[Interview] Sheek Louch
It’s a good time to be Sheek Louch. The release of his latest album, Silverback Gorilla, has brought with it the praise of critics, a top ten single in “Good Love“, and a clearer presence for Sheek. No longer just ˜the third member of the LOX” Sheek is looking forward to capitalizing on the success that follows 12 years in the industry.
Sheek’s veteran status, yet relatively young age put him in an interesting spot in Hip Hop. Like Kobe Bryant, or Kevin Garnett, Sheek’s career took of when he, Styles P., and Jadakiss were still teenagers with raw talent, but not much in terms of industry know-how. In this Ruby Hornet exclusive interview, Sheek breaks down his career’s progression, talks about the responsibilities that come with his veteran status, and explains why Silverback Gorilla took so many by surprise…
RubyHornet: How have you been since the album came out?
Sheek Louch: From before the album came out and after, I’m great, man. I’m feeling ecstatic right now. I’m on a whole other level with the way things are going right now.
RubyHornet: I got a lot of that when listening to your album…I think there are a lot of themes running through, and one that maintained throughout was the theme of maturity and growth, and fit with the title Silverback Gorilla. With this album being out now, and you being a veteran, being older, can you think back to how it felt when you dropped the first LOX album?
Sheek Louch: Of course, man. I can give you the whole growth process. I don’t know how far back you want to go, but us even coming from the streets to us getting with Puff and being intimidated by that point alone. We were just young boys, 17, 18, whatever. Imagine being there and walking passed B.I.G. and all of them. Walking passed Craig Mack, Total, all these people, I’m like ‘wow.’ Puff made them larger than life. We were like, ‘we got to deliver once we get up in here.’ During that time things were more dictated to us. It was more like, ‘alright, this is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to say it. We’re going to go over here, they’re going to teach us about this. This is what’s rocking in Texas, this is what’s playing out here. Study these albums.’ It was more like school. But we had the big homie always, which is B.I.G. that was keeping us on some other s**t. We were regular street [dudes], even though Diddy tried to have us a whole other way, B.I.G. was like, ‘nah, they’re going to do this.’
Leaving that situation for whatever reasons, now we went from students to now we’re tight and can say whatever we want cause we’re back with our old manager who started Ruff Ryders. We could talk and our whole s**t was basically getting at Puff, the whole album We Are The Streets. We were young boys not knowing the business, but we were tight. On that [album] I got to say a little bit more of what I wanted, and after that situation it’s our fall back..Kiss and Styles, you’re hearing them, whatever, whatever. Me, I’m like, ‘ahhh, I’ll do the Lox.’ That’s when I started thinking, ‘let me see what’s popping out here [business wise]. ‘I was trying the business thing. And I still do, I still take my meetings..As far as growth from that time, I’m a monster. I’m becoming more of a monster by learning. Not to sound generic, but I knew that I had a lot to learn and a long way to go. Lyrically, now we’re talking lyrically, people were saying ‘damn, he’s stepped up. Let me see what’s popping. I ain’t heard Sheek like that. You ain’t just the third member of the LOX, you got to do some things, get some album deals going.’
Now by the time I do that album Walk With Me, I still had something to prove. By the second album I feel like my presence is getting stronger, especially when I get to the station and I call in and it’s ‘where’s Sheek, where’s Sheek at’ up at the station. With this album, from my last one After Taxes, it’s been a year and a half wait, two years almost. Any man, anybody’s going to grow and see different things in their lives and figure out how they want to come with it. I just said, ‘I need some hot tracks. I need some hot features that’s going to go left, that are not expected.’ I don’t want them to say, ‘ahh, I knew this was going to be this.’ A lot of people, I’ve done a lot of interviews and it’s not insulting, but they say, ‘Sheek, you surprised the s**t out of me, man.’ They are really telling me that with a straight face. They say, ‘I don’t mean any disrespect. I knew it was going to be hot, but you shocked me.’ A lot of them. I’ve done interviews for the internet, satellite, live on the radio with the top Deejays, whoever. They’re all like, ‘dawg, I did not expect you to come on this track like that, I didn’t expect you to ask him to get on it.’
RubyHornet: I don’t want to insult you either, but some of the songs I just didn’t expect for you to open up as much as you did. I think that could be what people are shocked by in a sense.
Sheek Louch: Definitely, definitely, 100%. That was strictly me just saying, ‘it’s bigger than just to talk about the same s**t.’ Look at my first single, fam, “Good Love.” It’s a top ten record right now. It’s number 8 or 9 on 106. It’s on f**king Z100 and those kind of stations, and f**king number 3 on MTV, all kind of s**t! I’m like, ‘wow, this is a song I wasn’t afraid to go into.’ I figure, dawg, I talked about the guns, the crack, I still do and have talked about that so much I thought, ‘let me try this.’ Red Spider was like, ‘Sheek, you need to do this record. This is it, this is it.’ He told me to let it breathe, let what Betty Wright is saying breathe and not to go over the sample part. He gave me a formula, which was dope. A lot of producers just give you the track and they’ll get up with you later to get the check and mix it down. He was literally like, ‘we got to do this dadada,’ and ‘keep that swagger. Talk to the chicks.’ It’s a big record. I have a feeling that “Good Love” is going to rock till it’s warm outside.
