Did you have a good holiday?
Yeah, man. I’m happy that it’s over though. It’s for the kids, man, Christmas and all that. But it’s been a rough year with people coming and people going and losing people. But it’s been good overall, man.
How are you approaching 2008?
I’m coming strong, man. For one, I’m excited about my new album, Silverback Gorilla, coming in ’08. I feel I’m bringing good music. I’m not bringing hip-hop back and none of that. I feel like I’m just being good music to the table and the fans can enjoy what we’re bringing to the table with all this gimmick rap that’s been going on.
Are you done recording for Silverback Gorilla?
Yeah, finally. I wrapped up with this last Lox song on my album. I was waiting for this last verse from J. I got everything right there and I turned it in and I’m ready to roll.
How would you say Silverback Gorilla compares to your first two albums Walk Witt Me and After Taxes?
I’m growing and proving myself to the critics. The first time, they were like, ‘I don’t know. I know about Styles and ‘Kiss but I haven’t heard him.’ Then they heard Walk Witt Me as a whole. Then after, it’s, ‘Can he do it again?’, not so far as sales, but does he have more in him? Then I hit them with After Taxes. I’m still stepping it up and I’m still proving that I’m that dude. I stepped it up lyrically and with the tracks I picked and the concepts. I’m showing growth and having a good time with this music.
Are fans starting to see you as a solo artist along with Jadakiss and Styles as opposed to just seeing you as the third member of The Lox?
100% yeah. For the longest, you knew about Styles and ‘Kiss. I’m making myself more visible at parties and clubs. They see the big man. And I’ve been working out. I’m in the best shape of my life right now. And I’m stepping myself up lyrically, so they know when they see the Silverback Gorilla. Word up.
You got some big collaborations on Silverback Gorilla. How did you decide who to get on the album?
I got my man Fat Joe. That’s my homie. That’s my boy. I got my man Unk from ATL. I got my man Game. I got Bun-B. I got Dipset, Hell Rell and Jim Jones on there. And of course Styles and Jada. Those are just people that I was feeling, man, and the track called out for them. I go about it like that. I look at who I like and who I respect as a person and who would sound good on the song. I don’t really look at who’s selling the most gimmick rap. I don’t go by that. If someone unknown says they have a track for me, I’m going to listen to it. It may be better than the top guy’s track.
What did you want in the production of Silverback Gorilla?
One, everybody says, ‘Oh, you have to keep it straight hip-hop with no synths.’ I got some tracks where you have to hear me and you can hear what I’m saying. That’s how I went about it. I didn’t say, “Oh, I have to have Timbaland and whoever has the hot beats.” I went about it totally different. I asked Red Spyda what he had and he gave me “2 Turntables and a Mic” and it came out crazy. That’s how I went about it.
Looking at your single “Good Love”…
(interrupts) Did you like that one?
It was a little left field for you, but it’s growing on me.
Yo, Brian, I’m shocked my damn self. I was on the road in London and I leaked it out. I was getting calls over Christmas and that’s when shit shuts down. They’re telling me that the song is hardcore. It’s not hardcore. You would be surprised who’s calling. It is definitely left field and I’m playing with it. I’m going to shoot a video for that too. I was like, ‘Let’s try something. Let’s try it.’ And it’s working. They know what I do with the hardcore and the gunplay. I just tried to show love and once again, my boy Red Spyda knew that would be big. He said with the pauses in it and the singing, it could be dope. It worked.
You’re talking about “Good Love” in the single. How hard can it be to weed out the opportunists from the people who genuinely support you and love your music?
As far as DJ’s, I know it’s a business first before friendship. I know that. You’ll have a Flex out here in New York and he’ll holla at me for nothing. I’ll holla at some of these DJ’s just to see what’s good. I won’t even be hollering at them to play my music. It’s not like, ‘I got this and the label is calling.’ They call me back and tell me they have this going on and to come through and have a drink.
At the same time, I’ve been in the game for a long time. I’ve established relationships as opposed to these new guys coming in and not knowing how to maneuver. They burn their bridges.
