Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Revisiting The Lox's "Money, Power, & Respect" and "We Are The Streets"

I was first introduced to The Lox in 1997, via the following songs:

These joints, a few others, appeared on several mixtapes, with the latter getting spun on DJ Clue's "Show Me The Money Part 1" (I need to revisit this one too). I really liked what I heard from these guys (especially after "You'll See") and they had a respectable amount of buzz on their way to Bad Boy Records. Speaking of the label, they had some pretty good guest appearances on albums from Biggie ("Life After Death"), Puff Daddy ("No Way Out"), and Mase ("24 Hours To Live"). I also can't forget about the memorable freestyle with Biggie on Funkmaster Flex's Vol. 2 mixtape. All of this had my anticipation quite high for their 1998 debut, "Money, Power, & Respect." I was in the 8th grade when it dropped, copping it a few weeks after its release from Target. The always present nostalgia as you know.

Release date: January 13, 1998

1. Yonkers Tale (Intro)
Produced By The Lox and Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie
The "Bronx Tale" influenced start serves as a fitting intro to the 3 man crew and the album, leading us into.....

2. Livin' The Life
Produced By Sean "Puffy" Combs and Richard "Younglord" Frierson 

"L-O-X, three letter word, black mob/Wit every last member of the team on the job/Whether it be controllin the street, holdin the heat/Really don't matter to me, long as we eat" -Jadakiss

After two good verses by Styles and Sheek, Jada not only comes through with an equally good verse of his own, but his last four lines accurately describe this song in a nutshell. Very good, fast paced and straight to the point,
*4 out of 5*

3. If You Think I'm Jiggy
Produced By Dame Grease

Well at the time, apparently some people didn't like the interpolation of Rod Stewart's "Do You Think I'm Sexy,"; some people didn't like Lox sounding "too commercial" (keep in mind this was the signature Bad Boy sound at this point); most didn't like them in the shiny suits. Now, I can't speak for everyone, but this first single sold me on the album and I still like it to this day; never had a problem with it. Years after this album's release, the crew never had anything good to say about this song and I wonder how they feel about it in 2014. Either way, this was (and still is) dope.
*4 out of 5*

5. The Interview (Part I) Interlude
The crew talks about money, power, and respect, specifically what it means to them, which perfectly leads us into.....

6. Money, Power, & Respect
Featuring DMX and Lil' Kim
Produced By Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie and Ron "Amen-Ra" Lawrence

Oh man, you know I went crazy when I first heard this one. Not only does this classic still hold up today (probably the ONLY Lox song that still receives radio play in my area), but my mom was a big fan of this song when it came out and still is today. All involved bring the goods. Lil Kim was cast perfectly on the hook and the hot DMX, whose buzz and following was growing with every appearance he made, closed this one in show stealing fashion.
*5 out of 5*

7. Get This $
Produced By Sean "Puffy" Combs and J-Dub

There was no shortage of songs about money coming from the Bad Boy camp at this point; this was another one in the series.
*4 out of 5*

8. Let's Start Rap Over
Featuring Carl Thomas
Produced By Dame Grease, Co-Produced By J-Dub

After listening to this one again, this was more about reminiscing on the good ol days of years gone by; of course hip hop plays a key role when thinking about the good times and taking things back to how things used to be. The sampling of Miles Jaye's "Let's Start Love Over" was a nice touch.
*4 out of 5*

9. Madd Rapper (Interlude)
Lol, another hilarious Madd Rapper interlude/skit.

10. I Wanna Thank You
Featuring Kelly Price
Produced By Nashiem Myrick

I really like this one right here. The crew just simply take the time out to thank God for everything, nothing wrong with that. Alicia Myers' "I Want To Thank You" served as the inspiration for the hook in another nice touch.
*4 out of 5*

11. Goin' Be Some Shit
Produced By Nashiem Myrick and Carlos "Six July" Broady

Sheek flexed his lyrical muscles solo style on this appropriately titled song, complete with well timed samples courtesy of MC Lyte's "Shut The Eff Up Hoe!".
*4 out of 5*

12. The Heist (Part 1)
Jadakiss and Styles
Produced By Sean "Puffy" Combs and Rob "Arsee" Carter

In a precursor of things to come, Jada and Styles show what they could do when it was just the two of them and that chemistry is still present today. This song shows their storytelling abilities with a "heist" that's easy to follow and understand. I don't think we ever got part 2 either.
*4 out of 5*

