Sheek Louch Discusses Silverback Gorilla 2 & Talks Working With Biggie and DMX (Interview)
Whereas speaking to Jadakiss or Styles P is often a lower key experience, their LOX band-mate Sheek Louch is high-energy. The Yonkers, New York veteran MC did not equate himself to one of the most ferocious members of the animal kingdom by being docile. In the Tommy Boy Entertainment conference room, the LOX/D-Block co-founder is animated. He laughs, he listens attentively, he speaks with the enthusiasm of a teenage B-Boy. And as he later admits, he’s in the shape, lyrically and physically to compete with the “young guys.”
On December 4, Louch will release Silverback Gorilla 2, the sequel to an album that established his versatility, and survival tactics as an independent label star. In speaking with Ambrosia For Heads, Sheek shows just how deep his love of Rap runs. Donnie G (as he is also known by) reveals attending M.O.P. concerts, the brotherly bond with Ghostface Killah, and how he watched a hometown hero take superstar flight in the 1990s. Few artists give their core audience exactly what they want as much as this 20-year vet. This tried and true MC is just doin’ his job.
Ambrosia For Heads: Sheek, what’s going on? How are you?
Sheek Louch: What’s poppin’, fam? I’m good—one day at a time, that’s it.
Ambrosia For Heads: I hear that. Well, yo, thank you for all that you do for Ambrosia For Heads. We are big fans of yours. I got to hear the album—nice stuff.
Sheek Louch: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank ya’ll too, for real.
Ambrosia For Heads: Believe it or not, my favorite track on [Silverback Gorilla 2] might be the intro. I love it, because it covers your upbringing, and the track builds, the story builds and it takes [the listener] into the now. This is an important album in your career—I know they all are. But tell me a little bit about setting the tone–
Sheek Louch: — Yo, but could I stop you right there, real quick?
Ambrosia For Heads: Yeah.
Sheek Louch: Thank you for that, ’cause I love that intro too, man. I swear, man. ‘Cause I sat on that for so long. I said, “I need this right here for an intro.” But anyway, g’head, I’m sorry–
Ambrosia For Heads: No, no, no. I mean, ’cause I think you just said it: You needed it as an intro, and you’ve been sitting on it. Tell me a little bit about how you set the tone of the album with “Bunndy,” that moment.
Sheek Louch: Word. You know what it was, with this project what my thought process? I was tourin’ a whole lot—I been tourin’ like crazy. I’m on the road with The LOX [or] I run around with Ghostface [Killah] everywhere, so I be gettin’ tracks, like everywhere—all over. I’ll be in Australia [with] nothin’ to do, and go through my computer and just pull out these tracks, and write on the tour bus. My whole process was like basically, I’m payin’ attention to everything that’s goin’ on right now out here, as far as like the Dance records. I’m not knockin’ ’em, but you know, I wanted to bring it back to that gritty-type, more lyrical sound. I wanted to show growth as well, as far as my lyrics and everything. And production-wise, I wanted some real soulful sounds, and bring it back to that essence, man. And that’s just how I did it. I said, “I need an intro for this, I need a skit, I need something for the guys on the pull-up bars, workin’ out in the jail yard.” I just wanted to cover it all! Word.
Ambrosia For Heads: It’s interesting that you say you write a lot while touring, because I picture you writing in nice hotels, nice restaurants, and living an entertainer’s life. But what’s crazy about you is, for these last 20 years-plus, you’ve been authentic. You can make a song like “Hood N***a” [as a single], because that’s what people associate you with. Is it a challenge for you to change your writing environment and still come across so authentically?
Sheek Louch: I could tell you my first challenge—I don’t know if I ever told anybody this. My first challenge, as far as creatively writing, was when I made a song called “Good Love,” right? And that joint took off! The reason why it was challenging—it was a chick record, for me. I was like, “Man.” ‘Cause we come from talkin’ so gritty and dirty: drugs, and our surroundings, whatever what have you. I remember like Cosmic Kev, DJ S&S, or [some major DJ] was like, “Yo, you got a bullet.” ‘Cause I was kinda like, what they gonna say if I talk to the girls? They been tellin’ me to go at the women and all, but that was my [first true solo attempt]. Then, when I did, it was like Top 10 song on every station—some at #1. That was probably my only ever challenge, as far as writing. And it worked! Man, crazy big record for me.
