A rough New Orleans upbringing, Hurricane Katrina and a lengthy prison sentence couldn’t prevent Young Greatness (real name Theodore Jones) from breaking through after signing with popular Atlanta label Quality Control and Motown/Capitol Records through his own Mile High Music Group imprint. Last year was supposed to be his crossover year with I Tried To Tell Em and its lead single “Moolah.” Despite some heavy promotion and anticipation, both just seemed to just fizzle out on the surface.
“I mean to be honest with you, once I first went on promo with the record, I thought it wasn’t the record, but after sitting down and talking to the team, everybody basically told me to give it time,” Young Greatness says during a sit down with HipHopDX.
Then some things changed.
First came after linking up with Akon through his brother Omar. That developed into the hit-maker and mogul joining his team as co-manager alongside day-to-day manager Rici, who also has a storied history within the music industry.
“One of the first things we did was come up with a structure so we could communicate and talk and stay upon what’s going on,” Young Greatness says. “Nothing works without a plan, between me, him and Rici, we work toward having an executed plan all the way down.”
A nationwide tour with fellow Louisiana brethren Kevin Gates months later helped “Moolah” has turned into a legitimate hit. “The first and second city [on tour], and fans were singing it word for word,” Young Greatness said. “That’s when I knew it was out of here.”
According to Young Greatness, the “2 Phones” rapper respected his hustle. “He didn’t give me a handout, but opportunity,” he describes. “He seen me grinding for a long time and gave me an opportunity to be a part of something special.” During the interview, Young Greatness even recited the best advice Gates gave him in his best Gates impersonation:
“Listen little brother. Even if you know something, boy you got to play dumb some time to get where you got to get at. Cause if you show too much, that’s the less they gone do because they feel like you know it all. Sometimes you got to play dumb and just say yes sir and yes ma’am.”
As of press time, “Moolah” is currently sitting at #9 on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop National Airplay chart. Streaming has been good as well, with 1.43 million plays on Young Greatness’ Soundcloud account and 7.6 million on Spotify. The official music video, which dropped in early January, has already reached 5.5 million views on YouTube.
“To be honest with you, ‘Moolah’ has been going so fast, to where the growth of the record has been beating our plans,” explains Young Greatness. “ So now it’s like our plans are trying to catch up to the growth of the record because everyday something changes. Every morning, I wake up and something changes.”
Gonzalo “Papi” Le Batard of ESPN hit talk show Highly Questionable even spit the single’s hook in only a way he could during a recent episode as well.
In a digital age where some artists utilize a mentality of throwing something against the wall until it sticks by forcing out a constant stream of content, more individuals are beginning to take more traditional routes of pushing one record. 2015’s biggest single, Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” dropped half-a-year prior before getting the major label 300 Entertainment treatment. More recently, Fat Joe and Remy Ma went on a national radio tour to push their latest single “All The Way Up.” And to think, “Moolah” was created in only a matter of minutes.
“‘Moolah’ was the first beat that he played out of the arsenal of beats that he brought me,” said Young Greatness as he describes the moment he received the Jazze Pha production. “I really didn’t have a chance to listen to the rest of the beats because once I heard that one, it’s a single. Let me jump on that ASAP. I put my one-two on it and in 10 minutes, that was a wrap.”
Pha has had a history of one of Atlanta’s most cherished producers since emerging from the scene during the 2000s. It’s almost easy to forget that the man who started off every production with “Ladies and Gentlemen” was a major player in churning out hits for everyone from Ciara and Lil Wayne to Too $hort.
“Jazze Pha is one of the most creative producers in the music industry,” says Young Greatness, who promised more collaborations with the Memphis native in the future.
Young Greatness’ follow-up is expected to come in the form of I Tried To Tell Em 2, a project which he says will solidify him as a true mainstream prospect.
“They don’t respect New Orleans, so I have to come and put my foot down,” says the rapper. “It’s time for them to look at a Young Greatness like they look at a Drake, Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Future, or Young Jeezy. I’m willing to work hard for it.”
The project is finished and “ready to go.” Though he wouldn’t reveal too much info outside of his own team of in-house producers, I Tried To Tell Em 2 should drop sometime in May and can be described as “fun, summertime, girls, whips, money.” Most importantly, the first single will go hand-and-hand with “Moolah.”
Not only has Young Greatness made the correct moves in elevating his career, he proved his status within his hometown. That was proven for “Moolah”s music video, which features a crowd of people from his 7th Ward neighborhood.
“For the video, we didn’t have to get nobody together because once they saw the cameras and word of mouth got around, everybody just came out for the video,” he explained. “The video wasn’t planned out or nothing. We just kind of put it together.”
If Young Greatness is confident about anything, it’s that he and his city hold each other down. In his eyes, the level of support he gets from New Orleans is inspirational.
“I know they’re excited about my success because I gave them hope,” he said. “They think if Young Greatness made it, then people are going to pay attention to New Orleans more.”