Does it ever get frustrating when street love doesn’t translate straight to record sales?
At the beginning. At the beginning, it was like, ‘Wow, man. We’re the hottest group. We’re hot to death. I don’t care if I walk in the same club as the top-selling MC. They’re going to run up to me as fast as they’re running up to him, but they’re not running up to the record stores to buy my records like they’re running to buy his.’ Our fanbase is awesome. We’ve made some of the grittiest songs like “Reservoir Dogs”. Our history is deep but the sales don’t add up. If you look at that Soundscan right now, it’s ridiculous. Somebody can have a No. 1 song on the radio and be at the lowest number (in terms of album sales). It’s crazy with the downloading and all these other…I don’t know. It’s ridiculous. If we don’t get our show money, it’s back to grams. You know what I mean?
The single to Silverback Gorilla is “Keep Pushin’”. What can you tell us about the song?
I’m doing the “Good Love” joint first. All these people are calling me and telling me that’s my radio record. And then I’m going to follow with “Keep Pushin’”. I got some shit up my sleeve. At the end of every verse, I go, “If you’re a rich dude”, or something like that, “I wrote this song for you.” It’s just something for you to keep going strong. It’s not “We Gonna Make It”. The hook goes, “You gotta keep pushing.” It’s ridiculous. Keep striving and keep pushing, but it’s not so positive if you hear the lyrics.
You’ve stayed independent with all your albums while Jadakiss and Styles P have both gotten caught up in the major label machine. How much easier is it to make good music when you’re not worrying about release dates and marketing budgets?
Very easy. I’m scared to get caught up in the system. Come on, B. We ain’t getting no younger and this game is so stupid right now. It’s like you gotta keep pushing and you gotta keep coming out with these songs and this music. You can’t be waiting because five other groups have to come out. We’re selling records indie along with groups that have millions of dollars beside them. Shout out to Koch. I’m working on a D-Block album and then my album and I can move that way and I can move where other people are stuck and they signed in for five albums, you know?
You recently did a freestyle titled “Wolves” over Beanie Sigel’s “One Shot Deal” beat. You said you were voting for Barack Obama. Does he have your official endorsement?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I like what homie’s about. He’s standing strong and keeping it all the way 100. I said we would never have a Black president and that we would never have a woman president as long as we’re alive. I said they would never let a woman run this country or a Black man run this country. I don’t know. It’s looking like a new day. But you don’t know who’s going to come out of nowhere and just take it all.
But if someone like Obama won, it would be very exciting. It would be like I lived through history. I don’t know any motherfuckers that came this close and possibly might win. This would definitely be history.
You also say, “You’re only half-good like a muffin”.
(laughs) I said that like, these guys do all right and it looks good through that window, but the whole thing ain’t good. It’s not all good. After that one piece or that one song, you’re done. You’re done. People are throwing that away. They’re getting you for that one single, that one top part, right there.
How strong do you think the 2008 rookie class of hip-hop is?
Shit, I was at the club the other day and I didn’t know what was going on. I saw them doing dances like the “Aunt Jackie” and all that. I said, “What the hell is all this, man?” I felt like an old man. The youth is always going to be strong. Do I like everything? Hell no. Do I understand all that shit? Hell no. But they’re doing what they do.
Sometimes artists in your position would try to figure out how they could get the youth down with them and others cater to their longtime fans. What approach are you taking?
I definitely have to keep my core audience, the ones who love what I’m saying and love the tracks that I pick. I gotta keep them. Also, I’m going to study what the youth is doing so I can see it and see how I can somewhat incorporate it. But one thing Sheek can never do is make up a dance. I can never make up a routine to go with my shit. If you see me doing that shit, Brian, smack the shit out of me! (laughs)
You know what I mean? You see me doing that, smack the shit outta me! “What are you doing, Sheek?”
I wasn’t worried about you making up dances but I’m going to hold you to that. On Styles P’s album Super Gangster, Extraordinary Gentleman, The Lox recorded “Gangster, Gangster” together. It’s dope to hear that after all these years you guys all have strong chemistry recording together.