Ambrosia For Heads: You mention “Good Love,” and I’m a Sheek fan since the ’90s. I love the hard stuff, I love the mixtape tracks, but “Good Love” is my favorite record of yours. [Laughs] I remember where I was when Cosmic Kev [broke] the record in Philly; I remember where I was driving when he dropped the track for Philly. That’s such an interesting record, it was on the first Silverback Gorilla. That’s maybe not your most famous record, it might not be your best selling, but you’re doing a sequel. Tell me why you chose that lane and that [album] to pick up on.
Sheek Louch: Man, ’cause I wanted to get beast-mode, 100%. Like I said earlier, [I was] paying attention to what was goin’ on around me. I wanted to bring it back to [the first Silverback Gorilla], not necessarily as far as sales, I just wanted that mentality of thinking. That’s where I was at.
And I’m glad I brought that up… when you see the gorilla, this and that, by no means is it [race-related]. That’s just my way of [expressing the ferocity]. ‘Cause some people [are saying], “What is he doing? He’s taking us back with this gorilla shit! The Black Panthers would be mad.” Nah, it’s my frame of thought—gorilla, beast shit. That’s what it is when I say that.
Ambrosia For Heads: Without a doubt. I love “Hood N***a,” and I love the fact that—not to make too much of features—but you put three other guys on this record. [They have] all been around, maybe with the exception of Joell [Ortiz] as long as you have, you all have endured. I love that, because you’ve [done that] through speaking to your audience, crossing over [at times], but you’ve never lost sight of who you are. It’s a record, but there’s so much more to it than that.
Sheek Louch: C’mon, M.O.P. Who’s not a fan of M.O.P.? I just saw them in concert not too long ago, and them bein’ on stage…first of all, I’m a fan, period—of this game, of this sport, of everything. But when I get a chance to work with Bill Danze or [Lil] Fame or anybody, and Trae Tha Truth—comin’ out of Texas, he’s killin’ it right now. And Joell [is somebody] who I just think is a monster MC, period. Salute to they whole crew and all, Slaughterhouse and all of them. To bring that about was a blessing, man. And I gotta say, none of ’em fronted; they [recorded their verses] immediately. They told us, “Yo, we’re fans of The LOX and yourself.” I was like, “Aw, thank you, bro.” And it came out beautifully.
Ambrosia For Heads: All four of you guys have a few different styles, but on that record, everybody put lyrics [first], and it shows.
Sheek Louch. I appreciate that bro, hell yeah.
Ambrosia For Heads: You mention touring with Ghost’, and you’ve got the record “I Love It.” I’ve spoken to him a few times, spoken to you a few times. Just talking to you guys, you’re very different personalities, but you both love Hip-Hop, and love your audience. Were you at all surprised over the last five years, coming into Wu-Block, on just how much you guys bonded on and off the mic?
Sheek Louch: You know what? Let me tell you: that’s my brother. People be like, “Yo man, y’all got the same energy when you’re around each other.” I’ma tell you how it started: we got the same management: Mike Caruso. I had got signed to Def Jam [Records] a while ago, and we went on tour. He had his own bus, I had mines, but we [bonded. Before that], he put all of us: me, [Jadakiss], and Styles [P] on all his [albums] back then, or we were trying to get him on ours. The whole Clan, the whole Wu-Tang, we love them dudes, man. But Ghost’ is just my big bro. That song, “I Love It,” came about [when] my man Shroom out the Netherlands sent me this crazy ass track, and I could hear Ghost’ just killin’ it. Man, you know every time you talk to Ghost’, he just sound like the records from back then. You know what I mean? Like, he really sounds like that old Wu-Tang shit when you talk—him and [Raekwon], they really sound like skits. So I said, “We gonna kill this. You gonna kill this.” We was in Mexico City last weekend, and I played it to him—crazy. He was like, “Aw man, this is it!” We shootin’ a video to it too.
