For more than a decade, rappers trying their hand in the acting game has been a recurring theme in hip-hop. Never like this, though.
During a two night only performance that went down on November 12 and 13, Dipset capo Jim Jones took to the stage, not for a concert, but to star in his new musical. The show, entitled “Hip-Hop Monologues: Inside the Mind of Jim Jones,” took the audience on a journey through the Harlem rapper’s life by using music from his upcoming album, Pray IV Reign, as a guide.
37 Arts, where the show went down, was packed to the brim with all of the roughly 300 seats filled, forcing some, including Jimmy’s Dipset brethren Juelz Santana, to stand on the walls just to get their view. Other noteworthy onlookers included Freaky Zeeky, Ryan Leslie, Busta Rhymes, and Damon Dash, who also produced the show.
“It was either going to be great, or it was going to flop,” director J Kyle Manzay told XXLMag.com, referencing the fact that there were only three weeks of rehearsals. “And I was so glad that it was a success, because there was a very thin line between it being great and it being a total disaster. I’m really happy about that.”
The play briefly shows Jones as a youngster getting advice from his parents on how to make it in a dog-eat-dog world, but quickly shifts to his adult years. After getting into trouble with the law (again), the star is given a choice by the judge: either go to jail or complete a list of goodwill acts, including attending a Sex Addicts Anonymous class, speaking positively to children in a classroom setting, and respecting women.
The audience joins him as he undertakes these tasks while tying in performances of new tracks with a live band which, in any other setting, would have brought the crowd to their feet. Not on this night, though; the play was in a theater, after all.
In the end, Jimmy seems to learn his lesson, thanks in large part to the news that he has a kid on the way. Of course, he couldn’t totally change—not that we wanted him to—something best evidenced in his attempt to apologize for his rampant misogyny. After reading a heartfelt letter detailing his plans to get to know the unique beauty of women, Jones broke into “This is for My Bitches,” much to the crowd’s delight. Undoubtedly, it was during these comedic parts of the play where he seemed most comfortable and consequently was at his finest.
“I was having a lot, a lot of fun tonight, so that’s the difference from last night,” said Jones, reflecting on his performances. “Last night I was trying to make sure that I had all my stuff together, but on this night, everything flowed. Last night, I was very emotional—I was crying and things. Overall, I really had fun. I’m not used to this; this is new for me.”
After taking a brief leave of absence to pursue other endeavors, Dash has thrown his hat back in the music industry and taken Jones under his wing as his main focus. “I thought it went well,” said the entrepreneur and Roc-A-Fella records co-founder. “We wanted exactly this: to get as much exposure as possible, to execute a good product, and to build Jim as a brand. And to redefine the perception and attack hip-hop and sell records in a different way.” Mission accomplished. -Adam Fleischer