The LOX’s We Are The Streets Turns 15 Years Old, Is It Their True Best Work?
In a weird twist of fate, the same Tuesday January 25, 2000 that Ghostface Killah released Supreme Clientele, The LOX released their own sophomore effort, We Are The Streets. Fifteen years ago, few could have thought that Wu-Block would ever be a thing, let alone that Ghost and Sheek Louch would extend the ties through an upcoming collaborative tandem LP.
However, The LOX’ Bad Boy Records exodus, We Are The Streets made a Top 5 entrance, and few could have imagined that it would be more than 15 calendars until the Yonkers, New York trio would ever drop a true full-length follow-up under their moniker.
Following a Top 3 debut in January, 1998’s Money, Power, Respect, The LOX represented the true lyrical heirs to The Notorious B.I.G.’s throne at Bad Boy. Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch were undoubtedly platinum-plus extensions of the so-called “shiny suit era,” but underneath the overt samples and catchy choruses heard in the breakthrough chapter of their career, these were hardcore MCs. After leaving the label in financial frustrations, the Warlocks turned to their Ruff Ryders representation, and led a grassroots campaign to seek release from Bad Boy. After literal street picketing, the group and their management broke free—perhaps the biggest label departure in Bad Boy’s history. In turn, We Are The Streets stripped away the flare—visually and sonically found in the debut, and delivered the trio as they were: raw.
In conjunction with the self-sufficient theme of the LP, We Are The Streets closed the door on guests—save for two heralded producers: Timbaland and DJ Premier. Tim, who like Dr. Dre, typically served as a welcome wagon to Interscope signings and acquisitions, gave The LOX (and Ruff Ryders’ First Lady Eve) a hit in “Ryde, Or Die Bitch.” With a vibraphone style, the record was unlike Timbo’s typical Electronic and heavy percussion compositions of the day, and piggybacked Eve’s own uber-success of the last year. Timothy also rhymed on the popular video single. The radio-aimed moment was complemented with “Wild Out,” a Swizz Beatz gorilla-in-a-phonebooth style record, the sort of track not heard on the debut. Swizz produced the bulk of We Are The Streets, replacing the sample-driven sound with an organic, electric, and charged feel.
Eve would also appear on DJ Premier’s offering, “Recognize.” Cuts of Eve’s vocals drove the chorus, as the LOX looked back at their beginnings on Main Source’s 1994 F*ck What You Think album, proof that they were something before the sunglasses, and as much associated with New York City’s guttural tradition as they were HOT 97 request lines.
We Are The Streets would garner The LOX a gold plaque. The group spent the next several years pursuing solo interests—three albums a piece with Ruff Ryders Entertainment, although not all through Interscope. The group spent much of the next dozen years on hiatus, or devoted to D-Block (an expanded collective and subsequent label). Beginning in late 2013, The LOX began releasing official product in the form of three Trinity EPs, available for free and digital retail.
From a possible reunion with Bad Boy, to re-joining the brass at Interscope, to teaming with Styles P’s friend and hit collaborator Rick Ross at Maybach Music Group, there has been plenty of speculation. The fact remains though that The LOX are one of the most consistent (critically and commercially) groups. Today, celebrating a milestone birthday of what may be their purest of the two albums, can all be restored? Tracks over the last year, with the likes of Lil Wayne, Mobb Deep, and solo certainly seem to say as much.
What’s the better LOX disc in your eyes?