With 10 years in the game, 6 major label releases, and a slew of hit singles under his belt, Mr. Cheeks has decided to take his music into his own hands. On June 8th, 2004…Mr. Cheeks will be releasing the album “Ladies and Ghettomen,” his 3rd solo LP in as many years. Breaking loose from Universal Records last fall, Mr. Cheeks has started his own label “Diane’s Boyz,” in search of the creative flexibility that he lacked while signed with the major label. “I left in September 2003 because I wasn’t feeling at home there…I didn’t feel they were giving me the promotional attention I needed” Cheeks says regarding his split with his former label.
Now that Mr. Cheeks has the opportunity to utilize his creative energy, he’s putting it to good use. Showing that he hasn’t lost his sensitive side, “I’ll Make It Up To You” is like a throwback to Renee…his 1994 smash about a lost love; but this track (which the streets have already dubbed “Renee II”) definitely shows a degree of growth and a more mature edge. In contrast, hard hitting tracks like “4 Walls” and “On Fire” let the world know that there is to be no doubt that he is still the reigning King of Queens. “I went through people doubting me, but I stayed focused” Cheeks said. “This new album is emotional.”
Since being embraced by the industry back in ’94 with the Lost Boyz debut “Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless,” Mr. Cheeks has had his share of ups and downs. In 1998, after 3 successful releases in 4 years, the hip hop world was stunned by the loss of Mr. Cheeks’ close friend and Lost Boyz group member Freaky Tah. “There wasn’t nothing else left after Talik passed away. We had always planned to make music together. So when he died, I didn’t know what I was going to do.” Yet despite the pain from the loss of Freaky Tah, Cheeks’ dedication to music and his determination to succeed gave him the strength to do whatever he had to do to take the Lost Boyz legacy to new heights. “Music is my trade and it’s a blessing to be blessed with a gift like that. So I wanted to continue that for the Lost Boyz.”
With 4 Lost Boyz albums under his belt, Cheeks took his veteran status and began a solo career with his 2001 smash club single “Lights, Camera, Action,” a fast paced club anthem that propelled him back into the spotlight. Still, the inability to take more control over his projects from a creative perspective caused his album sales to suffer. Cheeks found himself at odds with his former label, Universal Records…and realized that in order for his career to progress, something had to happen. Separating from Universal in the fall of 2003, Cheeks reflects, “I still got love for them. Harrell gave us our first shot, but now I’m doing the independent thing.”
Opting to not clutter his album with special guest appearances, Cheeks decided instead to simply bring his own camp on. “There aren’t many special invited guests, but it’s a really powerful album.” When asked how he feels about his work, Cheeks smiles “…Everybody knows what I do. I party a lot. But there are certain things I want people to hear. Real life things that happen every day in my life. With this album I’m feeling good.”
Photo: Shaheem Reid