Want a comprehensive history and culture lesson on the subject of hip-hop?
Talk to radio personality and R&B artist Miss Jones, who was there when it was rising, rubbed elbows with all the top New York rappers of the era and was almost in a trailblazing female rap group.
She virtually has a Ph.D. on the subject.
“I was the original Pepa,” Miss Jones told me of the iconic female rap group Salt-N-Pepa on this week’s “Renaissance Man.”
At the time, Miss Jones, whose real name is Tarsha Jones, was dating a good friend of Salt-N-Pepa producer Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor.
The guys came up with the idea to form a girl group and tapped Miss Jones and her pal, Crystal.
“They would write rhymes for us. We were Salt-N-Pepa. But then, this was like senior year in high school, and everybody’s moms are like, ‘Wait a minute, you’re not telling me that you’re not going to college because you’re going to be some girl rapper. Like, that’s not happening.’ ”
She went to Syracuse where she studied music.
Hurby found Cheryl James and Sandra Denton, who would become the trailblazing group Salt-N-Pepa we know today.
But Miss Jones has done well for herself.
She is now the morning show host on 94.7 the Block, has released a new single, “Calling All Ladies,” and is also hosting the female version of the “Drink Champs” podcast called “Pink Champs.”
Not too shabby for a girl from Astoria.
“Growing up in the ’70s, we didn’t have a lot, but we didn’t realize we didn’t have a lot because nobody had a lot. But what we did have a lot of was double Dutch skills … music, good food, you know, and friendships.”
She learned about rap at 11 or 12 from listening to “Stretch and Bobbito” who were on a radio station “all the way at the end of the dial.” There she heard early acts such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Crash Crew.
“The more my parents yelled, ‘Turn off that noise,’ the more I wanted it,” she said.
And being a Queens girl, she told us the origin of Kid ‘n Play and the “House Party” movies, which included Hurby’s crew, the Turnout Brothers
“The movie was based on the Turnout Brothers going around in East Elmhurst and doing parties and getting on in people’s living rooms, performing at these house parties,” she said.
As for Miss Jones’ broadcasting career, she said it happened more by necessity.
“I just I needed a job. I tell people I’ve been an orphan since I was 20 years old, so I didn’t have a lot of options. And when I got the opportunity to do radio, I did it because I needed to eat,” she said.
“The records didn’t work out and I had to do this. And I said, as a way, I can still stay connected. So I just kept doing it.”
She became known for her hard-hitting interviews with giants in hip-hop.
And both her music and radio career have given her a unique, almost academic perspective toward hip-hop.
She noted that rap was originally organic and about struggles, not about throwing money and Champagne around a club.
It was much more raw.
“[Rap was] New York seen through the eyes of young black teenagers that never imagined having a platform. That’s all they had to talk about,” she said.
“They didn’t have money to talk about, ‘Oh, my cars or my b-tches.’ That was totally not it.
“They were talking about their reality, not somebody else’s reality.
“And I feel like it wasn’t about the money because, again, back then, there was no monetizing.
“There was no ‘wear these Adidas and we’re going to give you $1 million.’ They were wearing it because it was really part of the wardrobe. Probably affordable…It was their reality.”
She has seen it morph and change from a Bronx-born storytelling art form with dance battles in the club to videos, fashion and big business.
“No one knew that there would be platinum records…They were just doing it because music was therapeutic,” she said.
As for how the internet, streaming and podcasting has changed the game, she calls it a “gift and a curse.”
“I don’t like that it’s all about likes and follows. Because you can pay for followers…The real is lost forever,” she said. “But I like the fact that you can make streams of income sitting on your ass at home.
“So it’s kind of like a gift and a curse. But I also like that artists that I would have never heard on mainstream radio, I have access to now online.”
And the thing about Miss Jones, she’s been along for the entire ride – and she’s still narrating the culture.
And that’s what you call lasting power.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive-produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.