I’m Grown Folks. I can go (1,2) waaaaayyyy back in this town. So, while I appreciate a good new release, I tend to listen to Grown Folks Music more often than not. One of my favorite songs by Grown Folks Artist Al Jarreau starts with these words:
Billy Jones is a mover
and he has a million plans.
Wants to be the big improver;
wants to be a wealthy man.
There are days when Billy loses hope,
days when hope loses him.
He prays he can just hold out
and one day he will win.
– from “Wait For The Magic” off Jarreau’s Tenderness album
One of my favorite Grown Folks Straight From The A is MrJonz. Who is MrJonz you ask? He’s an Atlanta music producer who’s worked with artists from DJ Kizzy Rock to Jamie Foxx and most recently Flo-Rida. You may not have heard his name but I’m sure you’ve heard his music.
Me and MrJonz had a little conversation the other day about his roots, his wings and his Atlanta. Check out your weekly Atlanta history lesson in the transcript below:
Ms. A: A few days after the election, I got the most moving email from you about your grandmother (Ella Mae Brayboy). Talk a little about who she was to you, ATL and the world.
**Sidebar: The Ella Mae Wade Brayboy Papers are housed at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta. This exciting collection gives but a mere glimpse into her political and community involvement from 1935 to 1994. **
MrJonz: Hmmm…wow…where do I begin? My grandmother (who’s 90 years old now) was a pioneer and a serious “she-ro” in her community and eventually the city. She was very instrumental in helping a lot of (African-Americans) in Atlanta to register to vote. She strongly believed in the power of the ballot. Even though she’s still alive, unfortunately, she’s mentally unaware that we have a black president now.
Ms. A: But that must have been such a validation to you and your family to see that her hard work, a woman who didn’t make it into the history books for her efforts, did make so much of a difference.
MrJonz: Oh my God…you have no idea what a stamp of validation that was to her cause AS WELL AS to my family. Her generation and my mother’s generation, in my opinion, are the last of a dying breed. Unfortunately, OUR generation and seemingly our children’s generation is all about SELF-PRESERVATION…not really expressing concern about the ENTIRE people…”Just lemme get mine’s and I’m out!” mentality, y’know? However, this past election should show us (along with the world) what type of power we have COLLECTIVELY as a people…it’s not a cliche…we really CAN make a difference once we are focused on the same objective. We CAN make the impossible possible once we work TOGETHER. That’s what I believe my grandmother’s objective was…taking charge of our future one community at a time.
Ms. A: I think one of the factors that has led to this situation was there was a bit of a disconnect in terms of the passing of information from our parents’ generations to Gen X. When doors opened (previously closed due to segregation), many of us were conditioned to believe that gimmee, gimmee, gimmee was ok (because there was very little gimme in the past for African-Americans). But, those who sat with the older folk, sat at their knee so to speak, didn’t quite pick that up.
Like you. It’s always been obvious to me that you felt a personal responsibility to the community as a result (of) what she instilled. How has that inspired you being in the very competitive music business – your choices and your message?
MrJonz: Hmmmm…Of course, the music biz is CORRODED with the “gimme gimme” folks. With me, it’s like playing chess. I’m VERY careful about who I associate with daily. I also pride myself in establishing GOOD relationships with GOOD people in the biz….they’re there. Have I worked with some knuckleheads? Most def(initely)!!! But I believe that God has guided me in the decisions that I’ve made, and I can proudly say that I don’t have an “I’ve been taken advantage of” story to tell, because it hasn’t happened. I’m very careful about what type of music I’m able to put out.
MrJonz & Slim (of 112)
As far as my PERSONAL music, I can definitely control that. But with a lot of the other artists, it’s been a pretty good run. Ludacris…good person (and someone that I can truly call “friend”). Ciara…good person. Mr. Collipark…good person. Big Oomp…good person. DJ Montay…good person. CeeLo…good person.
