Hip-Hop

20 Questions With The LOX: Rap Group Talks Michael Jackson vs. Marvin Gaye & Which Movies Make Them Cry

The Lox, Roc Nation, Sheek Louch, Styles P, Jadakiss
Danny Hasting

The Lox

For over 25 years, The LOX have helped shape New York rap with their tenacity, consistency, and stamina. Sculpting classics such as 1998's Money, Power, Respect and 2000's We Are the Streets, The LOX's discography remains enduring because of their lyrical bravery and militant execution on the mic. Last August, the rap trio returned with their fourth studio album Living Off Xperience, and proved they continue to be one of New York's finest on the hip-hop scene.

Below, read their entertaining 20 Questions interview with Billboard, as Sheek Louch, Jadakiss and Styles P discuss dream concerts they would love to see in-person, their new album, and which movies made them shed tears.

1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?

Louch: As far as equipment, it was a whole recording studio. I knew a guy that was going to jail, and he couldn’t keep the stuff and he recently purchased it. So, I purchased all of it.  I was telling Styles and them that I didn’t want to go to another studio to record ever again. I wanted to keep every budget we ever got and be able to record. From mics, boards, speakers, you name it we had it. Then we invested in ourselves and never looked back.

2. What was the first concert you saw?

Louch: Kool and the Gang. My next-door neighbor was named Safe. His father was in Kool and the Gang. I used to go to Great Adventure with them. I used to watch all the Kool and the Gang concerts.

Styles: 125th The States building. I think mad people was there. It was Fugees, KRS, a s--t load of acts. The Fugees was just coming out. I’d been to a show, but never to a concert.  That was my first concert experience. And I even snuck up to the stage.

Jada: My mom picked me up off the block. I was playing with my friends and I really didn’t want to leave.  I think we were playing high water/low water at the time. She just came and was like, "Get in the car boy!" She saw how upset I was, so she let a couple of my friends go. She asked their moms if they can go. She took me to memorial field in Mount Vernon and it was a concert. It was The Rappin Duke, The Fat Boys, and I think it was Run-D.M.C. It was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t even know what made her…I don’t even know how she knew about them.

3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?

Louch:  My mom was a single mom. She was a social worker. She passed. She got her master’s degree and all kind of stuff. My mom was a bookworm, heavy into school. Then she was raising me. My pops left around eight or nine-years old. I don’t know what he was doing. I think he was working at General Motors. But my mom was busy raising me and her only son blew up!

Styles: My mom is from South Africa. When she first came to America, she was a cleaning lady. And now mom’s a teacher for kids at group homes. She’s a teacher/supervisor for troubled youth.

Jada:  My dad worked in coffee and he still does. And my mom worked with kids. She worked in group homes and childcare. She was a childcare specialist.

4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?

Louch: The fans. Once the fans said it was fire, and they kept telling you it’s fire. Then you put out more material. It’s kind of like when you put out new sneakers or clothing and you see people like it. You want to do more. So, the fans are, like, everything. If you and your homies can tell each other every day y'all dope, everyone on your block, that don’t really mean anything. [It's] the fans.

Styles: I think he nailed it. The fans started in your neighborhood before you actually get to pop. You know you have a self-belief in yourself that you can do it. That’s why you give it a try. That’s why you do it. And then when you see you’re good at something and people cheer you on and you know you’re good at it, and people are looking towards you for it, it puts a battery in your back. So, I say the belief in yourself, and then people seeing you believe in yourself believing in you, makes you believe in yourself ten-fold.

Louch: And now it’s the amounts of likes and all that. Not for us back then, it was genuinely fans.

Jada: I think I knew I could be an artist full-time, but I think Biggie put that battery in all of our backs that made us be like, “Yo. We can really make a mark in this game and really do something.” Once we got with Biggie, he was like, "I’m glad y'all down with me." I think that really did something to us.

We had got to a point with Big where he said that we weren’t going to tell each other it was nice anymore. We were just going to make music and make history, because every time we would see each other or hear something we would be like, “Yo. That verse is crazy.” And Big was like, "We gonna stop saying that to each other. We’re on the same team. We just gonna do this. 'His untimely demise didn’t allow that to happen, but I think that was the battery. Then, with his demise, it made us want to carry the load even more.

5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?

Styles: Direct and shoot a film. I’ve written a book. I rap. I talk mad shit. I have my own input and implements when it comes to a couple of videos here and there. But, the top of my professional bucket list would be to write, produce and direct a film. Which I will do, God’s willing.

Louch: Learn production and learn how to make tracks and get on some dope projects. I want people to be surprised. I want people to be like, “Yo. Louch made this? This track?” That’s one thing I wished I would have learned earlier, production.