RubyHornet: It’s going to be warm soon I hope.
Sheek Louch: And when they’re ready for something else, I’m going to come with the remix.
RubyHornet: Do you have that planned out, and who’s going to be on it?
Sheek Louch: Yeah. Someone already laid [their verse], but I just want to lock it all the way in before I even talk about it.
RubyHornet: I respect that. Something you touched on in your answer are some of themes you bring up in “Don’t Be Them,” which is a really good track-
Sheek Louch: It’s my favorite of all the songs I made.
RubyHornet: In terms of your growth you were just talking about, going from just being the 3rd member of the LOX to really carving out your own identity. Were there times when you struggled with that for real?
Sheek Louch: Hell yeah. Like I said, as far as being the 3rd member of the LOX, now it’s like, ‘it’s Sheek Louch, he’s hot. When can we get Sheek to the station? When can we get this interview with him?’ Not, ‘I need Styles, Sheek, and Jadakiss, can they all come in?’ Now it’s like, ‘Sheek, can we get you to do Summer Jam for us? Can we get you a ten minute segment? We got a big show for the station.’ And I love it! I feel like I’ve been working and I’ve been grinding. Wow. That’s what it is, I’m standing as a man. They respect my work that I’m bringing forth. Especially a song like Don’t Be Them’ that had a lot to do with people asking me, ‘can you advise a new artist about how to get on?’ The wrong answer is ‘yo, just keep it real, son. Just be real.’ That ain’t the answer. I’m not saying who’s giving that answer, but that’s not it. Don’t be them. If my son said ‘I want to be a rapper. I want to be Nas.’ I would say, ‘you want to be the guy they’re signed to. ‘I don’t know, that’s how I was feeling.
Especially when I have those quotes in there about the rapper’s everyday and what he’s going through. It’s not that he didn’t want to do an autograph, or he didn’t want to take the interview. Maybe he was f**king at home with the flu. His throat could be killing him, but it comes across a different way so now people are like, ‘f**k him. He didn’t call me back.’
RubyHornet: It seems like you’re really embracing your role as a professional within Hip Hop and as a veteran. What do you see as the responsibilities for artists like yourself in terms of ensuring that the quality of Hip Hop maintains going forward? You won’t be rapping 20 or 30 years from now, but other people will be.
Sheek Louch: With that, my responsibility is, as hot as I am and as lyrical as I am-and I kind of know the game, but it switches so much that I kind of don’t-I would think the responsibility would be to bring new groups to the table that have values and morals such as yourself. You see what I’m saying? Don’t just go grab muthafuckas that don’t give a f**k. Bring people to the table that really care about it. You can’t tell all the time. Some are flukes, some are one hit wonders, but still have judgment about who you bring to the table, and who you let in this Hip Hop circle. You dig what I’m saying? Pass some kind of judgment about who you let in. Also, a lot of young boys never knew who Betty Wright was. They do now just cause I did that song, I introduced it. She had no problem clearing it, cause it was so good.
RubyHornet: I understand. I talked to Common when he put out “Corners” with the Last Poets. He was saying kind of the same thing, how he enjoys turning younger people on to artists he was listening to before, and hopefully passing inspiration on. I think that’s the key to music, inspiring people and passing that through.
Sheek Louch: Yeah. I respect that. I didn’t know he said that. I respect that, no doubt.
RubyHornet: Those are some of the things you’re also talking about in “Mic Check.”
Sheek Louch: Who’s the next Jam Master Jay? Is it Felli Fel? Is Hova the next Melle Mel? Hahaha…
RubyHornet: In that song you’re talking about your audience and doing what feels good vs. trying to reach different markets. For you being in a weird position, as you say on the song, you’re not young but you’re not old, who do you see as your target audience? And when you were making this album, were you conscious of trying new things vs. balancing your old core fan base?
Sheek Louch: Yeah. You got to walk that rope. How do you fit in? You know what it is with us? I still feed the streets. I’m still out there with the youth. I pay attention to every little thing that they do. I see the Soulja Boys, the Uncle Murdas, all that. I’m paying attention to every little thing. I’m combining that. I’ve never turning into none of these dudes, but I’m watching, I’m seeing like, ‘ok, this is what they’re feeling out here.’ I need to touch a little of that, but still bring that Sheek Louch, that LOX, D-Block flavor to the scene. Me feeding the streets with these mixtapes, and freestyles, and three songs here, jumping on a track with an upcoming artist, I’ll jump on it with whoever the new artist is, but I’m f**king murdering him on his song. It’ll be s**t like that. I pop up at the 106′s, and just stay relevant. 10 years, 12 years later I’m still relevant and still f**king popping right now.
RubyHornet: Maybe at the height of your career right now.
Sheek Louch: Yeah I know. Me personally, yeah, no doubt. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m grinding. I’m here and I’m done with beefing and all that. I’ll take it if it comes though, or whatever. That D-Block/Dipset joint I got, I’m like, ‘let’s show some unity where we’re at.’ If I got to be the first person to take that stab and be like, ‘you’re a hot group over there, we’re a hot group over here, let’s do a song together.’