13. Not To Be Fucked With
Produced By Dame Grease and Sean "Puffy" Combs

Styles excels solo style on this nice, apply titled song.
*4 out of 5*

14. The Set Up (Interlude)

15. Bitches From Eastwick
Produced By Carl "Chucky" Thompson and Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie

I always loved the bassline on this one. The crew delivers more storytelling, this time covering their adventures with some of the wildest women they would come in contact with, some of whom had ulterior motives. 
*4 out of 5*

16. Can't Stop, Won't Stop
Featuring Puff Daddy
Produced By Sean "Puffy" Combs and Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, Co-Produced By Stevie J.

Much like "If You Think I'm Jiggy," this is another song that epitomized the Bad Boy sound. Decent song.
*4 out of 5*

17. All For The Love
Produced By Swis-Beatz 

As far as I'm concerned, this marked the official debut of Swizz Beatz and he provided Jada with a hell of a banger. Jada was definitely out to show and prove with his solo spot.
*5 out of 5*

18. So Right
Featuring Kelly Price
Produced By Sean "Puffy" Combs and Ron "Amen-Ra" Lawrence

The crew may have been aiming for a little more radio play with this one, especially with it's Cheryl Lynn's "Encore" sample, which was one of the more popular songs to sample at this point
*3 out of 5*

19. The Snitch (Interlude)

20. Everybody Wanna Rat
Produced By Pent P.K., Co-Produced By Dame Grease

Snitching became too cool at some point in the mid 90s, and quite a few songs were made about it. Lox's version details the downfall that such acts of betrayal can bring, from a street perspective.
*4 out of 5*

21. The Interview (Part II) Interlude

22. We'll Always Love Big Poppa
Produced By Dame Grease 

It can be argued for obvious reasons that this may be The Lox's finest hour, but make no mistake about it, this was a heartfelt tribute to the late Notorious B.I.G. and it was a very fitting way to close their first album.
*5 out of 5*

This 4 star album still holds up exceedingly well today. Jada, Styles, and Sheek did a very good job with their debut, backed by some dope lyrics and production. It is a classic? No it isn't, but I was satisfied with it. Things would change drastically for them heading into their second album. (I'll have a little more to say about this album during the coverage of "We Are The Streets".)

As I mentioned up top, going into this album, things had drastically changed for Lox, so let's continue with 98 and 99 heading into the year 2000. When you take into account the buzz they had before their first album dropped,  the multiple guest appearances, in and outside of Bad Boy (including the classic "It's All About The Benjamins Remix), and the response to the "Money, Power, & Respect" album (shooting to #1 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums" chart and sitting at #3 on the Billboard 200), their tenure at Bad Boy was largely a success in my book, however, the crew was apparently not happy with the label or the direction of their careers, and that includes the "shiny suits", lol. But seriously, they were not happy and they set out to do something about it.When working things out directly with the label didn't work, they truly took things to the next level, starting a "Let The LOX Go" campaign to be released from their contract. The mounting pressure was too much for Bad Boy, so they literally had no choice but to release them, truly a historic moment in hip hop, for the right and/or wrong reasons depending on your perspective. They quickly linked up with Ruff Ryders (by way of Interscope Records), which turned out to be a great fit for them, now going by Sheek Louch and Styles P for maximum effect (the Jadakiss named remained). As you would imagine, the buzz for this album was a little bit bigger than the first time around, and with ALL this being said, let's continue on to the year 2000!

Release date: January 25, 2000 (Sidenote: Ghostface Killah's second album "Supreme Clientele" was scheduled to be released on this same day, but was wisely pushed up to a February 8th release date. Can you imagine these two albums indirectly going "head to head"? Wow.)

1. Intro (Skit)
Everyone had something to say about The Lox, directly leading us right into.....

2. F*** You
Produced By Swizz Beatz

All it took was two words here, lol. The crew goes in on the haters, naysayers, and everyone who thought they wouldn't make it at that point in their careers. There's some serious aggressive, lyrical heat on this one.