Jada: Voiceover [work]. Recently, I was able to break into the game. I got the lead role on the animated film that’s on Netflix right now called Fearless. I would love to do more voiceover work, whether it’s animated, narrate a film or an audio book, doing more things with my voice.

6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?

Louch: I mean, the support of course. It could be the hate as well. Hate will make you strong as well, you know. Yonkers is a place that people didn’t know of at first, so we had a lot to prove coming from Yonkers. We had to stand strong. All people knew was Mount Vernon and New Rochelle,, and stuff around us. So, we had to stand strong. It shaped us, molded us.

7. What’s the last song you listened to?

Louch: I aint' gonna lie, it had to be this LOX album. It’s been on repeat like crazy. I’m really proud of it. The variety of songs and all of that is incredible. Yeah, I’m proud of it.  Probably the “Dirty Dirty” record produced by Duane DAROCK and Taka.

Styles: Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”.

Jada: It was a Michael Jackson song. I can’t remember which song.

8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?

Styles: For me, Marvin Gaye.

Louch: That’s how you know we’re old heads. Curtis Mayfield.

Styles: Yeah. It gotta be Curtis or Marvin.

Louch: If I couldn’t see Curtis live in concert, if I got a chance to see Mike [Michael Jackson], that would have been dope too.

Styles: I would pick Marvin over anybody. Curtis is like my second.

Louch: Showmanship would have been Mike. To see him live would have been sick.

Styles: Definitely.

Louch: Showmanship I’m talking about, not his content, but really his showmanship.

Styles: You know what’s crazy, I was watching some cowboy movie on Turner Movie Classics and afterwards a concert came on with Chubby Checker [and] Marvin Gaye. Smokey [Robinson] was there. It was all kinds of people there. How Marvin came out and murdered that s--t? He never loses his voice, he never cracks. I just love Marvin.

Louch: Yeah, he’s dope. You know why I said Mike? If you watch a Mike concert then see everyone else perform, you’ll be like, "They took all that s--t from Mike."

Styles: You know who we’re leaving out? Even Mike took from James Brown.

Louch: Of course, now. He definitely picked all that s--t up from James.

Styles: James Brown show was crazy. James Brown show was bananas. And Mike definitely got a lot of showmanship from James Brown. James Brown get busy.

Louch: Facts.

Jada: I would want to see the Notorious B.I.G rock the stage one last time.

9. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?

Styles: That’s easy, somebody getting shot.

Louch: Damn, where was I at?

Styles: Wild Out in the Tunnel. Somebody got shot.

Louch: Oh yeah, yeah yeah, in The Tunnel.

Styles: And I bet you don’t remember our first time ever in Pittsburgh. People was stepping over a body just lying there. We thought he was drunk, and they said, "No he’s dead. They’re coming to get him."

10. What’s your karaoke go-to?

Louch: I’ve never done karaoke in my life. All I know you have to read it off the prompter if you don’t know it by heart. I ain't trying to be tough or anything, I just ain't never did karaoke. But if I had to pick song it would be [Diddy]'s "All About the Benjamins."

Styles: I’ve never done karaoke either, but I want to do it. I’d do a Cameo song. I’d do “Candy” from Cameo.

11. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?

Louch: Glory, or one of those slave kinds of movies. Or John Q when he was fighting for his son, 'cause you always place yourself in those scenes. Songwise, I don’t know. Haven’t really done that.

Styles: Song wise haven’t made me cry, but Marvin [Gaye] really touches my soul. That’s why I love Marvin, like as far as capturing emotions and feelings. Like “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” and things of that nature,  'cause I just feel like he’s pinpointing and tapping into a lot of pain from a lot of different people.

Movie wise, I’ll cry over anything. I cried when Wolverine died. I cried when Tony Stark died. I was in the movie theater f--ked up. I cry. If I’m touched, I’ll sit there with the Glory tear, take a couple of deep breaths, and be f--ked up. Any black movies, it’s too much. I just watched some movie about the kids from Haiti. I cried the whole way through. Black people movies, you just cry. But then I’ll watch something funny to change my mood.

Jada: Life with Martin [Lawrence] and Eddie [Murphy]. It makes me laugh, but it’s also a very sad movie when you think about it. When you think about how long they were in jail for something that they didn’t do, and just to see that it is still going on to this day from a different aspect, that’s crazy. Life is one of my best movies, as much as I laugh at it, I share a tear. I don’t cry like boohoo, but I do shed a tear every time, two drops down.

12. What TV series have you watched all the way through multiple times?

Louch: Lovecraft Country. That joint is crazy. But Ozark definitely.

