Mike Jones announced a hiatus from rap in 2010 and has scarcely been heard from since. Even Slim Thug admitted, in an interview with BET last year, "I don't know where the fuck Mike Jones is." So Back Ballin' Underground, the notorious Houston rapper's first full-length project since 2009, is a welcome but slightly perplexing surprise. It's certainly nice to hear Jones' voice again, but Underground awkwardly leaves behind his signature Swishahouse style, and borrows from recent east coast radio rap instead. If those are not the beats I'm dying to hear him on, they can actually kind of work—who knew he'd sound as good as French Montana over Harry Fraud's "Shot Caller" beat? Still, the best tracks here are true to Jones' purple-tinted, pitched-down wheelhouse. Welcome back; maybe the long-supposed Where Is Mike Jones? album isn't as Detox-level unfathomable now.
Highlights: "Leanin On Dat Butter" and "Riot," featuring Slim Thug, best represent Jones' roots. "Riot" updates that sound, with current, radio-friendly drums.
WTF: Did we really need to hear Mike on A$AP Rocky's "Goldie" and Drake's "No Lie"?