01-02/mike_jones/main.jpgMike Jones is due to perform his new single “Flossin’” live before a nationwide audience in mere minutes, but right now he’s sitting slumped on the floor in the greenroom of a Los Angeles television studio with his head in his hands. Standing over him are three men in black, licking their lips, shifting from one foot to the other as they try to figure out how to ingratiate themselves to a 25-year-old rapper who’s done something they admire greatly—establish a brand identity worth millions.

Yes, these MIBs—representatives from one of Hollywood’s most powerful talent agencies—all want a piece of Mike Jones. They probably don’t know the difference between candy paint and candied yams, but the fact that Jones has turned his own common and regular-sounding name into a trademark catchphrase makes them salivate. They’re not the only ones; the next 24 hours will witness a proverbial deluge of outside interest flooding the rarified territory of one of today’s hottest rappers. All because Mike Jones, in the space of one year, has gone from being “major without a major deal” (as the Swishahouse slogan used to go) to being a major deal unto himself—a man with a Reebok shoe contract, a show mooted at MTV, his own Ice Age Entertainment label and, most enticing of all, a major motion picture in the works.

“Do you like sports?” ventures one of the pasty-faced agents.

Mike stares past the MIB’s kneecaps before finally responding, “Basketball is my first love.”

“Well,” says the agent, perking up, “we’ve got a whole bunch of basketball scripts on option!”

01-02/mike_jones/1.jpgAs the agent rabbits on about how one of these projects might be a good fit, Mike looks up and asks him, “Hey, man, where’d you get that suit?”
The agent takes the bait and begins detailing the origin of his tailor-made pinstripe garment. The other agents chime in to compare clothes, as Mike Jones, a small private grin on his face, gets up from the floor and heads for the door.

The suits, the streets and TRL types alike have caught a Mike Jones jones this year; and the Houston MC’s been there with the fix. Besides his ubiquitous mixtape-to-mainstream smash “Still Tippn’,” and its follow-up “Back Then,” Mike’s numerous 2005 high points include hi-pro collabos like “Badd” with the Ying Yang Twins; “Joy,” the Timbaland track Missy Elliott chose to lead off her album The Cookbook; and the underground heater “Show Your Tattoos” with Houston’s own Tow Down. Mike’s only misstep (depending on how you feel about two grown men making a song called “Naked”) was his verse on the remix of Marques Houston’s fluffy slow jam. Of course, then there are the million–plus of you who own Who Is Mike Jones? the album.

Despite, or perhaps because of all this success, Mike projects an intriguing combination of genuine self-effacement (“Me going platinum is a shock... I always prayed for this, but a lot of stuff I’m like, ‘Who, me?’”) and defiant pride (“Lot of people didn’t believe Mike Jones could do what he did—I done it!”), all the while retaining a friendly, down-to-earth charm. When asked about his recent experience on the road on 50 Cent’s Massacre Tour, he singles out the stop in Buffalo—not because of the show, but for being the birthplace of his favorite finger food: “I was like, ‘Damn! This is where they actually make buffalo wings!’”