That’s dope because that’s my homeboy too. Both of them. We hang together regardless. I’m on the road with Styles or ‘Kiss. We own our own studio together. ‘Kiss might be in there right now working. I was coming extra hard on that too. “Straight out the gate, I pack heavy/Big Chevy, 24’s/Bandana like I’m one of the Outlawz.” People are saying, “Sheek, you killed that shit!” That was dope. You have to hear the joint on my album, “Get It Stronger”. That’s hard.
Do you think because the three of you are friends outside of the music industry that it makes it easier to work together on music?
Definitely. Definitely. You got guys in groups that were put together by this manager and that manager. That’s not the case. My mom hangs with his mom and all our people are close like that. The chemistry is there. We see each other. We may be in separate places, but I come out to the ‘hood and they’ll be there and we check each other. Our studio is in the ‘hood. As a matter of fact, when we finish this I have to call ‘Kiss and ask him something.
In “Gangster, Gangster” you referred to yourself as the “Barack O of rap”. What makes you the hip-hop Obama?
All eyes on me right now, man! I’m trying to bring something new to the table. Like he’s bringing that Black president shit, I’m coming with that new Silverback Gorilla. I feel fresh and I feel like a new dude in this game. Every project, I feel like, ‘Wow!’ I’m toned up physically and mentally and I got on this campaign trail. I’m ready to go at it this time. I know the sales and the climate right now but I got some good music to bring to the table, B.
Have you spoken to J-Hood at all since he disrespected D-Block and dragged his D-Block chain on the street?
Nah. Hood is running around. He’s got new DVD’s out dissing me and my boys. I think he’s sticking to that plan. That’s what I think. He’s trying to use that as, I don’t know…I just saw the new one with him talking about how his guns go off and all that. I don’t speak to him and he doesn’t speak to me. He does the internet thing and the DVD’s. He doesn’t really put no music out. No DJ’s are really playing anything out of respect. It’s sad. So sad.
In your interview with XXLMag.com, you said you were like a father figure to J-Hood. It must hurt to see him acting like this.
I thought the boy was on drugs. I’m like, ‘What are you doing, fam?’ The way he’s going about it, it’s like, ‘Yo, Hood, all your people live down the block, fam. It’s only you, right there in your mama’s house.’ Don’t do it this way because for one, I know, young man, we definitely raised that boy. Whatever he’s going through and however he feels, he’s going about it wrong. You have to get those little dusthead friends out your ears, fam. It’s over now. There’s no love. At all.
But I’m not going to touch you and I’m not going to rap about you. God bless whatever you’re trying to do and whoever is trying to sign you, tell them to come holla at me and we can talk business. Other than that, go do your thing. Go do 100 diss records. I’m not going to rap about you, but I can’t stop these wolves that I be with from getting on you, homie, so you need to chill out.
Can this relationship ever be repaired?
Nah. Me, I don’t want to repair it with Hood at all. I look at all his people and he goes online and I see what he’s talking about. All the comments are shitting on him. 90% of the comments are shitting on Hood. Your guns go off. Come on, homie. Stop it.
For the record, has J-Hood received his release from D-Block?
No, not at all.
What’s it going to take for him to get that release?
Call me. Look, I happen to know people at labels and they’re like, ‘Man, we ain’t trying to sign no Hood.’ You say all these people want you. Bring them to the table, fam. And what’s so crazy about Hood is from the jump, Styles had the meeting with him. He said, “Let’s let him go, fam. I’m going to let him off.” Then he (J-Hood) jumps on the internet and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ And he starts making stuff up about the chain. I’m like, ‘Hood, why are you making us step up and where’s the beef? Why are you acting like a tough guy? Where’s the controversy? You’re running around dissing Mims and Lil’ Wayne. What are you doing?’
Was there any specific incident that triggered him to lash out at D-Block in the way he did, from dragging his chain to making diss songs and videos to everything else?
