Ahmad Jones has been pursuing the Joneses since he landed his first record deal at age 17. In 1994, he waxed nostalgic on the million-selling record Back in the Day, and his self-titled LP introduced a welcomed alternative to Dr. Dre and his ilk. Shortly thereafter, the L.A.MC separated with the now-defunct Giant Records to create his own independent label, Look Alive.
“A lot of [record labels] just do things politically and jump on bandwagons,” says Ahmad. “You generally think that if somebody is working at a record company, they might know something about making records. It just wasn't the case, and I just decided to do it myself and try the independent route.”
His new outfit, 4th Ave. Jones, is a seven-piece organic orchestra, reminiscent of The Roots-that is, if Kamal played the fiddle instead of the keys, and Scratch wore a dress and sang. Sound like a stretch? Well, it is-and eclectic music fans are now the beneficiaries of what Ahmad calls “hip-rock-soul.”
Vocalists Ahmad, wife Tena and Jabu provide a patchwork of soulful lyrics for the junkyard-funky instrumentation of bassist Phat Albert, guitarist Tim Stewart, drummer “Drummy” Dave DuMond and violinist Gailybird.
The transition from a solo to a group effort is one that Ahmad saw as a benefit. “I just figured out that two were better than one... I just like the idea of being part of a unit. The energy produced onstage was greater, the creativity was greater. Just everything is better when you do it as a unit.”
In 2000, the Jones released No Plan B on the indie Look Alive imprint, and have subsequently inked a distribution deal with Interscope to release a new album of the same name.
“No Plan B basically just means having a never-lose attitude towards what we do,” explains Ahmad. “We feel like our plan A is this band, 4th Ave. Jones', and against all odds, we intend to win.”
The Jones, then, have switched positions, and are certainly setting a pace for Johnny-come-hastily artists to keep up with, if not literally, through constant touring.
“I think hip-hop as we knew it is gone forever, and it's been commercialized to the point that Busta Rhymes is gettin' paid to say ‘Pass the Courvoisier'... You got a whole generation of kids who just look at it as a way to make a buck and not a way to express anything creatively or a way to improve anything socially. 4th Ave. Jones is kinda the exception to the general rule that's been developed.”