Ms. A: That’s one of the things I’m hearing repeatedly from ATL artists – that there’s a way to do the business without it doing you and the common factor that binds you all is having been raised with a southern sense of values and hospitality…a Golden Rule Lifestyle, if you will.
MrJonz: I agree with that, and I think that once people get to know you, they see that in you as well and begin to trust you.
Before I began doing this full time and I was aspiring to……I remember for a while Mr. Collipark was the only cat that would call me in for sessions. Of course, I knew that he believed in my ability, but it was my character that sold him. That goes a long way….I’ll FOREVER love him for that.
When Luda’s father passed 2 weeks after he won the Grammy for the album I worked on with him, he could’ve called ANYONE, but he called me and asked me to play at his dad’s funeral. That meant more to me than the Grammy.
Ms. A: Wooowwwww! That Luda comment was phenomenal. Says so much about the bond of ATL artists.
Ok, back to the memories. Favorite childhood ATL memory?
MrJonz: I can’t say that I have just ONE per se’ that sticks out……school dances….prom…….graduation……I guess one fond HS memory is the bond of our band….AND majorettes! We were like, “Yeah, we’re small, but we’re still gonna rep our school and do our best to bring it!!”
Ms.A: Them majorettes was fierce, huh?
Clark College became CAU (Clark Atlanta University) in your sophomore year? What’s your favorite AUC (Atlanta University Center) college memory being on that nationally award-winning Phi Beta Sigma step team and all?
MrJonz: Probably being a part of a national champion step team. It was cool, ‘cuz before I pledged, the Sigmas weren’t really hittin’. I’d like to think that I was part of the upswing of Phi Beta Sigma on our campus. I won’t be as bold to say that we ran the yard (every frat had their day in the sun), but everyone TOOK NOTICE whenever we did anything on campus. We weren’t just another frat; we were stiff competition!!!
Also attending college during the time “A Different World” was hot. I was on line during the time that “School Daze” was out….(sigh)…THAT was a special time. I’m SOOOOO glad I went to college during the time that I did.
Ms. A: Talk a little about your Grammy and the much anticipated Flo Rida project. I saw his wrapped bus and van yesterday. Looks like big things.
MrJonz: I can’t remember exactly what I was doing when the Grammys was on. I think I was at a rehearsal or something (but I taped it). I remember getting a call from my friend Tammi (one of the singers I got to work with me on the Luda record) calling me screaming, “HE GOT IT!!! HE GOT IT!!!” I didn’t know WHAT the heck she was talking about. Then I got a FLOOD of text messages congratulating me. I was like, “Are you kidding me?”
When I got home, I just watched that part of the Grammys (Best Rap Album presentation) OVER and OVER again. I was like wow…from now on I can say “MrJonz” and “Grammy” in the same sentence. I helped Ludacris win a Grammy!!! The song I produced is called “Freedom Of Preach.” It’s the last song AND the longest song on the album and it features Bishop Eddie Long.
“Freedom of Preach” Ft. Bishop Eddie Long
Ms. A: Flo Rida. Your involvement with that project is………
MrJonz: co-producer of his next single “Sugar”. It actually hit iTunes and the airwaves March 17th. Atlantic Records is REAL excited about this record. They think it’s gonna be bigger than “Low” and “Right Round” so this may be the one that’s really gonna push me out there.
Sugar ~ Flo-Rida ft. Wynter Gordon
Ms. A: And we are definitely gonna encourage all of our readers to support. SFTA is all about repping artists SFTA. (CLICK HERE to read more about “Sugar” on Billboard)
Ms. A: Last question……..one word answer. Back in the day in the A was……..?
Ms. A: Thank you so much for your time this morning. We’re gonna push “Sugar” and hope it turns out sweet fa ya!
**O.S.A.M. is a weekly feature on StraightFromTheA.com. We will be turning back the clock each Friday to reminisce about Old School ATL. Hit us up at [email protected] to share your favorite Old School Atlanta Memory. **