Ne-ver. Never. Never. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. He’s making claims about money. Let me tell you, Hood, I 100% feel you how we handled our business and why we didn’t put your album out anyway. I definitely said that to myself. Even though certain DJ’s weren’t feeling the songs, we loved it to death. We should have put it out anyway and said, “Fuck it.” I didn’t put it out that was because I thought you deserved a better shot. You had been waiting a long time. What was hot to us, everybody wasn’t going crazy over. That was our decision and he wasn’t feeling that, and rightfully so as far as being with us for so long and not putting anything out.
But as far as taking his money and all that, come on, Hood. I told you not to buy that chain when you first showed us and you paid the $400. I told you, “Dog, you’re going to have us kill somebody for this shit.” Anybody else, I don’t care. Go ahead and wear that shit and let them think it’s $400,000. Somebody’s going to do something for that $400 chain and as big brothers, we’re going to have to put in real work.
It wasn’t a real chain?
Nah, never. Never. Never, never. He said he took $20 more thousand and went and bought another one. Us, we’re looking at the DVD’s and we just laugh like, ‘He’s a nut.’ We’re not watching like we’re going to get him. Never have I felt that way and none of my peoples have felt that way, like, ‘I can’t wait to see him.’ Never that.
Some fans have been saying, “The Lox were locked into a bad contract and Puffy released them. Why won’t they release J-Hood?” Do you look at those as two situations as being completely different?
See, our situation was totally different from Hood’s. When we had the “Let the Lox Go” t-shirts and the “Let the Lox Go” campaign, we couldn’t get off from Puff. We couldn’t get off at all. When Styles was throwing chairs at Diddy and this and that and the whole thing went down and all that, we could not get off whatsoever. Diddy had money and he was fighting us in court. We told Hood, “Hood, we will let you off” before any tough-guy acting. Now it’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ Now you have to tell anyone who wants you to come holla at me. People online are saying, “Hood, you weren’t even off yet and you jumped out the window.” Who is advising this shit?
Does this situation make you more wary of new artists you work with?
Yes. It definitely does. And me, myself, I think I know the business a little better now than when we dealt with it with Hood. He has the right to be mad about why his album hasn’t come out, but I would just take my time with another artist before I jump in with him real quick. I just know the business a little better now and I’m going to be wary of certain people’s character and the way they act. There’s characters out there. You swear you know somebody and they had it in them the whole time.
A lot of these labels and these artists, they don’t care. You ask them to put it out, they’ll put it out and if they sell 50,000, that’s money in their pocket. They don’t care. We didn’t want that for Hood. Flex says that I used to beg him to play Hood’s music. We didn’t ask them to spaz like that. They’re not messing with Hood right now on the strength. He’s on some clown shit and they don’t respect him. Yo, Brian, I had certain music that didn’t hit. It didn’t stick. You go back to the drawing board. You keep trying and you try until you feel you have the one.
Fam, I have a history. Your first record’s gotta be hot. It’s gotta be hot, fam. And we were taking that attitude with him and I guess he said, “Enough is enough. I gotta get out of here and diss these motherfuckers and say my gun goes off.” That’s how that went. There was no tension and no beef and none of this tough guy shit with him, ever.
We’ll destroy Hood lyrically, physically and anybody that he deals with. Somebody said that I had hit him and took his chain. My mom called up and was like, ‘Why did you touch that boy?’ That’s how it is with us and Hood. And I got the word that he was putting a lot of shit on the internet to build his shit up. But I thought it was over. All the DJ’s are hitting me like, ‘Your boy’s a wrap. The Lox are on fire.’ I guess he’s going to keep going like, ‘Sheek said this’ and there’s “Hood answers back.” Fam, shut up.
How much loyalty is there in the game today?
There’s not too many people that have love for their artists. They’re cool, but right now, it’s like, ‘Give me the song. Which one is the ringtone?’ It’s like that right now.
How’s the new Lox album Live, Suffer, Celebrate coming?