RubyHornet: What you were just saying leads me into what I was going to ask you about next, which is the song “Spray Crowds,” You say, ‘I’m not trying to make a record where my momma’s not proud,’ but it’s like you’re acknowledging that in life sometimes you have to do stuff that might not make your mom proud in a sense. Can you talk about that song, and how you balance that stuff?
Sheek Louch: It’s so funny, my mom called me the other day and said, ‘you’re not trying to make a record where your momma’s not proud, but all that cussing you’re doing, that don’t mean nothing…’ I said, ‘nah mom, that’s the whole concept of what I was trying to say on that track. I know you’re not going to get it.’ And she’s like, ‘your son and everyone’s listening.’ Well you know what? Junior shouldn’t be listening to this song right here. I understand that whether we like it or not we’re role models. People look up to us, but at the same time… My son said to me, ‘dad you said kiss you’re a** goodbye on a song.’ I told him, ‘I made a mistake, it won’t happen again.’ But that’s not for my son, he don’t need to do that. The young boys that are listening, don’t do everything I say. I’m making good music. When Denzel makes a Training Day and kills a room, he’s not literally going home shooting everybody up. Al Pacino and all them, they’re not going home to their families and grabbing an AK and killing. It’s entertainment. But we do have a role definitely to lead them to the right path.
RubyHornet: I understand. I think some people when they get in those discussions they’re saying the because Robert DeNiro plays all kinds of different characters and Hip Hop is definitely different from movies in the sense that it’s much more real life to people. People live it and it’s hard to see the line between life and just entertainment. A lot of rappers are always talking about ‘this is what I really do. This is how I really am all the time.’
Sheek Louch: Yup, yup, definitely. After the guy says cut, that’s cut for these actors. You’re right, some of these muthafuckas just came from jail. They’re going through some bulls**t.
RubyHornet: The album starts with a skit about what you would do if you won the lottery. Can you talk about why you added that skit, and do you feel like you are in a sense winning the lottery with your best success coming now, and success being the best kind of revenge?
Sheek Louch: Hahaha, nah…You know that skit was just me sitting around talking for real, for real. Right before we went in the both and did it, n****s really asked me, that was some real s**t. It was the Megabonus or something that’s going around right now. It was real high, you know the mega millions? I played that s**t earlier that day, so I’m like ‘if I hit this s**t’ And I said the same exact s**t. First I talked about buying everybody sneakers, I was joking. Then I talked about my family, and I said I’m going to take care of my enemies. Everybody was like, ‘oooohhhh.’ I didn’t even know I said it at first. Then I thought, ‘let me go in this booth and say it again. That’s what happened. As far as me feeling that I’m winning, winning, I’m feeling good, fam. I’m doing good and people are like, ‘wow, Sheek is hot. He’s that dude right now.’ Come on dawg, I’ve been grinding. Not struggling cause we’re still mainstream dudes and we make anthems for the street. Right now I’m number one on all these countdowns on stations, and number two…It feels great. The grind we had, and I keep saying we because in one of my verses I say, ‘you ain’t never wrote hits and ain’t rich, you know, the life of the LOX.’ We got houses, cars, all that life s**t, whatever. But I’ve seen dudes come in the game for a year or two and make zillions. Whether theyâ€™re still here and relevant now, I don’t know. But they made zillions. Once we get to that status of making that mega, mega, mega money, I know it’s for real paying off. I love that my fans appreciate me a lot more now, and I just want to touch on more s**t. We can take it to another level.
RubyHornet: In terms of going forward, as you said in the interview, you’re at a different status. Also since the last LOX album, Styles P has put out a lot of great material, and you always have Jadakiss. Will this change the dynamic between the three of you? Are you looking forward to putting out that LOX album because now all three of you have established each other as a group and as solo artists.
Sheek Louch: Right, right, right..nah cause we’re brothers till the end, till the death. Last night we were all there bugging off of one beat. There’s a lot of groups that don’t see each other and only their managers talk to each other. That ain’t us. We own studios together, we own businesses together. Kiss will call me like, ‘what do you think about this?’ and I’ll listen to it over the phone and s**t. And I’ll come in and say something right here while he’s there working. I’m there during his project. He’s there talking s**t during mine. We feel each other out. We were zoning-zoning last night over a track. And we didn’t get to writing, but we got it up, we got to lighting blunts, we’re bugging throwing a little bulls**t in the air, it’s like that with us. I doubt it’s like that with a lot of other groups.
RubyHornet: Any word on when that might come out?
Sheek Louch: We would love for back to school. We’re on Interscope now, we’ve been here. We tried to get it over there with Hov. Hov couldn’t make that happen. Jimmy Iovine wasn’t budging. Ruff Ryders were still in play and all that. We’re going to keep it at Interscope, we don’t have any problems with anybody at Interscope whatsoever. When I say that I mean 50, nobody. We’re trying to get money now, and people really really want that LOX project. Hopefully back to school or towards the end heading into winter but not all the way winter. I don’t have an exact date, but we got 25 solid that you’ll say, ‘Sheek, this needs to come out right now.’