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Mike Jones 

Who Is Mike Jones? (Swisahouse/Asylum)

To say Houston artist Mike Jones is a better promoter than rapper is like saying Bo Jackson was better at football than baseball. It's not that Bo didn't know baseball; he just knew football much better. Jones' laid-back flow and knack for riding any beat eased his quick rise to the top of the competitive Texas rap game, but more important than his mic skill was his relentless promotion. Jones made himself known and accessible, peppering his rhymes with his phone number and making his name into a memorable catch phrase. On the strength of mixtape sales and a huge local hit ("Still Tippin'" with Slim Thug and Paul Wall), he hustled his way into a lucrative Warner Brothers distribution deal for his album. With "Still Tippin'" doing well with national exposure, Mike Jones could be blowing up in a big way. Unfortunately, with an album as sleepy as Who Is Mike Jones? in stores, he might want to stop saying his name so much.

Like many rappers who came up on mixtapes, Mike Jones struggles to carry an entire song himself. "Know What I'm Sayin'" with Bun B and Lil' Keke and "Still Tippin" are the strongest tracks on the album mostly because his guests kill their respective verses. Paul Wall shows up Mike Jones twice, on "Still Tippin" and "What Ya Know About."

Solo tracks like "Back Then" and "Turning Lane" could hit as individual songs or on a compilation, but they sound wasted and out of place taking a backseat on Who. Mike Jones did not get where he is today on hustle alone, and this album, boring and unfocused as it is, leaves no question that dude can actually flow. Even if Who may not take Jones to the next level, he obviously has the drive to overcome a weak debut. The question is no longer "who," but rather "when."

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More by Andrew Friedman

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