Ambrosia For Heads: Earlier this year, I feel like Fridays became the biggest day of the week for music. I’m not gonna ask you any LOX questions, but even though there’s not any album, it seemed like you, Styles, and ‘Kiss, on Fridays, were just lighting it up with these freestyles and a la carte tracks. Was that an organized plan or did it just so happen?
Sheek Louch: It just happened. [It was not really] a plan, but I remember, Styles kept droppin’ a couple, then ‘Kiss got on deck, just droppin’ ’em every week. Then I just came, after, and just started leakin’ them joints out. Pretty soon, we had like hundreds of songs on Soundcloud and all over the place.
Recently, I just dropped a mixtape called Gorillaween, which everybody loved to death. I dropped it on Halloween. I took the Soundcloud joints and put like 12 new ones on there, to make it a feed-the-people [project]. You know what it is? We love the sport still. Yo, we ain’t gonna stop; I don’t see no reason to right now—especially if I’m spittin’ harder and better than all these young boys out here, I’m keep goin’. And we’re in the best shape of our life, man, listen…
Ambrosia For Heads: You have a song on the album called “Legends.” In it, you talk about how the industry climate has changed. It was interesting, two weeks ago, I was listening to a Redman interview [with the Combat Jack Show]. He said that ultimately, what led him to leaving Def Jam was the fact that Def Jam put [albums by] you, him, and Ghost’ out in 2010, all within three weeks of each other, without much marketing. That was real, ’cause I remember that. I thought all three of you guys made really good albums that deserved more credit than that. It’s cool now to see you at Tommy Boy [Entertainment]; I know you’re a priority there. You’ve worked at a lot of different labels in your life, how important is it [regardless of label] to be treated as a priority, wherever you are?
Sheek Louch: I salute Redman for [saying] that, for even making that comment. You’ve gotta hold yourself a priority for anybody else to even think of you as one. It’s the same with workin’ hard: mothafuckas ain’t gonna work harder than you; you’ve got to show them that you’re ready to work, and that’s hard the label [or anybody else on your team will work]. If they see you layin’ around, your whole crew will be layin’ around.
As far as being [a priority] at a label, it feels good—it’s great, to me. I was tellin’ Brian [Delaney] and ’em over at Tommy Boy, I want to feel like we workin’ together—not y’all workin’ for me or none of that shit. I want it to feel like we working together at this shit. This interview right here, I’ma give you some info, some stuff that you can put it down, and we can make this whole article come out dope. I want always to feel like we are working together at something.
Ambrosia For Heads: Everything is a collaboration.
Sheek Louch: It has to be. ‘Cause you don’t want one person walkin’ away feelin’ a type of way. You can’t control that shit sometimes, but it’s better when y’all got the same understanding.
Ambrosia For Heads: And what’s interesting is that you’re like Lil Wayne in that you’ve built a career out of working with everybody in the industry, pretty much, at one point or another. So that attitude is, I am sure a big part of who you are, creatively.
Sheek Louch: It is, man. And all the people that I’ve been around, they seem to appreciate that—that frame of thought. Like, “Wow, thanks Louch. Thanks Sheek.” And you get more done—I don’t care if it’s your engineer behind the boards recording you while you’re doing your thing in the booth to anybody, word.
Ambrosia For Heads: I have but two more questions for you. Right now, on Ambrosia For Heads, we’ve been asking people, “What is the greatest album of all time?” Maybe there is no answer, but it gets people discussing, it gets people going back into their music [libraries]. Right now, we’re in the ’90s. In addition to Money, Power, Respect, you worked on two—maybe more than that—but two classic albums in the ’90s. I want to ask you about [DMX’s] It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot and [The Notorious B.I.G.’s] Life After Death.
Obviously, in that frame of mind [then], you’re a young guy in the industry. Did you grasp the magnitude of what you were working on at the time, in those recordings?
