PONTOTOC – Can a country boy from Pontotoc make it big out West in the world of hip-hop?
For one “judge,” the answer is a definite, “Yes!”
Damon Jones was born July 26, 1982, and Clark Street was his childhood home. His alter-ego and professional alias, “Judge Jones,” was born when this small-town boy discovered the music world of hip-hop.
It was a road he never expected to travel when he left Pontotoc.
After graduating Pontotoc High School in 2000 at the age of 18, Jones joined the United States Air Force, and was stationed in Phoenix, Ariz. At that time, he says, he learned his passion for music and began performing in the Phoenix area. After his stint in the military, Jones came back home even though his career seemed to be just taking off.
“It just seems like I had left so much on the West Coast,” he said. “We had the whole city of Phoenix on fire! Shows would stay packed.”
After about eight months, the pull of the music he loved was just too much to resist and he met someone who told him about the hip-hop scene in Boise, Idaho.
All he knew about the town came from watching the Boise State Broncos college football team play on a blue-turf field on TV. But it didn’t take long for Jones to learn that there was more to Boise than blue turf.
Only hours after arriving in Boise, he linked up with local producers using the Internet.
Two months later, after checking out the downtown nightlife in Boise, Jones decided to make his move.
“I had bought a computer, a mic and some recording software. And I would record my own music and mix it myself so I could have easy access to it any time of the day.”
His first song, “I’m So Boise,” related to the town and the young crowd who enjoyed the nightlife.
“It’s a simple and catchy song, its no Jay-Z or NAS-type of song, it’s just catchy,” he said.
About two weeks after Jones uploaded his new song to his MySpace page, a local radio DJ took notice.
“I got an e-mail from this DJ on a major station here in the city and he said, ‘Hey, I like that song, do you mind if I put it on my Hate it or Love it show?’ I said no problem!” Jones recalled with excitement.
After his song hit the local radio waves, the calls started pouring in to the radio station with great reviews. “One girl was like, ‘OMG! can I get that in my Ipod?’ … I know it’s simple but it felt great and I knew I had something here,” Jones said.
The next morning, when he checked his Myspace page, Jones was delighted to see he had clocked more than 400 hits in one day. “When you are used to getting 20 or 30 a day, that’s a lot!”
After days of reaching as high as 1,000 plays in one day, Jones made a smart move.
“I set up a ringtone on my page for 99 cents, then linked it to my bank account so when people uploaded my ringtone I would get paid. I got 85 cents for every ringtone.”
To date, Judge Jones’ debut tune has sold more than 4,000 ringtones, plus 800 singles after he posted the whole song to be downloaded.
“I have the most ringtones sold in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon,” Jones said, according to Myxer.
Since then, Judge Jones has opened up for some major acts, such as 8Ball and MJG, Mike Jones and others.
And, although, his career has just gotten started, the country-born hip-hop artist sees no limits in his future – as long, he said, as he doesn’t forget where he came from.
“First, I wanna give thanks to God,” he said, “because I’m just some guy from Pontotoc trying to chase a dream and this experience has really shown me I can do it.”
Brenda Owens/Pontotoc Progress