Sheek Louch, D-Block representative and one-third of the Yonkers collective known as the Lox (with Jadakiss and Styles P) is dead set on burying the G-G-G-Unit-ing Curtis Jackson once and for all. I'm not talking about the shiny-suited Sheek from the days of Diddy (those skeletons are packed in the closet for good); I'm talking about the "2 Gunz Up," "Kiss Ya Ass Goodbye" member of the Lox crew, which has survived more turmoil than Samuel Alito has.
Despite never reaching steady airplay on MTV or the landing on the cover of Rolling Stone, the members of this group, originally called the Warlocks, have created a comfortable niche within hip-hop. Respected by backpackers in the village and the hardest of hip-hop heads on street corners, they have been murdering mixtapes and remixes for half a decade now but have yet to deliver that one classic group album. But if Sheek's second solo effort, After Taxes, is any indication of what the future holds, triumph may be nearing for 'Kiss and company.
The beat to After Taxes' intro is too similar to the "Come Thru" instrumental on the Violator 2 compilation, but Sheek brings the heat immediately on the first full track, the aptly titled "Street Music." Rhymes such as "Rah, rah, rowdy ain't it/ I ain't afraid to go to war and have a nigga white T, like it's finger-painted," set the tone that Louch is no slouch, and "On the Road Again" and "Pain" confirm this. The first misstep is the crossover attempt "One Name," featuring Bad Boy crooner Carl Thomas. This is one that may get airplay, but most hip-hop heads will do nothing but hit fast-forward.
The meat of the album begins with a skit directed at G-Unit crony Tony Yayo as the interlude for the fiery G-Unit dis track "Maybe If I Sing." Going directly at Curtis, Sheek states, "All you talk about is money and sales/ What you need to talk about is all them niggas that you put in them jails." He also takes shots at Lloyd Banks, with bars such as, "Hey, yo, Banks, you got a half-assed flow/ But fuckin' with homey, all you gonna get is half-assed dough/ And where the fuck was you at wit'cha big-ass face/ When I was writin' 'Benjamins' with 'Kiss, Diddy and Mase." Sheek shows the feud with 50 Cent is far from over and that D-Block isn't backing down from the Shady/Aftermath giant.
The middle of the nineteen-track-long After Taxes is filled with solid collabos with everyone from D-Block associate J-Hood ("Devine"), Beanie Sigel, Fabolous, Paul Wall ("Kiss Your Ass Goodbye Remix") and the Funk Doc himself, Reggie Noble ("Get Up Stand Up"). But "Move Nigga," featuring Ghostface, proves to be a disappointing alliance, unable to recreate the magic of the Lox-Wu connection that "Run" produced. The original version of "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye," featuring Styles P, is one "kiss" too many, and the mellowed-out "All Fed Up" is less than inspirational.
Flaws aside, despite being one of the most under-promoted releases of the past year from a major artist, After Taxes brings enough heat to keep the street and industry cred of the D-Block name. Because 50 couldn't tarnish their rep, strong solo efforts will only cause the trio's hype to grow. If Sheek, Jadakiss and Styles P don't slow down, this could be the year their crew finally gets its due.
Sheek Louch on D-Block Web site (streaming audio)
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