Crazy! Live, Suffer, Celebrate has been a long time coming. It’s been a very long time. This album is retarded, man. Y’all are going to be very happy. We’re giving you teasers right now with “Gangster, Gangster”. We just did a show at BB King’s and they said it was one of the best shows of ’07.
Would you say this is the best Lox album to date?
Those are classics and they were both different situations. The first one was when we met Puff and the second one was when we left Puff. Now our head is a little more clear. We’re not dissing Puff and we’re not dissing nobody. You’re going to see 100% growth, definitely, from all of us.
What label will Live, Suffer, Celebrate come out on?
It’s still Interscope as we speak. The whole thing tried to take place at Def Jam. Shout out to Jay-Z. He fought hard to get the project over there and Iovine was like, ‘The project has to come out here.’ That’s how that went down.
N.O.R.E. wrote in his HipHopGame journal Hanghang Hood Chicken that you and Styles P had both gotten diesel when he saw you at the “Sour Diesel” video shoot. What’s your workout routine?
Fam, right now, I got my gloves on. I’m just coming from there. I’m tired as a motherfucker, man. I don’t do no carbs, no fried foods and no soda. I don’t eat after 7:00, period. I hit the treadmill and the weights hard. We’re getting older and it’s time to get our bodies into shape. I feel great. I lost 30-something pounds. I was 256 before and I’m down to like 232. So I feel great. I’m still brolic. I’m still right.
Did something happen to make you more health conscious?
I said, “Yo, I’m going to try this diet for three weeks to a month.” After that, I didn’t want steak every day. I didn’t want fried chicken anymore. Let me get it baked. It sounds corny, but it’s dope, man. It’s good.
A lot of artists say it’s hard to maintain a healthy diet on the road because you’re constantly hitting fast food restaurants. How do you stay healthy when you’re always on the move?
It’s hard because you’re doing press and DVD’s but you just have to stick with it. Instead of getting that cheeseburger, get that fish sandwich or get a steak. Even if you’re at McDonald’s, don’t get the biggest triple burger they have. Get something else. Don’t get the soda. Get a juice. And you’re all good.
Do you think being healthy is going to become more of a trend in hip-hop?
I think as these young boys get older. I think as they get older. Right now, they’re living it up. They’re like, ‘Whatever. Three Big Mac’s.’ I don’t know why they don’t do it now that they’re young. It helps with the chicks to get nicely in shape. I think it’s mostly these older dudes who are like, ‘I gotta shake this up.’
Looking at your place in the game today, do you feel you get the respect you deserve for what you accomplished?
Yeah. I think so. I seen it the other day at the BB King’s show. I don’t think we got the money we deserved. We stagnated for a lot of our career, not knowing until later that we had hits. But we got the respect. With the money, we’re all good and we’re chilling, but everybody knows those boys wrote “Victory” for Diddy and they did their own shit, but a lot of the money was going to other people. That was our situation, but we kept going stronger and stronger.
Would you say you’re improving your business techniques today?
Yes. Yes, sir. And I’m learning. Look at the Hood situation and how he was unhappy. I’m learning as a young businessman. We got our lawyer shit tighter. Every day, I’m learning and I’m learning and I have no choice but to learn. Earlier, we didn’t have money to fight Diddy so we took different routes.
What’s the next move for Sheek Louch?
Man, if I could get a role in a movie and break out, that would be dope. I need to get into this acting shit. I need to go out to L.A. and try my hand, I think. I’m proud of this album Silverback Gorilla. Right now, what we’re going to do is of course we have The Lox coming and ‘Kiss coming. That’s mandatory. We also have a D-Block compilation called No Security that we’re dropping right after my album. We have a bunch of artists that are popping off immediately too.
What do you want to say to everybody?
To all my fans and all my people, keep supporting Sheek Louch. The album is amazing. Go get Styles’ album. Just support us, man, because we’re going to keep giving you that good music. Everybody in jail, just hold y’all’s heads. Everybody in the group homes, man, y’all are going to be good. And just hold us down and represent us to the fullest. That’s it. We’re going to do what we do and we’re not going to let you down. And I promise you, we will never make up a dance to go with our raps!