As a member of the Yonkers, NY trio The LOX, Sheek Louch has consistently been overshadowed by his two partners. This is not without reason as both Jadakiss and Styles P deserve mention in any discussion of the greatest emcees working today. Jadakiss is, quite simply, one of the cleverest wordsmiths and punch-line artists in hip-hop’s history with an incredibly smooth flow and a great, raspy voice. Styles P, with his hardcore lyricism and fierce delivery, possesses a Tupac-like ability to get powerful messages across. Sheek, as far as his strengths as an artist are concerned, falls quite literally right in between the other two members of his crew; he shows flashes of cleverness with a voice not quite as raspy as Jada’s and an emotional delivery that lacks some of Styles’ intensity. Considering this, his status as the least heralded member of The LOX makes perfect sense; it also, however, might explain his track record as perhaps the most consistent solo artist of the crew. While he might never reach the highs that Jadakiss or Styles have reached, his strengths possibly extend across a larger range than either of his two cohorts.
Sheek’s first two solo albums, Walk Wit’ Me and After Taxes, released in 2003 and 2005, respectively, were both solid, good-but-not-great works which displayed promising artistic growth from one to the other. As soon as the lead single “Good Love” from his third LP Silverback Gorilla hit, it became apparent that this positive trend would continue. The track – produced by the underrated Red Spyda—utilizes a soulful Betty Wright sample and bouncy piano keys over which Sheek rhymes verses that are just as much about finding good love from women as they are about loving life in general. It is an uncharacteristically happy song that brings to mind (but doesn’t quite deserve comparisons to) classics like Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” and The Game’s “Hate It or Love It”.
Sheek never sounds as upbeat as he does on “Good Love” throughout the rest of Silverback Gorilla, but he generally addresses topics with a seemingly more positive outlook than he has in the past. He might have angrily chastised copycat rappers before, but on “Don’t Be Them” he offers support and encourages wannabes to recognize their own potential without emulating their idols. The album is not without its fair share gangster threats and holier-than-thou braggadocio, but Sheek, more often than not approaches things with sincerity and a sense of humor. He even sarcastically acknowledges his rank within The LOX referring to himself as “the sleeper of the crew” on “We Spray Crowds”.
Silverback Gorilla boasts a guest list that does nothing if not prove the respect Sheek has from all across the hip-hop map. He adopts a southern flow on “We Comin’” with Atlanta’s Unk and surprisingly succeeds without the song sounding like an awkward attempt at a crossover. “Think We Got a Problem” features The Game and Bun-B, both of whom are not only extremely popular in their respective regions, but also worldwide. Other features include Fat Joe, as well as Jim Jones and Hell Rell from the Diplomats. Jadakiss and Styles P each show to support their crew member, twice and three times, respectively. Considering that this is an independent release for which the collaboration budget couldn’t have been too large, the fact that these artists appear attests to the kind of name Sheek (with much due to his affiliation) has built in the world of hip-hop.
The problem with Sheek Louch as a solo artist is that a consistently good album like Silverback Gorilla seems to be the best thing that could have been expected from him. The two other members of his crew have demonstrated high points that make them seem capable of crafting classics; a merely good album from either of them will always be perceived as somewhat of a failure. Unless he somehow shows us some great strength we never knew he had, Sheek has already either met or exceeded most expectations anyone would have had for him. On “Mic Check”, he reflects upon what his group done and the impression they will leave on hip-hop. The fact is that, no matter how many albums as good as Silverback Gorilla Sheek manages to put out, the legacy of the LOX will always appear to be more dictated by the work of Jadakiss and Styles P.
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// Notes from the Road
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