Little Rock, Arkansas, native SL Jones didn't start out wanting to rap, but moving to Atlanta and hanging around acts like Outkast and Killer Mike can provide plenty of inspiration.
"I started out as a graphic artist, so I love to draw, and then I went to Atlanta with a passion for drawing, and when I got there, I found my passion for music," Jones told Mixtape Daily.
After making the move three years ago, SL began recording music that found its way into the hands of Killer Mike, thanks to a studio engineer who worked at Outkast's Stankonia Studios in ATL. Mike took Jones under his wing and added him to his Grind Time crew, a collective that also includes Maybach Music Group's Pill. The first order of business for Jones was to drop his 2008 debut mixtape, C.O.L.O.R.S.
"C.O.L.O.R.S was just me wanting to exist," he said. "I remember that year in particular, Weezy had emerged, and he was just killing everything, and I was like, 'Maaaan.' I know I'm just as good as anybody out here, but how could people take you seriously if you don't have one project out?"
Still, for a young spitter, hanging around more established acts can skew one's perspective. Though he was hardly established, Jones was experiencing things that most rap rookies don't get a chance to. It was important for him not to get caught in the hype.
"I'm in the studio, I'm around everybody. I'm around Outkast, Killer Mike. He done took me on tour with him, I done been around the country twice," SL said. "At what point do you just go back to ground zero and say, 'I gotta work for mines.' Everything I've experienced is someone else's experience."
On his latest mixtape, The Number 23 — which serves as a nod to his native 23rd and Wolfe streets in Little Rock — SL hooked up with tape host and producer DJ Don Cannon and continued to carve out his identity.
"That meant a whole lot, because Don watched me grind," he said. "It wasn't like I came out of nowhere and just came with a check like, 'Hey, Don, do this for me.' "
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