*5 out of 5*

3. Can I Live
Featuring Kasino
Produced By Swizz Beatz

You can argue that songs with this title have been done to death, but it's one of those that when done right, something dope will come out of it (plus Lox had done a song with Black Rob on his "Life Story" album with this title), and that's what we get with this Kasino assisted banger. By the way, I wonder what happened to Kasino.

*5 out of 5*

4. Built For Bodies (Skit)
I'm sure you know what this skit consisted of, lol.

5. Breathe Easy
Produced By P.K.

"We gon R-U-double F R-Y-D-E/Revolver, semi-automatic in the PG/Hooptie, get away driver, breathe easy/Explain things further, murder or get murdered"

For some reason, P.K. was never recognized for the work he put in with the Ruff Ryders, definitely an underrated producer. We get another aggressive banger here, and the hook above sums it up well.
*4 out of 5*

5. Felony N*****
Styles P
Produced By Swizz Beatz

Pretty good solo showcase here with Styles P.
*4 out of 5*

6. Wild Out
Produced By Swizz Beatz

The album's first single definitely created such a good amount of buzz, plus how could you not like an apply titled song like this?! All involved "wiled out" on this one, especially on the video. You can also say this was a celebration of sorts with Lox leaving Bad Boy. Dope stuff here.
*5 out of 5*

7. Blood Pressure
Produced By Swizz Beatz

I'll tell you one thing, after this banger from Jada, the buzz was certainly on for his debut solo album, and we would get that just one year later. 
*5 out of 5*

8. Recognize
Featuring Eve
Produced By DJ Premier

This was the first time the crew linked up with Premo, and what resulted was a banger, yes indeed. Recognize!
*5 out of 5*

9. Rape'n U Records (Skit)
Funny skit.

10. Y'all F***** Up Now
Produced By Swizz Beatz

After continuous bangers from the start of the album, this was decent in comparison, nothing more.
*3 out of 5*

11. Scream L.O.X.
Produced By P.K.

Living off (e)xperience, that's Jada, SP, and Sheek all day.
*4 out of 5*

12. U Told Me
Featuring Eve
Produced By Swizz Beatz

One of the main issues I had with this song is that it was about 1 minute and a half too long. It's not a bad song, just a little too long for what this was.
*3 out of 5*

13. Brains... (Take: 1) Skit
A rather pointless skit.

14. Ryde Or Die, Bitch
Featuring Eve and Timbaland
Produced By Timbaland

I'm sure all the fellas could testify to wanting a chick that's "down for whatever". In any event, once you've heard a song like this, you've heard them all, but overall this Timbaland produced joint was fine.
*4 out of 5*

15. Bring It On
Sheek Louch
Produced By Swizz Beatz

Sheek dares you to test his gangsta on this apply titled song. 
*3 out of 5*

16. If You Know
Featuring Drag-On, Eve, and Swizz Beatz
Produced By Swizz Beatz

Aside from a needless appearance from Swizz (I got mad love for him, but he never should've picked up a mic), this was very good. A DMX verse would've made more sense I think.
*3.5 out of 5*

17. We Are The Streets
Produced By Swizz Beatz

This title track closer was Lox's final shot at Puff Daddy. These guys just let loose most, if not all, of their frustrations and made it clear they were happy with Ruff Ryders.
*4 out of 5*

Before I offer my thoughts on this album, I want to bring their debut back into the picture. Believe it or not, there was a point in time when I felt "Money, Power, & Respect" was better than "We Are The Streets" (please don't ask me why, lol). I'm not sure what I was thinking, but it took me quite some time to change my mind, because their debut simply does not hold a candle to album number two. The second time around, we got a more focused, aggressive, and inspired Lox, and you almost get the impression that they were held back a little bit during their Bad Boy tenure, because they let loose on all levels here (along with completely burying the "shiny suits" throughout this album, lol). Lyrically they were more sharp and the production fit them so well. The ONLY thing that MP&R had that was an edge over WATS was the storytelling, which was lacking on this album. In the end, it rests comfortably with a 4.5 star rating (the first half was fire, things tended to slow down a bit on the second half).

Lastly, even though they released an EP titled "Trinity" this year, we still haven't received an official third album from them (titles announced were "Living Off Xperience" and "We Are The Streets 2"). I hope we get one at some point, but in the meantime, if that doesn't happen, I'll always value the material they have given us since 1996 (group and solo wise). Mad love, props, and respect to Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, and Styles P.

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