Jones County, Georgia musician Demun Jones is almost the last person you’d expect to draw musical inspiration from hardcore gangsta rappers N.W.A — but don’t judge a book by its cover. Jones has been rapping along to songs like “Fuck The Police” and “Straight Outta Compton” since the ‘90s.
“The fact that N.W.A was giving me the experience of living in their environment,” Jones explains. “Living in Jones County was nothing like Compton, California, so it was intriguing. I was drawn to the aggression of it as well.”
While The South often gets a bad rap for being racist, country bumpkins, Jones is adamant that’s not the case. He was exposed to all different kinds of musical genres growing up — not just banjo laden country music. In fact, one of his biggest influences was the late pop superstar Michael Jackson.
“I understand the history of our country and am fairly well read when it comes to the actual facts, and not just what the nightly news is blasting,” he says. “That’s a whole chapter of a book by itself, so I won’t give history lesson.
“In my home growing up, I was exposed to Motown and Marvin Gaye as much or more than I was exposed to Lynard Skynard and AC/DC,” he continues. “Michael Jackson was probably the first human being that really made me want to be on a stage performing.”
In terms of the current socio-political climate dominating the headlines, he believes the “evil-hearted folks” ruin it for those who simply have Southern pride.
“I think the recent social distress regarding race has nothing to do with a large group of people, it has more to do with political agendas that thrive off of negativity,” he states. “I will say that evil-hearted folks walking around waving Rebel Flags make the regular guy with a Rebel Flag sticker on his truck look like one-in-the-same, and that’s just not the truth. We can’t look at 1863 through the lens of the present and get the truth. The truth is many folks in the South think of it as a symbol meaning “The South” — period.
“I don’t spend much time trying to combat that,” he adds. “I let my actions as a person and a musician speak for themselves. I think racism is either a mental condition or just stupidity.”
Jones is hitting the road in support of his latest album, Jones In Ya Speaker. The 11-track project is a gumbo of his various influences and features guest spots from Upchurch The Redneck (yes, that’s his name), Durwood Black, Noah Gordon and Charlie Farley. Part hip-hop, part rock, part country, it’s essentially a taste of Jones’ personality in album form.
“I think my environment helped me greatly,” he says. “Combining that and hip-hop was very natural because I was always in the country, but I was always in love with hip-hop music. It became evident over time that most — if not all hip-hop — was not directed at folks like myself because none of the artists were from places like Jones County. Not being represented in a culture that I participated in heavily only drove me to make even better music and to direct it at folks that grew up like me in places like I grew up.
“Country folks have always supported hip-hop, spent millions and millions of dollars on hip-hop albums and concerts,” he adds. “Now, they get to do that but spend it on artists that understand what their life is all about and represent them and their lifestyle because we actually live it, too.”
One of his most personal songs, “Suspended,” took seven years to write. When he started writing it, his older brother Chris and younger sister Jessica were alive. By the time the song was released, both of them had passed away.
“I was in the studio recording it when I received the news of my brother passing,” he says. “He hung himself in 2006. That has been the hardest thing I’ve experienced in this life. My sister Jessica passed away in 2004 in her sleep at age 23. She had a very rare condition, Rhett’s Syndrome. She was disabled her whole life but the loss was not any less because of it. I loved her the same as if she would’ve been an Olympic runner.”
His brother’s death changed Jones’ outlook on suicide as well.
“It’s cliche to say folks are cowards that go that route, but my brother was no coward,” he says. “He was one of the bravest human beings I’ve ever come across.”