In 1996 J.E. Jones had it all. In less than a decade he’d risen from the ranks of local hip-hop producers in the neighborhoods surrounding his home in the Bronx, NY to become an established songwriter, producer and celebrated Vice President at Def Jam records---the pioneering rap/hip-hop label owned by Russell Simmons.
The story of J.E.’s success was the definition of the American dream: While still in his teens trying to make it in the fast-paced world of urban music, he’d taken a friend’s advice to accept an unpaid internship at a relatively new label called Uptown records. There he learned the business from Uptown’s founder and owner, the legendary André Harrell, and from another young executive known at the time as Sean “Puffy” Combs.
Naturally gifted at discovering and nurturing talent, J.E. quickly moved up the executive ladder at Uptown to become Vice President of A&R. Along the way he worked with the top hip-hop and R&B superstars, including Mary J. Blige, Heavy D and Montell Jordan. He also made his mark in the broader entertainment world serving as Executive Producer of two of the biggest movie soundtracks of that era, Rush Hour and The Nutty Professor.
J.E. Jones quite simply had it all. At least it looked that way.
“I was lonely, really lonely,” J.E. confesses. “I had everything---cars, a beautiful house---but every day I would wake up with such a huge void. I would go home at night and cry.”
Desperate to fill that emptiness, J.E. accepted his aunt’s invitation to go to church with her. He felt the Lord had been dealing with his heart for some time, but he had no idea how much his life was about to change.
“At the end of the service, the preacher said to me, ‘Young man, God has a calling on your life,’” J.E. recalls. “From that day on I was there. I didn’t miss a service. If I had to travel for work, I made sure they flew me back in time for church. This is what I was missing. Christ just filled that void.”
His personal encounter with the Lord became a fully developed passion for ministry. While gradually transitioning away from his work at Def Jam, J.E. became a minister, training for the role of elder in his church organization, and eventually accepting the call to pastor. He now serves as the senior pastor of the Atlanta-based ministry Rejoice In The Word Church.
“When I got saved I became serious about ministry,” says J.E. “I kept writing and producing and serving as a music industry consultant, but ministry became my focus.”
Over time J.E. began to understand that God had a purpose for his prior experiences. He explains: “God saved me and said, ‘I want you to use the same tool that you used in the world. This time use it for Me.’”
Following that direction, J.E. founded Ultimate Entertainment, a record label that combines his love of music with his passion for the Gospel. It is the goal of the label to reach an unchurched generation with the revelation of a true relationship with the Lord.
“I believe the people we are called to reach are being introduced to God differently than the last generation,” he says. “This generation doesn’t know anything about church politics. They just want to get to know Jesus.”
The debut release from Ultimate Entertainment was the top-selling project Bishop Eddie Long & Friends The Kingdom Vol. 1. In addition to marking the label’s first success, the project gave J.E. the opportunity to use his skills as a songwriter/producer to work with some of the biggest names in gospel, including Mary Mary, Tye Tribbett, Dorinda Clark Cole and Kierra “Kiki” Sheard.
Now, he expresses his vision as a solo artist with the release of Fire. The 11-song collection is inspired by J.E.’s personal struggles and is a message of hope to a lost generation. Featuring the songs “It’s Your Life,” “No More Fighting In Me” and the first single “The Turnaround,” Fire combines the flavor of hip-hop and R&B with the passion and message of today’s gospel music.
Lyrically and musically the project is a reflection of J.E.’s life, as well as an extension of his ministry. It’s important that we reach everyone we can,” J.E. says. “I think you can touch so many more people outside of the pulpit through music. Music travels so far. It’s our job to move beyond the podium and try to reach not just the saved but the unsaved.”