Tht Boi Jonesy grew up a diehard fan of professional wrestling, drawn to the over-the-top antics of athletes like the Rock, who wowed the rapper with both his in-ring prowess and the charismatic way he carried himself in pre-bout interviews. Indeed, when Jonesy started to take hip-hop more seriously beginning in high school, he said he approached the mic in similar fashion, favoring a more turned up, high-energy sound.
“For me, [wrestling and rap] are kind of the same: big-ass crowds, lights, cameras, personalities, fans,” said Jonesy, who was also influenced early on by rappers such as Eminem, Ludacris and Lil Jon, all of whom have similarly outsized personas. “I’ve always wanted to showcase what I can do and have people react to me.”
But for new single “Nature Boi,” out digitally on Thursday, April 20, Jonesy takes an uncharacteristically reserved approach. On the track, the MC turns down the volume and raps in a more plaintive, measured cadence, taking stock of his landscape in an Auto-Tuned voice that mirrors, at times, an emotive cyborg. “I ain’t lose no rest/It was for the best,” he rhymes. “Had to take a loss/Had to reassess.”
The rapper said this more inward turn is rooted in a developing maturity he ascribed to age, as well as the residual effects of the ongoing pandemic, which landed at a time when Jonesy’s music career appeared to be on the verge of taking off.
“In 2019, I opened up for Juice WRLD. And from there, the trajectory was crazy, and I was supposed to open up for all of these other people,” he said. “And then 2020 happens, and the whole world stops, and I’m taking two, three steps back. … And I think everybody at that time felt a little sad or felt a bit like giving up.”
“Nature Boy” arrives in the wake of this downturn, with Jonesy professing a need to continue to do what comes naturally, whether it’s making music or tackling an onscreen role, as he did recently, filming a part for a forthcoming project helmed by rapper/promoter/director Sam Rothstein. More introspective than chest-thumping, the track serves as the latest shot in the musician’s ongoing evolution.
“It’s just from living, going through different emotions other than anger, being vulnerable,” Jonesy said of the shift. “My music grows with me, and as I grow up and mature and allow myself to feel different emotions, I become okay with that [vulnerability]. When you’re 19, you don’t want nobody to ever know you’re sad, or that you’re going through some shit. … But you gotta get over that, especially if you want to be an artist. You can’t always get that point across being angry. If you want to be heard and you want the music to be relatable, you have to be able to switch it up.”
Jonesy traced his love for hip-hop to childhood, when he wrote his first rhymes at age 7 or 8 atop a mix of chip-tune beats he created on his Sega using “MTV Music Generator.” He would later do the same with his Nintendo 64, taking advantage of a wrestling game where a user could create a wrestler and then select a theme song – a number of which were instrumental. “And then I had a little toy DJ set with a microphone, and I would record my words over those beats,” he said.
In the years since, Jonesy has continued to level up, driven by what he described as a constant sense of personal dissatisfaction. “I don’t think I’ve ever reached a spot where I was happy with my success,” he said. “Once I reach a certain point, it’s like, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ When I was a kid, I wanted to get in the studio. I got in the studio. Boom. What’s the next thing? Get on the radio. I got on the radio. What’s the next thing? I want to open for somebody and perform in front of a lot of people. And I did that. It’s just a constant want to get to that next thing.”
The goal, Jonesy said, is to one day reach a point where he makes his income solely by taking advantage of his “God-given abilities” as an entertainer, in much the same way he said his father’s side of the family utilized their unique skill sets to forge disparate careers.
“Everybody on my dad’s side of the family owns a landscaping company, works as a mechanic, builds shit,” he said. “They all own a business or have a craft. So, growing up, I never watched anyone have to depend on a job to survive. They were all just doing what came naturally to them, and what they loved to do, and they were able to have great lives. That’s why I’ve always wanted to be independent. … I don’t want a regular job, or to go into accounting. I’ve always just wanted to do this.”