Double or Nothing
Jim Jones and Maino were once former enemies, but they put the past behind them to create a bond that has translated into an album as rap duo Lobby Boyz. Now, the boys are back with a new project.
Interview: William E. Ketchum III
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Spring 2024 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Regardless of chemistry in the booth or on the stage, maintaining a rap group consists of managing a lot of moving parts—especially for artists who have already built successful solo careers and have their own responsibilities to tend to. Getting Lobby Boyz together, the rap duo of New York MCs Jim Jones and Maino, is proving itself a logistical circus.

Inside a Big Apple recording studio in late February, Brooklyn rapper Maino, 50, arrives shortly after finishing cohosting duties on radio personality Angela Yee’s Way Up With Angela Yee show. After sitting down to talk for 20 minutes, the rapper has to head back out for a segment with the local news. Meanwhile, Harlem artist Jim Jones, 47, is stuck in traffic on his way to the same studio; he speaks on the phone for 20 minutes in transit before concluding this interview in person upon his arrival.

But as soon as both MCs see each other at “the lobby”—their nickname for the Lower East Side studio where they record—they embrace each other with a pound. Within moments, the pair are sharing loud laughs and convo. They’ve known each for nearly two decades and have been working as a group for a couple of years, so that energy is warranted.

Jones and Maino launched their own successful careers in the 2000s. Jones as the cofounder of the legendary Diplomats crew and a platinum-selling solo artist, plus CEO. Maino with plenty of his own hit records and label, Hustle Hard. The two rappers had a longstanding feud they resolved in 2021, when tensely crossing paths on an escalator in an Atlanta mall gave them a chance to talk things over face-to-face. These days, they’re best buds and collaborators.

They released their debut joint album, The Lobby Boyz, in 2022, and are prepping for the follow-up, Lobby Boyz Dreams, to be released in May. The duo speak to XXL about their brotherly bond, accomplishments together and on their own, and their duty to help younger artists and their communities.


XXL: What’s the definition of a Lobby Boy?

Maino: A Lobby Boy is a person that comes from, in our case, New York City housing: the projects, the tenements, the apartments, the courtyards, the ghetto. Every project building in the United States doesn’t have lobbies. But when you go to Harlem or Brooklyn and pull up to the projects, you got people that stood in the lobbies in the back of the building, ventured to those corners and never came back home.

You and Jim have spoken about how you guys resolved your issues during a standoff in Atlanta. What made you guys decide to form a duo?

When you don’t know each other, you can only go off what you see and what you hear. Then you meet and say, “Damn, we got a lot more in common than I thought.” Me and Jim have so much more in common as Black males coming from the same era, just from different boroughs. We really became friends. I’ll pull up to his house, he’s been to my crib, we know each other’s families.

We come from this thing where we feel like we gotta project this toughness. But I know who I am; I don’t have to project anything. So, if there’s no issue, there’s no issue. Let’s make some music.

Do you think rap needs more groups?

I don’t see why not. The culture has shown us there’s enough for everybody. Everybody wants to be the King of New York, but we’re all kings from New York. We can stand together. That’s how you show the younger ones coming up that we don’t gotta step on each other to get where we want to go.

Did you always feel that way?

I came into the game very aggressive, feeling like most artists were characters and not genuine. I didn’t understand what I understand now: that this is entertainment and business. I ran a lot of opportunities away. There’s things I’m getting now that I could have gotten back then, because of a certain way I carried myself.

You lock up a kid when he’s 16 or 17, and send him to prison for 10 years, he don’t have no experiences. I needed time to see the world wasn’t based around this super-real n***a ethic I was holding onto.

On the last Lobby Boyz album, you both really got New York together. Fivio Foreign, Fabolous, Young M.A., Benny The Butcher, Styles P. When you were recording it, did it feel in real-time like it could be something special for the city?

I knew we had something special. It wasn’t so much about New York, but the game in general. I knew it would be received well because I knew the music was good. You can have all the features you want, but if the music isn’t good it’s not going to matter.

We set out to originally do 10 or 12 songs. We were going to stay in the studio for a week, and we stayed for like two to three months and did 30, 40, 50 songs. What was special was that all those features that you named came here [in this studio], to the lobby. They all pulled up and did their verses.

This year, you had a day named after you.

We just had the ceremony [in February]. The day is August 16, which is my late great mother’s birthday. That honestly feels surreal. You see people with those things, they’re not here no more. To get any accolades while you’re still living is a blessing. It was special to be able to celebrate my late great mother’s birthday and do something for my community.

When the day was announced, your community work was mentioned also. What have you done in that arena?

First and foremost, I haven’t done enough. However, I would get $60,000 worth of coats from Macy’s for females and kids and take those every year to my neighborhood on Gates Avenue [in Brooklyn]. This year, I gave out some coats from Daniel’s Leather. I also opened up a store in my neighborhood. We employ local people. We bring out books and school supplies every year where I went to public school.

But the biggest thing I did for my community was giving them hope and inspiration. But the plan is to do more. So, now that I’ve got the day, I get the opportunity to work more closely with the Brooklyn Borough President and do more.

You also speak up for artists, who are unfairly criticized.

