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Uptown Hip Hop Renaissance Part III: “Da Mayor, Mike ‘DP’ Jones”

It was a comfortable summer evening at Dyckman Basketball. There’s an exciting buzz for the upcoming game. The stands are packed, police supervise from the entrance and event security check people in. Cars slow down as they pass checking if any action is going down. Photographers are all over the court snapping pictures. Teams of people grill food then deliver it to customers in the stands. Other vendors make their way through the crowd selling “pastelitos” (think: small patties with beef, chicken or cheese), water, Gatorade and candy. On the low, “nutcracker” and “nemo” drinks are for sale, too. Deep in the stands, some guys are rolling their blunts – others have already started blazing. About halfway down the stands, near the floor, two young guys light up their weed. From further up, they hear a voice urging…

“Yo… yo, if you’re gonna smoke, go down there (motions to far end). If the cops smell that they’ll shut it down (cancel the game)!”

The pair look up at who is advising them, glance over at the entrance, get up and leave toward the opposite direction. Message understood. The messenger is a man who has earned 100% respect and love from many locals and outsiders alike.

The People’s Champ if there ever was one.

Love, Hip Hop And Basketball

In our third and final installment of the Uptown Hip Hop Renaissance (Part 1 & Part 2) we meet a hustler (in the positive sense) who isn’t a music artist. Music is one of the few things he doesn’t do. Forget about his government. Due to his skyrocketing popularity – he was blessed with a new moniker. Courtesy of the neighborhood, he was named “Mike Jones” after the Houston, Texas rapper with the hit, “Back Then.” You know how it is when the streets get a hold of an idea – it sticks. Matter of fact, he’s also known by a couple other names: “Da Mayor” and “DP” – more on that in a bit.

A Social Champion With Swag

Mike arrived in NYC, as a child, from the Dominican Republic. His family settled in the Inwood section of Northern Manhattan. He grew up on Dyckman Street which happens to be the border between Washington Heights and Inwood. Although Dyckman is, technically, a single street – it’s a hub of activity on and around the 200th Street in the Money-Making 212. Restaurants, clubs, sexy women, retail, drug sales, to name a few. And home of probably the best pizza ever. As in most ‘hoods, people from different areas develop problems with one another. And Mike has played a big part in helping to unite people from Dyckman and the Heights. He’s like a social champion with swag. A childhood friend’s death from drugs inspired him to stop drinking and smoking. It woke him up to how he was living. He’s been sober – three years and counting. And he’s dedicated himself to using his gifts to, not only, better his situation, but also give back.

Uptown’s ambassador carries an equally humble vibe and winning smile. Just observing him during a twenty-minute span; children, adults and elders alike, warmly, greet him. In the traditional spirit of community, he creates movement and goodwill. Hence the term, “Da Mayor” – a true neighborhood celeb in the flesh. As a first-generation Hip Hop head, he embodies the culture including an ill sneaker game – check his Instagram. More importantly, through that spirit of culture and self-empowerment he’s created or advanced opportunities to benefit people.

The WHIN Hip Hop Movement added him as a host due to his energy and extensive reach beyond the community. His influence and accessibility helped these events come off and grow the Uptown Hip Hop scene. Whatever type of event is going down, if Mike hollers about it – people will show up.

Building A Legacy

Mike played on the basketball team while attending John F. Kennedy High School (Bronx, NY). A knee injury, from a car accident, ended any thought of continuing to play. That led him back to Dyckman basketball where he decided to create a streetball vehicle to help others achieve their goals. In 2001, he and his two cousins, “The Slasher” and “Da Maniac” (hey, the ‘hood) started their own street ball team, “Dominican Power.” They’ve built a legacy of winning play with Mike “DP” Jones as their general manager/head coach. Dominican Power has enjoyed championship victories at home in Dyckman, the Rucker, Tri-State, Gun Hill and other destinations. The world knows about DP. Their games attract fans from all the over and pack the stands. Many come to rep their Dominican heritage, support Mike and/or just because they know the squad has great talent each and every year. The game I attended, DP versus Team Flipstar was nuts. So many men, women, children and local media the court looked tiny. Streetball has become an institution for community uplifting, self-expression, improvement and local business. Mike has begun writing his own chapter in Streetball history – and he isn’t done yet. He started as a 13-year-old playing for then-coach, now-Dyckman’s president Ken Stevens. Today, Mike is the one providing an outlet for others.

Each winter, Mike scouts and meets athletes to recruit for his squad. But at this point, many young men seek him out because they want to be a part of the DP Dynasty. Each summer, DP is made up of select college and pro players (not all are Dominican). The annual summer competitions are NBA and NCAA-sanctioned. Past Power players include NBA pros Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks), Charlie Villanueva (Dallas Mavericks) and Francisco Garcia (Houston Rockets). Plus, several other ball players overseas. Over the last 14 years, Mike has mentored countless young men. He encourages them to respect their parents and chase their dreams. A dream on Mike’s mind is to, one day, coach at his alma mater JFK high school or assist on the Dominican National Team. Mike stresses that the street ball movement is an outlet for social action. You can come see a NBA player and approach him afterwards. That experience can alter someone’s life.

Legal Hu$tle

Mike has monetized his brand by partnering with several local businesses on apparel and event promotion deals. Da Mayor is a partner with retailer 4ucaps on Dyckman. House of Fitted and Mike created a Dominican Power fitted and were approached by New Era who respected the movement. A deal was made. DP hats and shirts are hot sellers. He’s also involved with Global Scumbags Apparel, as well as, doing event promotion for “Agua Roja” (Red Water) Lounge and Cafe de Broadway.

Despite his schedule and various commitments, Mike “DP” Jones remains a man dedicated to his faith, family, friends and community.

 

Fabian Baez is a, New York City-based, Hip Hop Content Marketer focused on helping others succeed while advancing the Movement. Learn more about him, his work and connect: fabianbaez.com | @FabianBaez | [email protected]