At 33, hip-hop’s emcee Wax is definitely not a young man. In fact, if it weren’t for 36-year-old rap sensation 2 Chainz, Wax would be considered the most rising rap star who is also approaching middle age.
Now that he’s in his thirtysomething years, the D.C.-born, Maryland-bred Wax (real name: Michael Jones, not to be confused with Houston rapper Mike Jones) is no longer in it for the fame and the flashing lights.
“It’s definitely less about being successful and I think, especially as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that’s never what I was in it for, you know what I mean?” says Wax, on the phone from his Venice Beach, Calif., home. “I’ve always been in it just to make a living. And now that I’m making a living with it, the difficult thing becomes – whether it’s me saying it to myself or people around me saying it – now you have to have bigger goals. You know, you’re a making a living, so what are you gonna do next? Just be bigger and bigger and bigger. And, to me, I’m just less worried about that and more worried about just trying to make cool music.”
Just like 2 Chainz, Wax has been out there for quite a while. In the mid-2000s, he made a name for himself on that DIY talent network YouTube, as he and his twin brother Herbal T busted raps and freestyles that would get him millions of views. (His YouTube channel has amassed over 64 million views to date.)
With a built-in audience, it was only a matter of time until a major label scooped him up. Hip-hop label Def Jam would become that scooper, signing him in March 2011. Wax would cut ties a year and a half later.
“To make a long story short, it just really wasn’t a good fit for me,” he says. “Once I got there, the main goal is to make hit songs, and they pretty much didn’t think my songs were hit songs. So, as we definitely tried harder and harder to make these hit songs, the more and more I realized that, like, I don’t really care. Like, what made me happy in the first place was just to make the music that I like.”
Wax continues to record music he likes on his own terms, as evidenced by his latest album, aptly titled “Continue.” Released early this year, the album includes tunes that has Wax mostly waxing about going forward with one’s life.
“It’s about, I guess, varying different ways of moving on, whether it be just through depression and struggle, or whether it be through actual things such as relationships or, you know, if your career goes certain ways and you think something is gonna happen and it doesn’t. You know, what can you do? That’s life. That’s pretty much what the album is about. I guess it does have a little bit to do with just growing older and just kind of becoming a little bit more, you know, able to handle failure.”
Luckily, Wax has been making enough positive moves lately to not even think of himself in that manner. He’s on tour with poet and fellow West Coast emcee George Watsky, for a tour they refer to as the “Hug A Hater Tour,” inspired by their recent song collaboration “Give a Hater a Hug.” (They’ll be making an appearance at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle on Thursday.) He also does a podcast called “Wax’s Podcast,” which can be found on his website ( waxdotcom.com).
So, at the moment, Wax isn’t worrying about blowing up as a hip-hop artist – however, “if that happens,” he says, “it would be because I’m trying to make it happen.”