Well, I’m the guy that set up the meeting between the mayor and the drill rappers [in 2022]. I did that single- handedly, nobody else. I put the call in. Fivio came to me and said [city government] was having talks about banning drill music. I say, “Yo, I’m gonna reach out to the mayor because I got a decent relationship with him.” I put that meeting together and brought B-Lovee, Fivio, and I did that meeting.

Jim Jones

XXL: What made the first Lobby Boyz album so enjoyable?

Jim Jones: Doing an album with somebody like Maino makes it enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like no work is being done, even though work is being done. We’re like a-alikes; we call ourselves two Batmans.

We didn’t change too much for this [album], same program. We haven’t been in the lobby in a minute, so getting back to being creative feels good. We’re still the same old crazy individuals that like to have a good laugh. So, that vibe and spirit is always in the room.

Who do you have on the new album?

We got Lola Brooke on there. She’s always great company and her energy is top-notch. We’ve got an incredible record. Can’t wait for people to hear that. Icewear Vezzo. We’ve got the Conway The Machine record we did last album, but didn’t use.

But the beauty of that last year is getting these records done and was actually being able to be in the studio with all these artists. We made sure everybody that we wanted to get on this album will come through the lobby, and do the records together, which doesn’t happen too often with the way technology moves right now.

You don’t have to be in the studio with anybody to actually get records with them. But the feeling, that camaraderie of just being in space, there’s nothing like it. That was one of the greatest attributes, actually doing the album last year and with all the features.

Both you and Maino have been successful as solo artists. What makes being in a group so beneficial for you at this point?

There’s a feeling I get every time we’re around. I don’t have any biological brothers, and Maino fills the void of what a brother would be. It’s the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the understanding, the support.

We do music at nighttime, but we’re in tune with each other all day. There’s individuals I speak to daily, whether I’m having a great day or I’m going through something. I’m appreciative of the relationship me and Maniac have, which is his nickname.

You’ve been around for a minute as well as Maino. What do you believe your responsibility is for younger artists?

I am not responsible for nobody but my child. Now as a stand-up man, I feel you should always reach back to the generation that’s coming up. In this industry, they got this thing, the game is to be sold and not told, but when I get on in the street, I put my man on. I ain’t selling them the game, I’m telling them the game.

We don’t have enough OGs willing to reach back for the ones that are shaping the future. Me and Maino are fans of the younger generation because we once was those rebellious kids looking for a way out, looking for the right advice. Now, when we’re in that position, it’s our duty and our pleasure to do so.

You posted an Instagram Story talking about how you were fixing your artists’ credit and getting them life insurance. That sounded like a sense of responsibility.

These things weren’t provided for us. All these labels did was give us money and watch us waste it in hopes that we make a hit so they could keep us under their control. But they never showed us anything that would help us out in life. Credit and insurance are golden, whether you do music or not.

I hired a great lady by the name of Dee, we figured out a way to help artists establish credit or fix their credit if they f**ked it up in the past. I have a meeting later on today about life insurance. I know a lot of grown-ups that haven’t had a physical in years. What sense is it to have all this money and you’re sick all the time? Knowledge is key, and lack of knowledge is big inside of our inner-city communities. The more knowledge I get, the more knowledge I like to spread.

When Pusha T released his diss in 2023, following your comments that he didn’t deserve a spot on Billboard’s top 50 rappers list, you dropped your response video quickly. Earlier this year, you put up a challenge on Instagram to give $100,000 for anybody who wants to run up and rap. Where does your competitiveness come from?

Probably from playing sports coming up, being on the basketball court and trying to be better than your homeboys at everything. The hood is one of the most competitive places you can ever be. Whether you’re racing in the hallway, playing basketball on the hanger, jumping the highest. So naturally, that side of the game doesn’t change. If you want to be number one in this industry, it’s hard to do that by not going up against who is number one.

These n***as really don’t want to rap, especially nobody from my era. I still got the $100,000. I’m waiting. That’s just my competitive nature. Shouts to Pusha T; that was all competitive, too. It’s good for the sport. That was one time where I just took everything out and kept it all art. I felt good about that for myself.

How have you maintained consistency to progress your artistry over time?

Years ago, God bless, before Fred The Godson passed away [in 2020], I didn’t know if I was ready to continue doing music. I was going to the studio with Heatmakerz, and Fred was a big inspiration to jump back in the booth. Knowing how much I’d been through and the type of life I’d lived, I started putting it into my music. Some people say it’s the Benjamin Button effect, but I really think it was Fred’s energy. It was sparring every day, and he helped me get sharper. I took that same mentality wherever I was.

Lobby Boyz Jim Jones maino
Rafael Pineros

Listen to Lobby Boyz's The Lobby Boyz Album 

Read Jim Jones and Maino's interview as Lobby Boyz in the Spring 2024 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Gunna and conversations with Metro Boomin42 DuggTeezo TouchdownThat Mexican OT41BabyDrillDanny BrownRapsody, comedian Druski, actress La La AnthonyBigXthaPlugRob49Reuben Vincent, singer Tyla, actress La La Anthony and producer Tate Kobang. There's also a look at how social networking has a chokehold on rappers' feelings, how hip-hop in 2024 is experiencing more wins than losses, and the ways in which kid rappers are thriving thanks to social media.

See Photos of Gunna's XXL Magazine Spring 2024 Issue Cover Story