UNDI$PUTED THE MOGUL

    SHAME ON XXL FOR CO-SIGNING THIS BULLSHIT. COUNTLESS DOPE REAL HIP HOP ALBUM’S HAVE DROPPED THAT YOU’VE GIVEN WORSE RATINGS TO. WHAT IS JENNY JONES KNOWN FOR?? DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO TRY & STAY RELEVANT, FAKE BEEF’S, YOU NAME IT HE’S DONE IT. DIDN’T YOU GUYS GIVE THAT BYRDGANG CD AN XL TOO? WHAT ARE YOU GUYS ON HIS PAYROLL OR WHAT?!! THIS IS THE SAME GUY WHO HAS DISSED BOTH JAY-Z & NAS & HASN’T ACCOMPOLISHED 1/10TH THE SUCCESS OR HAS THE RESPECT THEY HAVE. NAS WAS OUT HELP LEAD A PROTEST AGAINST FOX & JIM SAYS KNOW ONE LISTENS TO NAS, YET THEY BOTH RELEASED CD’S WITHIN WEEKS OF EACH OTHER & NAS SELLS 250,000 & JIM’S BG CD SELLS 17,000. IF WE DON’T WANT HIP HOP TO DIE, LET’S GET BACK TO PROMOTING GOOD MUSIC, NOT MANUFACTURED HYPE & BULL. THE TRUE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS… HE CAN SMEAR MAX-B ALL HE WANTS BUT HIS MUSIC HASN’T BEEN THE SAME SINCE MAX STOPPED WRITING 4 HIS WACK ASS!!! PS – THE POP CHAMPAGNE RECORD WAS/IS RON BROWZ’ SONG, JENNY LICENSED IT TO BUILD HYPE FOR HIS CD. YOUR A REPUTABLE MAG YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS SHIT!

    PEACE & GET MONEY!!!!
    MOGUL $$$ GAME ’09!!!

  • http://www.myspace.com/fastlifearchitects miles archer

    I actually like some of the shit homie does, but a XL??? Really??? C’mon man.
    Is “POP CHAPMAGNE” on there, cause that bullshit automatically takes this shit down to a L.

    Can’t front on the album cover though. That shit is fly.

    myspace.com/fastlifearchitects
    miles archer

  • http://xxlag.com the brown

    Yo! ffFUCK Jones!

    • StreetLife

      Your Mum Too broke ass nigga…..

  • 2hard2fair

    Jim Jones is a disgrace to all gays,fuck that faggot ass bitch.

  • dark vanilla

    Did this guy really just give Jim Jones an XL? Jones is the worst artist hands down on Dipset. Is XXL seriously sucking Jones’ dick? No flow, no lyrics, and had probably one song in his whole career that I liked (Certified Gangstas, but that was mostly cuz Game saved his ass big time on that track, cuz Jones and Cam’ron botched up the remake of Boyz in da Hood). I’m sick of reading reviews on XXL. They know nothing about real music.

  • http://xxlmag.com Ben

    XXL lost all credibility. XL seroius, get the fuck ouuta here. He is not a hitmaker, no, never. This dude is not popular, maybe Harlem thats it. Crime Pays May 5th.

  • http://www.uptownempire.com Trouble

    This is a album review, not a review on Jim Jones. The album is hot from what I heard of it. I personally dont like Jim Jones but he has been putting out good albums, so u gotta respect it.

    “Hustlers P.O.M.E” was dope as hell, so was “Harlem Diary of a Summer” dude is actually developing as a rapper.

  • corlione39

    IZ U KIDDN ME BRUH N XL!!! NICCAH HUNGRY ON THA STREET HUSTLN WIT NO BUDGET IZ WAY BETTER THAN THIZZ FAGGO XCUZE ME I MEANT CAPO!!! HAHAHA WTF IZ U SMOKIN ON U MUZT BE A HOMIE OR HE PAID U FATT OR PUT A 9 2 UR DOME 2 POZT THIZZ RATIN!!! BITCH ASSNESS!!!

  • ajack324

    so….youre gonna tell me Cham’s Ultimate Victory is an L…and this shit is XL? I’m almost embarrassed to say I subscribe to this magazine monthly. Honestly, the person who did this review should be suspended for a year…and I honestly believe Jimmy Jones is one of the worst artists in the game..I respect his hustle and grind, but I feel like his music is so bad..

  • Kyser Soze

    LMAO! YA RIGHT! The writer must be on Jim Jones’s payroll. The nigga cant even rap! But I REALLY HATE the shine Jim’s getting. He dont deserve it. Cam is the leader of Dip Set. PERIOD! If Cam starts a war with G-Unit, then its on. But Jim & Juelz being scared of 50 like that! LOL Joining him on stage?! I know 50′s game of divide & conquer, but even 50 must be shocked at the way Jim & Juelz sold out Killa. I’ll never support any Diplomats again except Cam. Maybe Hell Rell & 40 Cal.

  • stuckfresh

    Devon sound a little Homo!

  • $ykotic

    Question:

    Did anybody commenting actually hear the album?

    I’m just gonna wait until I hear more.

    • http://hiphoponmymind.blogspot.com DJ Daddy Mack

      SMART PERSON. PEOPLE ARE JUDGING SOMETHING THEY NEVER HEARD.

      • Avenger XL

        Unfortunatly yes and I want my time back. I may have to sue Jim Jones for that because I know Dame Dash is kinda broke these days homie.

        By the way only the production is solid on this piece. Jones should consider not rapping the whole swagg over skill thing worked on Ballin and a couple of ther joints but when your skill is this low it is hard to carry whole projects. So for XXL to give this Album a XL but give better skilled rappers L smells of payola. Dude don’t even have a radio or ring tone hit if you want to judge him from that angel so give me one reason this deserves a XL? That is one X away from classic in their ratting system that is a huge claim.

  • NAWLEDGE

    Hey $kyotic, I heard the album. At BEST, its an L.

  • http://www.msn.com west philly’s finest

    It be funny as shit if this got rated higher than Cam’s new cd

  • gkid12345

    Wow,lets see how this plays out. A lot of these people are hypin it like jimmy bringin a classic. I wont comment till after i hear it.

  • Mpho

    LOL, only this nigga that reviewed this shit and 1 other jig posting agree that this is worth XXL.. lol

  • Mpho

    XL, Pardon Me

  • StreetLife

    What a bunch of broke ass haters you should all be ashamed of yourself. Your all the reason why I carry my 9 when I leave my crib

    Jim keep doing your thing real niggaz have got ya back

    We are going to keep tha champagne flowing and the money coming in

    You just mad because your broke out here when real niggaz are trying to live lavish out here

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