CVLT Nation’s only been publishing a top hip-hop list for three years, but Sean and I both have been fans of the genre for decades. When I met Sean in New York in 2006, Dipset still ruled over NYC, and Jim Jones’s single “We Fly High” was about to be playing everywhere in the city. But neither of us foresaw the trajectory of his career. Okay, I can still hear “Ballin'” in my head decades later; and yeah, I watched Love & Hip Hop religiously; but until he released El Capo in 2019, I thought that adlib and his relationship with Chrissy were going to be the things I remembered him by. That album changed my mind about him because his growth was obvious, and it made our first top hip hop list in 2019. El Capo brought a more mature Jim to the table, and honestly, his lyricism took me by surprise. Songs like “NYC” and “My Era” are classics that will stay with me for another couple of decades at least.
Last year, he put out The Fraud Department with Harry Fraud, and we put it on our top hip hop releases for 2021. Again, there was clear growth, even from El Capo. His themes showed his maturity and life experience, and his lyricism was even better. The Fraud Department felt like an ode to America’s real history and to everyone who’d grown up in the streets of NYC. It was a powerful mix of history, nostalgia, social justice, and lessons for future generations. I can’t really pick a favorite song off this album because all of them speak to me in different ways. We’ve got a whole react video for this album, check it out here (we put a pause on these but they’ll be back…).
So I was not expecting another release from Jim Jones so soon. And when Sean sent me the link to Jim Jones X DJ Drama’s new mixtape Gangsta Grillz: We Set the Trends, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting a release that was so damn good right off the jump. Maybe I should have been, considering the way his last two records hit me. But this massive 25-song mixtape is probably my favorite thing I’ve heard from Jones. It has Harlem soul, ominous Brooklyn drill beats, and thumping Memphis beats and it all comes together into a record that I can’t stop listening to. There are so many artists on this record that I need to dig deeper into, and I salute Jim for bringing different generations together to make something beautiful together. He shines on every single track, but he doesn’t take the shine away from anyone else—instead, you can feel him uplifting and showcasing the artists that he admires. I’m not going to single out any songs on here, even though I have my favorites, because the whole thing is fire. The mixtape came out last week via VLrecords and EMPIRE — you can hear it on these streaming platforms. Now all I need is a vinyl release…
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