Styles: Breaking Bad. I can watch the series over and over. It was one of the best. Their transitions, the way the filmed it, the character development, how they intertwined with everybody. That was one of the best shows ever. And it ended dope, unlike Game of Thrones. I hated how it ended.  The Wire had some off seasons, but that was my shit too.

Jada: I watch Power and The Wire a lot. Ozark. Probably four-million Law and Order [episodes].

13. What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?

Louch: I’m pretty much a homebody, besides going to get the bag and stuff like that with the music industry. Oh yeah, I’ve never learned how to electric slide, the original electric side or any of the new ones.

Styles: Me neither. I can do a couple moves and get off the floor with a drink. I can hop in for a minute and that’s it.

14. If you were not a musician, what would you be?

Louch: Honestly, since it’s a God given gift, I would definitely be somebody in the industry that you need to come see. I would be that Lyor [Cohen] or that Russell [Simmons].  If I weren’t rapping, I would be somebody that you need to see in Urban music. I guarantee it.  Meaning, like if I didn’t make it as an NBA player, I would have been somebody that’s interviewing the players, or something involved with it.

Styles: I'd aspire to be a film producer, writer, director of course. If I didn’t come up in Yonkers New York, or if I would have lived in the midwest around NASCAR people, I think I could have been a NASCAR driver.

Jada: Some type of entrepreneur. I’d probably be in coffee with my dad. I’m actually planning on launching my own strain of coffee.

15. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?

Louch: Take more time with things. Don’t be in a rush to get up out of there too fast. Save more money. I got into saving more money midway till late. I’m loving it now, but I wished I would have started way earlier. And take care of my health.

Styles: Eat better, take care of my health more, and be more peaceful.

Jada: Save more money earlier, learn the business and own stuff earlier than I did. But my main would have been to learn the business earlier.

16. What was it like to team up with DMX again on the album?

Louch: That’s our brother. X is our brother. It didn’t feel like a new person we were working with. It felt organic. It felt like, “Come on homie. Come in, get busy and do what you gotta do.” It was a phone call. He came that night, not deep or nothing, and got busy. Love what he heard and did extra work. Even at the video after, it felt the same; drinking, chilling, we were in a great space.

Styles: It’s like hopping back on a bike. It was fun, nothing but fun. Natural, organic, and just pretty fun. Actually, X wasn’t supposed to do a verse. We just asked him to come do a hook. And, as you see, vibes were good. That’s our brother. I think people look at things, and like it’s kinda of weird answering these questions.

We’ve known X before we made it, before he made it, so it’s always we know each other from the town anyway regardless. So, the combination of being from the same town, and then both making it, there is always going to be love. And we from Yonkers and no one made it prior to us making it. Our bond is always going to be bigger and deeper than music.

17. Who are some of your favorite New York MCs right now?

Styles: [Dave] East, Griselda, Don Q, and all the young boys we work with.

Louch: Griselda and MOP.

18. How do you guys compare yourselves skills wise now versus your first album Money, Power and Respect?

Jada: We’re very better, very seasoned. Back then we were young. We were still rhyming for long amounts of time. We didn’t understand song structure. We didn’t live enough. We done did some living and been through lots of valleys and peaks of life. We’re able to talk about that now, but before, we were young and only able to talk about the streets.

We can still do that now, but now we’re fathers, business owners, and entrepreneurs. We still have the same edge, but we were able to show growth. For one, for just being here for this amount of years and still have our swords as sharp as they are at this stage in our career is a gift in that. I think we’re way extremely better then when we first started rapping.

Styles: More growth -- and you can hear the growth. We’re like wine, we’re getting better and better with time. That’s rare in music now in itself. That’s why I definitely appreciate my two partners. Most MCs only get a seven-year run, if that. So, to be lyrical for this long, and to remain relevant is a very difficult task to say the least, but I think that kind of show who and what we are made of.

19. What advice do you give to younger artists on the independent circuit looking to breakthrough in music?

Jada: Invest in yourself. Stay in the studio. Learn the business. Don’t be scared to spend your money. Try to create good relationships and keep good rapport. Do a lot of praying. Build a staff that is for the cause and do more praying.

Styles: Eat fruit, drink water, get money and mind your business.

20. What was it like working with Large Professor on "Think of the Lox?”

Jada: Dope. It’s actually a story with the song. He did another beat that had some sample clearance issues and we spoke to him and told him we couldn’t use that track. He was like, "Alright. I’ll cook up something else." He cooked up a few until he got to the one you hear on “Think of the LOX.” And it was real dope. His energy was real dope. He said he got it, and he had it. The nostalgia working with Extra P, you know that brings real hip-hop. A lot of these young dudes probably don’t know who he is.  But the dudes that know about hip-hop and love it, they thought it was dope. He’s a dope producer as well as an artist.

Louch: Shout out to Griselda too on that!