If you’ve listened to Fiend from his No Limit Days, then this latest mixtape will come as a surprise. Gone are his youthfully high-energy verses from his guest spots alongside Master P. Instead, we get International Jones, a gravelly-voiced veteran of the game that just wants to be dope and wear his kicks. His mixtape, TennisShoes & Tuxedos, shows a musician who has honed his craft and expanded to add “producer” to his resume.
The beats are a stark contrast to Jones’ booming voice. On “A Day at the Office,” dramatic horns are energized by hard-hitting snares and swooping bass lines. “Paradise” is a jazzy, saxed-out ode to the finer things in life. Throughout, Jones’ superb production makes TennisShoes & Tuxedos a cohesive mixtape that can be played from beginning to end.
But all of that would be for naught if not for Jones’ new approach to his rapping. It’s been years since we’ve heard the artist formerly known as Fiend, and his return is very welcome. He’s now created the persona of a world-traveling super-fly boss. He namedrops Oprah, Ruth’s Chris and any assortment of retro Jordans too exclusive for Foot Locker: “Ralph Lauren Polo, golf yellow / awful is my bezel / settle? I ought not to / glass of wine or something for their nostrils / I’m fat boy fresh.”
The new Fiend is jarring at first for those expecting the tank chain-waving wild child, but Jones is an adult now. His new mixtape is a reflection of his maturity and musical growth.