Sheek Louch: Honestly… alright, let me address it with [DMX]. At the time, we knew that he was gonna blow up and bubble like that, ’cause before y’all heard of him, he was a star in Yonkers, New York. He was always this guy, this O.G., that was sick. Everybody couldn’t wait for him to come around grab the mic. We knew he had that special talent. At the same time, I didn’t grasp it all the way, because we kind of knew of him. So y’all, y’all didn’t know him yet. So I kind of didn’t right then and there, but I knew it was something special, period.
‘Cause you know, before the Ruff Ryders, Dee and Wah [Dean] were our managers. They just managed these guys called The LOX, The Bomb Squad, The Warlocks, and all that back then. So we got the [Bad Boy Records] deal, and our managers got their own [Ruff Ryders] record deal, and they had this artist named DMX, you get what I’m sayin’? So were [recruited to be on It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot] as kind of like an in-house thing. That’s what I probably didn’t grasp the magnitude of it ’til later. I remember when Irv [Gotti] called me down there, like, “Yo, I need you to do a hook for this joint.” I just started jottin’ down [notes, like], “Yo, y’all niggas wanna be killas? Get at me dog. Y’all…” and I just wrote that hook, “Get At Me Dog.” After, I just started seeing it, slowly, [and started] realizing what was goin’ on.
Now Big? I was like, “Aw man, we gettin’ on this [Life After Death] album right here? Whew!” We couldn’t wait. It was crazy, ’cause [Bad Boy Records] was the Chicago Bulls [at the time]: [Michael] Jordan, [Scottie] Pippen, everybody over there. I remember, Big pulled up on us; we was at a club. He was like, “Yo, I just wrote my verse to this joint called ‘Last Day’, check this out; I need y’all to do y’all’s verses to this.” I was like, “Aw man, are you kiddin’ me?” [Laughs] C’mon.
Ambrosia For Heads: One follow-up to that, it’s funny: “Get At Me Dog” is my favorite record on It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot.
Sheek Louch: Get outta here! Are you serious?
Ambrosia For Heads: It just captures the void DMX was filling. I gotta ask you, ’cause the video was nuts, and I know that that video, like so many great videos in Hip-Hop history, was one that did not get aired properly. Knowing what that record meant to you, especially as a solist—
Sheek Louch: How’d that video go again? It was just real dark and [flashbulbs] on ’em, right?
Ambrosia For Heads: Yep, and I think that was part of the reason why MTV said they didn’t want to air it. Not only was it graphic, but [it was risky to] epileptics and all that. Were you disappointed when that happened? I know on radio, [“Get At Me Dog”] was goin’ nuts…
Sheek Louch: I wasn’t really disappointed, ’cause I think [the single] still came across. If they didn’t play it on the radio and all that, maybe I would’ve been pissed. ‘Cause I know I gave him a hot hook. That joint was crazy! The beat was just so classic.
Ambrosia For Heads: I gotta leave you asking you the very question that we’ve been asking all of our readers: In Sheek Louch’s opinion, what is the greatest Rap album of all time?
Sheek Louch: [Laughs] “Of all time,” c’mon, are we talking back to Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys on up to now?
Ambrosia For Heads: Yeah. Yep, and I’m not asking you to speak for other people. Just in your perspective, maybe your life, to you as an MC, what’s the album?
Sheek Louch: Life After Death.
Ambrosia For Heads: Big.
Sheek Louch: No doubt. I know it sounds real biased. Then, you know what I was gonna say? I was gonna say too. The Chronic [by Dr. Dre]. Aw man, ’cause there’s certain times in my life… like when certain shit happened. Like, I remember leaving work listening to Buckshot Shorty and the whole Boot Camp Clik [imitates drums]. Aw, man. Yeah, I’ma go with Big.
Ambrosia For Heads: You know what’s crazy about that album–we were just doing the research today. A lot of albums stop selling at a certain point, that album is a diamond album, and it reached that in the 2000s. It was released in ’97.
Sheek Louch: It’s [selling] probably, right now.
Ambrosia For Heads: And you’re part of that.
Sheek Louch: Gotta love it. Gotta! Yeah, no doubt! We’re part of that! [Laughs] Word.