The Start of an 'Evolution'
By Jennifer E. Jones
Label limbo. It describes the place that the members of 4th Avenue Jones found themselves in 2002. They had a record deal with Interscope Records, the current home of U2, Eminem, and the legendary Tupac Shakur. It seemed like a dream come true to be discovered by a major mainstream record company. Frontman Ahmad Jones had seen success as a solo rap artist in the mid-‘90s with “Back in the Day”. He was ready for the big time again.
And then it happened…. Label limbo. Ahmad prefers to call it “drama”.
“The guy who signed us left to head up Warner Bros.,” Ahmad told CBNmusic. “When he did, the bottom fell out from under us because he was our champion at the label. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Ahmad, his wife Tena, Timmy Shakes, Gailybird, “Phat” Albert, and “Dee” kept their faith in God that Romans 8:28 would prevail.
“It turned into a blessing because we were able to find our voice in that struggle,” Ahmad says.
He admits that 4th Avenue Jones wasn’t being true to themselves musically during their time with Interscope. “Major labels have a way of wanting you to be the way they want you to be and giving you the money to do that. When we didn’t have that parachute, we were like, ‘If we’re gonna have people drop us, at least let them drop us doing it our way.’”
Ahmad said, “Never again” and became even more determined to maintain artistic control. The declaration of independence was the beginning of Stereo, the album and joint venture between his label, Lookalive Records, and Gotee Records.
“It was a good thing for us because we have complete control, and we have EMI distribution, which is major,” Ahmad says. “Plus, I love Joey [Elwood, Gotee co-founder and President with tobyMac]. He really believes in the band… Sometimes they believe more than we do.”
So how did Ahmad and Tena convince four other unique artists to jump on board this crazy train? “He didn’t really have to convince me,” violinist Gailybird says. “I just enjoy performing and the camaraderie with my bandmates. Sometimes I forget that it’s such a big deal to people. I’m just having fun.”
The fun is catching on. The reviews for Stereo are overwhelmingly positive with critics already calling it one of the best albums of 2005. 4th Avenue Jones believes their future is even bigger than what they can do right now.
“I don’t let it get to my head,” says drummer Derrick “Dee” Calloway. “People say, ‘You’re great.’ I say, ‘Man, I still got a lot of work to do.’”
Ahmad concurs, “People are clapping for where we’re at, and we’re still looking forward to what we want to be.”
The re-entrance of 4th Avenue Jones’s brand of fusion funk could not come at a better time. The genres are slowly blending with the collaborations of Jay-Z and Linkin Park as well as the hit “Over and Over” by rap artist Nelly and country star Tim McGraw. Is it the future of music?
Ahmad believes so. He says, “God revealed it to us a while back. Instead of trying to do what’s popular at the moment, why don’t you reach to be what’s next? We’re a little ahead of the curve so it’s hard for some folks to swallow. But I’d rather be ahead of the curve than behind the 8-ball.”
The band took their curve on the road this summer. They toured through the summer music festivals as well as across the pond to Europe. No doubt, somewhere right now, 4th Avenue Jones is blasting their Stereo for the world to hear.
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