It’s been 16 years since Jadakiss, Styles P and Sheek Louch — collectively known as the LOX — released a proper album. Since 2000’s We Are the Streets, the Yonkers, N.Y., natives have been keeping busy in the booth and on the road. They recently reunited with Diddy for the Bad Boy Family Reunion tour. Now, the rappers are even sporting noticeably leaner frames after committing to a healthier lifestyle (Jadakiss and Styles P opened four juice bars in New York called Juices for Life), but they’re still delivering the same raw and gritty heat the streets crave.
“I would say [this project is] more for our core fan base but with a newer feel,” says Styles P. “Same vibe, music, but we didn’t go with old school-sounding beats. We not trying to sell you the ’90s. We just selling you good rap.” He adds, “We not trying to sell you a time because a lot of old ’90s rappers get caught up and [think] it has to be that way. Times change … What we giving you is something organic to ride to and say wow. We just giving you a chapter out the book.”
“There’s definitely a whole bunch of jewels all over the whole project,” Jadakiss added in a separate visit to Billboard with fellow LOX member Sheek Louch. “Listeners are gonna learn all kinds of stuff — some good, some bad, but you’re gonna learn something.”
After announcing their comeback LP on a live taping of the Rap Radar podcast at New York’s S.O.B.’s on Thursday (Dec. 1), the LOX also rolled out a pair of new tracks, “What Else I Need To Know” and “Don’t You Cry.” The album will be released via the LOX’s D-Block Records and a new partnership with Jay Z’s Roc Nation.
While the title may suggest a political narrative, the trio assures that Filthy America won’t be entirely conscious rap. “We didn’t want to get too political. And when we say, “Oh, filthy America, it’s beautiful,” it’s basically being out the country, you see a lot is going on right here. It’s real terrible here, but when you get to other places, you appreciate it,” explains Sheek. “But don’t look for a whole political album.”
Jada adds, “The title is really self-explanatory but the music is universal. Don’t look for, you know, Congress or Bill O’Reilly. There’s no shots at them or any of that kind of stuff. It’s regular, well, it’s not regular because it’s LOX so it could never be regular. It’s that sauce that rap listeners and real authentic hip-hop heads can appreciate.”
The MCs haven’t been completely dormant when it comes to proper releases. In 2013, the bar-slingers behind 1998’s Money, Power, Respect released The Trinity EP and its sequel the following year, The Trinity 2nd Sermon, containing the hard-hitting standouts “All We Know” and “Let’s Get It.”
Ask the crew what the rap game’s been missing since their last LP, and authenticity and lyricism is a unanimous answer. “I don’t want to be judgmental because I’m older. I’m a 42-year-old man so I respect hip-hop in different ways,” says Styles P. “You happy because it’s a bunch of young men making money and getting opportunities they wouldn’t have if they wasn’t in this music business … but then it’s f—ed up when you see somebody who doesn’t really respect the culture and he just doesn’t mind sounding like the other seven dudes.”
Styles doesn’t mention any names, but his LOX brothers agree. “Lyrics [are missing]. There’s no substance,” says Jadakiss. “There’s good music that’s only really good in the club though for me.” Louch admits his kid listens to the Top 40-friendly rap joints but notes that his group’s brand of hip-hop differs. “Yo, go ahead and dance to it, do all that s—. It ain’t for me but I don’t knock it … It’s so much stuff you do to one song. Our s— is cut and dry.”
Filthy America also contains a healthy list of features, including beats from DJ Premiere, Buda & Grand and Pete Rock, as well as contributions from Mobb Deeb, Gucci Mane, DJ Khaled and Fetty Wap. “We embracing the culture of music itself … and we don’t look on a Billboard [chart] like, we don’t go for the top, whatever’s poppin’ and go for the feature like that. We try to connect the song with who we think sounds good on it, and we want them to do them on the song,” says Jada.”We had a joint we thought Gucci would sound good on so we got Gucci and Khaled. Khaled is on the intro as well. We had a joint that sounded like Fetty and we thought he’d be good on that hook so we got him on there. We had did a song for Mobb a while ago, so they owed us a favor … That came out beautifully.”
While Filthy America will drop Dec. 16 with an album release show at New York’s Highline Ballroom the night before, the trio is already plotting a follow-up to their comeback LP with We Are the Streets II. The LOX are also planning sessions with Diddy and DMX for the project.
“For We Are the Streets 2, we kinda picking up from when you heard that 16 years ago — the ‘Rape’n U Records (Skit)’ and DMX to give you that whole original LOX sound,” explains Louch. “Even though you getting it on this [album], We Are the Streets II is gonna be for all those [fans] who have kids now. They’re gonna remember that whole flow.”
Styles P also says that the LOX have constantly been in “go mode” and are creating in an ideal situation. “We work hard. Anybody who follows any one of us as a solo [artist], you understand what we do and now, we have a partnership in place that makes sense with Roc Nation. It was time for us to do what we do.”