Jim Jonsin is no stranger to the fast track. But the hip-hop South Florida-based music producer, whose recordings — by stars such as Usher, Beyonce and Lil Wayne — have sold millions of downloads, is taking a different track. Jonsin has added a racing team, Rebel Rock Racing, to his Rebel Rock empire. That’s right; the Grammy Award-winning music mastermind is now taking the wheel.
Jonsin and his team are ranked in the Top 20 in GRAND-AM, the Continental Sports Car Challenge GS class.
“I’ve always loved racing,” said Jonsin, who started his team in 2010. “I basically grew up in a body shop with my dad. I wanted to go further with this hobby and I’ve made sure to connect music with it too, especially the young artists I’m working with on my label. Racing is more of a hobby that I’m turning into a job. Music is my bread and butter.”
The producer took the track earlier this month for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Test, in preparation for the Brickyard Grand Prix on July 27 in Indianapolis. Veteran NASCAR racer Kenny Wallace joined Jonsin for the test, who said it “went very well.”
“All in all we feel like we are dialed in for the race weekend,” Jonsin said.
Jonsin’s impressive car collection — which includes a 2012 Porsche GTS CSCC race car, a 2007 Porsche Carrara S GS Grand Am race car, and a 1999 Mazda Miata Spec race car — is comprised mostly of race cars.
“I sold most of my street cars and I now have race cars,” said Jonsin, who uses a 2011 BMW 750i for everyday driving. “I plan on building a few more race cars.”
Although Jonsin is new to racing, he is a veteran in the music industry. He is responsible for B.o.B.’s success, and has produced and written several No. 1 hits, including Lil Wayne’s Lollipop. He has also created a record label, Rebel Rock Entertainment, and a production company, Rebel Rock Productions.
Jonsin, who grew up in South Florida, started DJing at 14 years old. By 18, Jonsin — whose real name is James Scheffer — took a different path than most and started a record company, Cut It Up Def Records. His first hit, Cut It Up Def, sold 40,000 copies.
A conviction of theft while he was still a teen taught him the value of staying on track. “I made a careless mistake when I was young,” he said in a statement via a spokeperson. “I am grateful I was just a kid and could quickly learn a valuable lesson to create a solid productive life for myself.”
Throughout the ’90s, Jonsin released music and toured with artists like Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. In 2005, he established Rebel Rock Entertainment. He shortly signed B.o.B.Recent additions to his label include young talents Nick Merico and Leroy Sanchez.
“I make sure that they know music,” he said. “Before being an artist, they have to know how to play instruments, write music. I want to develop them as a whole: songwriter, engineer. I don’t want puppets.”
Neil Crilly, senior executive director of The Recording Academy’s Florida Chapter, lauds Jonsin’s dedication.
“I think he’s proven that he’s a guy who will find new talent and nurture it,” Crilly said. “He will use all the connections he has to help new artists succeed.”