A Rebel Rocking Renaissance Man
By Melissa Bryant
On an unassuming street in Broward County resides an estate home known as the Parkland Playhouse. On the inside, based on an impressive display of platinum and gold records, Billboard Hot 100 charts and celebrity portraits hanging on the wall, you might think you were in the home of merely a wealthy music fan. But it’s the GRAMMY award sitting on the mantle that gives him away. This, you see, is the home-studio of superstar music producer and professional racecar driver, Jim Jonsin.
An entrepreneur extraordinaire, Jonsin started record label Rebel Rock Entertainment, launched the motorsports team Rebel Rock Racing, and produced hits with about every A-list musician from Beyoncé and Shakira to Lil’ Wayne and Usher. Still, at the center of his universe, hangs the portrait of his family. First and foremost, Jim Jonsin is a husband and father.
Of course, he still knows how to have a little fun. Nearly every room in Jonsin’s home studio has been converted for making music — except for one, which houses his racing simulator. After all, this is Parkland Playhouse — and Jonsin, he’s just a big kid with an even bigger heart.
Scratching the Surface
If you were into the Miami music scene in the late 80s, then you’ve probably already heard of Jonsin a.k.a. Jealous Jay from his certified gold single “Party Time,” or his album Miami Bass Jam. What you may not know is that he started off scratch DJing at local skating rinks and teen clubs when he was 15 years old. “My first experience scratching for an audience was terrible. Still, I put on a good show. I may have fooled a few people,” Jonsin said, smiling.
After more than a decade of DJing, this multitalented man progressed naturally from playing the music to actually making the music. Alone in a friend’s living room, headphones on, sound checked, he crafted his first official record in 1988. With it came record deals, a music tour and success. In the blink of an eye, the starry-eyed teen from Boca Raton became a professional producer, working with some of the biggest acts in the country.
And instead of choosing to work solely with celebrity clientele, Jonsin is hard at work giving the next budding musician a chance at a career. Right now, one of Jonsin’s protégés is Leroy Sanchez, a Spanish-born crooner who sings with soulful depth far beyond his years. “There’s nothing like finding a diamond in the rough like Leroy Sanchez and assisting him to become the success they were born to be,” said Jonsin. “It’s amazing.”
Even with a successful music career and new talent to develop, this entrepreneur has not stopped moving. In 2010, he formed a motocross sports team, Rebel Rock Racing, which is already on its way to greatness. The always playful producer previously opened a motocross track on his Parkland property for the neighborhood to enjoy. Although he says area families and children loved it, the track soon had to close. “When we got shut down,
I was looking for something new. I’d been doing music for a long time and needed a new spark,” Jonsin said. Coincidentally, he learned of a Grand-Am practice race nearby, so he jumped in. “I just had to do it. Racing is equally as fulfilling as music to me.” Since then, the proverbial rubber has hit the road. In January, Rebel Rock Racing impressively placed 6th in Daytona at the 2014 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
“Music is great and racing is fun, but family comes first,” said Jonsin, who aims to stay within a metaphorical “triangle” to remain close to the ones he loves most. His race shop is just two miles from his studio, and his home is only two miles from there. “This way, I can take my children to school in the morning, have lunch with my wife, race my cars, pick up my kids from school, make some music, and be home in time for dinner.”
You never know what will be next for this family man, record producer, song writer, star maker, and racecar driver. Whatever it is, one thing is for certain: It will be rebel-made.