Trying to gauge why, exactly, Kent Jones’s “Don’t Mind” is off-putting is like tracing an endless, hazy horizon; think the one beyond the bridge in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. The singer’s glitzy ratchet-pop single is proving itself as a real possibility for a Song of the Summer contender, rising through YouTube, streaming and radio airplay at a “Trap Queen”-like rate. But who is Kent Jones, the charismatic, lumbering, bucket-hatted charmer of the “Don’t Mind” video? Where did he come from, with his wavy melodic curlicues and post-“Fancy” beat? What is this song offer the world?
We can parse the objective facts of Kent Jones’s existence, but it won’t pinpoint why his breakthrough just isn’t as sick as it should be, on paper. Fans of DJ Mustard, Jidenna’s “Classic Man,” and other exuberant rap exports (say, D.R.A.M’s “Cha Cha”) should rejoice at this next entry in a distinct lineage of bouncy, West-Coast-tinged crossover-pop singles.
The song sounds like Miami, because Kent Jones is from Miami (Tallahassee, originally). The 23-year-old singer is a protégé of that city’s hip-hop production legends Cool & Dre, who recently launched Jones as the first artist on Epidemic Records. From there, Jones was signed by We The Best, fellow Miami native and rap’s most puzzling icon DJ Khaled’s imprint with Epic Records.
Khaled is giving Jones what shine he can, trotting him out with guest stars from T.I. to Fat Joe to Travi$ Scott as opener for Beyoncé’s recent Formation tour; presumably, Jones will show up on Khaled’s impending, typically star-studded project Major Key, maybe sharing track space with some of hip-hops most auspicious figures.
Okay, fine. But here’s Kent Jones’ Spotify page:
You know nothing, Kent Jones. Jidenna rolled out some side tracks and an EP surrounding “Classic Man,” to assure us what he was all about: dressing nicely, being polite but forceful, etc. You know, “classic.” With his single piece of music — “Don’t Mind” — what is Kent Jones demonstrating himself to be about? Tinder-ing his way across the globe, apparently.
She said, “Pardon my French,” I said, “Bonjour, Madame.”
Then she said, “Sak pase,” and I said, “N’ap boule.”
No matter where I go you know I love them all…
Et cetera — “them” are the countless women he encounters. He ends up, finally, trysting in Kansas and Oklahoma for whatever reason (one might think he’d start there before hitting Paris). Along the way, he makes a joke about Asian people’s eyes, and mocks a cuckolded boyfriend who doesn’t speak English. So though my man Kent is all about world travel, he’s also xenophobic.
Kent, down in the DMs
Musically as well as in the narrative of the song, Jones doesn’t really know what he’s about either. With its Miami-core appeal, I can’t help but thinking of the sunny and triumphant “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston, despite the songs stylistic dissimilarity. Kingston’s 2007 hit is one of the more beautifully fashioned pop songs of the past decade: The singer moves through three huge melodic ideas in his epochal chorus, and it’s difficult to pick a favorite. Jones, on the other hand, dawdles around with one primary melodic idea, as, perhaps, is increasingly the trend. “Panda” might have just one, but “Trap Queen” had two.
“Don’t Mind” feels, always, like a song that is about to drop: a mood without a release, vaguely dissatisfying in some hard-to-pinpoint way. It’s as cyclical and non-directional as life. If you want to skip the existential implication, just think about the fact that “Don’t Mind”’s primary ear worm is Kent Jones saying “Konichiwa.” Is that a thing you want in your head all the time?
Kent Jones comes polished and market-ready, but not necessarily correct. One wonders what’s going on under the hood, and whether this only-vaguely-defined shtick is built to last past a few more Khaled features.