Steph Jones defies labels. And that's a good thing.
The independent artist and singer-songwriter created a huge buzz with his single "Mr. Ordinary" and has been favorably compared to neo-soul favorites such as Maxwell and D'Angelo. But the raspy voice and sometimes soaring falsetto is so reminiscent of a younger Marvin Gaye or Al Green. And while many brand new artists would consider a contract with Def Jam and working with Ludacris the virtual equivalent of hitting the Powerball, the Houston-area native walked away from it. "There's always room for growth," Steph Jones tells Rod 2.0. "If there isn't, you're settling and I don't like to settle."
The singer slash songwriter originally began his career as a model. Signed to Ford and featured in numerous national print and television campaigns. After leaving Def Jam/Disturbing Tha Peace, Jones began marketing himself through social media. It all began on My Space before Steph Jones segued to his YouTube channel which now has almost a million views. And of course there is StephJonesMusic on Twitter, where he is über-popular and constantly updates his status, uploading photos from the red carpet, out at dinner, and the occasional shirtless Twitpics that have become #TrendingTopics. Steph also regularly broadcasts and even takes requests on UStream.
Jones has also become one of the very few younger male R&B singers to embrace a gay fanbase—especially at the beginning of his career. "Mr Ordinary" was featured on the "DL Chronicles" soundtrack. Steph also participated in photographer Adam
Bouska's striking "No H8" campaign, spoken out for equality and against homophobia. We discussed all this on a short phone call ...
ROD 2.0: That No H8 photo is ferosh. How and why did you get involved?
STEPH JONES: I love that photo and was happy to do it. A friend of mine hit me up and asked to do it. I didn’t hesitate and I'd do it again. If you believe in something, you have to stand up. I am not about to intrude on anybody else' s happiness because they'll take away someone else's rights next time. And I don’t want to hear about how it used to be. "Back in the day" we were picking cotton. Now we have President Obama.
R20: It's refreshing to hear that point of view, especially from a new jack in RnB. There's so much pressure to be gangsta and homophobic to gain street cred.
STEPH JONES: That's a problem in American culture and African American culture. There are a lot of insecure people, insecure straights, insecure gays. And to be honest, a lot of the insecure straight bullies ... they're probably fighting something on the inside. Ya feel me? But if you look at a lot of these singers and celebrities, they've been given a gift. So much power, such a platform and many waste it. That's why I want to reach out to everyone, all people, black, white, Latino, gay, straight ... people helping people.