After 20 Years in Hip-Hop, Jim Jones Is Still Setting Trends
Photo: FleeFlicks

After 20 Years in Hip-Hop, Jim Jones Is Still Setting Trends

Dipset's iron man spills on his greatest life lessons

Over more than two decades in the spotlight, Jim Jones has been around the world and back—from Dallas to Dubai, Paris to Providence. Fitting for a Diplomat. Yet the Harlem-born rap star has recently ventured into a new frontier, one that can’t be pinpointed on a map, in a damn atlas, or on a globe.

Capo has entered the metaverse.

The video for Jones’ Migos collaboration “We Set the Trends” broke new ground, living up to its name by diving headfirst into the luminous, immersive, wonderfully weird world of Web 3.0. The EddieVisual and Yasha Gruben-directed visual debuted exclusively on metaverse platform Decentraland earlier this month and incorporates the work of popular NFT artists such as Bored Ape Yacht Club animator Idrawanimation and Robert Gallardo, A$AP Rocky’s former creative director. The result: the year’s most mind-blowing music video yet. (Sorry K-Dot.)

“I’m probably one of the first few people to ever mention NFTs on a commercial platform,” says Jones, 45, who became the first mainstream rapper to sell an NFT when he unloaded his VampLife chain for 2.755 ETH last year. He’s been intrigued by the ownership opportunities afforded by the blockchain since 2019, just before the start of the pandemic. Executives at Jones’ record label nudged him in the direction of going full meta for the video. “There’s so many people from the real world who live in them spaces.”

From the very beginning, Jones has been enamored with the unconventional. His first commercial rap appearance, on Cam’ron’s 1998 album Confessions of Fire, featured the hypeman-turned-soloist rhyming alongside Cam and Cam’s mother. The multihyphenate has been innovating ever since, dabbling in fashion, sparking a reality-TV phenomenon (Love & Hip-Hop), all while continuing to sharpen his MC game with more than 20 music projects under his belt (including The Lobby Boyz, his new collaborative album with Maino).

To what does Jim Jones owe such a sturdy track record? “Prayer,” he says with a chuckle. “And a lot of luck.”

In a sitdown with LEVEL, the one and only Capo evaluates his life and career, homing in on lessons he's picked up along the way, from becoming a man to raising one of his own. —As told to Peter A. Berry

Since I was a youngster, I always wanted to do something dope. I always had attitude, a personality. I always stood out, from a baby boy.

I aspired to be an actor. I had a few breakout moments where I felt like I may have figured it out. But it wasn't extremely serious. It was more just being young and falling into whatever direction of entertainment at the time.

I’ve never rap battled. I’ve partaken in some cyphers, but I don’t got thick skin like that to have somebody talk about me in their music. I don't think it's gonna go the way they want to [laughs].

It’s scary to think about if Instagram [existed] when I was 20. We were doing things that definitely shouldn’t have been on Instagram.

I am the Kardashians of reality TV, when it comes Black people. I opened up that lane for Black people to make money off reality television. I broke VH1 open.

A lot of the career moves I make are unexpected. I was never a follower; I was born to be a leader.

I don’t see too many hustles that I’m scared of doing. The hustling came from Harlem. The rap game just enhanced my hustle.

I’ve been into fitness since high school. Coming up in Harlem—people coming home from school, coming home from jail, teaching how to do pull-ups. All that type of shit. In these past 10 years, I've really been at the top tier of fitness.

I've learned a lot about the body. It's a different mission for me as I get older. You gotta learn to do different things, avoid injuries. I work out so I can eat what I would like to eat. But I try to not go overboard.

Water and watermelon. If you drink [alcohol] a lot, those things will help you.

I raised three of my sisters. But the feeling of having to take care of somebody until they become grown so they can walk on their own is a great feeling. I kind of knew what I needed to do: Make sure I was there for him and that I could provide.

I’m more scared for my son now than when I was coming up. He's getting ready to leave the house, do things on his own. It’s a crazy world out there. But I gotta let him live. Experience things for himself. Become who he’s going to become. But I’m here for him.

I have to let go—that's one of the scariest things about being a parent.

There's no way to be perfect at life. That's why I don't give people too much advice. Live life. It’s gon’ figure itself out.

I’m right where I need to be right now. Mistakes and all.