The LOX Detail Their Preparation For The Dipset Verzuz
Less than two weeks after one of the best music performances of the last two years, The LOX are enjoying the fanfare. The Yonkers, New York trio of Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, and Styles P put on a dazzling display against The Diplomats’ Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones, and Freekey Zeekey in a Verzuz. Many fans, including Ambrosia For Heads‘ What’s The Headline podcast (embedded below), have given The L-O-X the definitive W in the battle. Many considered the victory an upset. This week, on The Breakfast Club, Sheek Louch spoke to those with that opinion. “You wasn’t alone, dog; everybody thought that the ‘Set was gon’ win.”
At the top of a one-hour conversation, The LOX weighed in on a night that gave them the flowers amid a career that’s more than 25 years deep. One of the reasons Dipset may have been a perceived favorite is that they arrived on the scene more recently than LOX. “Cam is our draft class—maybe a year later, but Juelz and Jimmy are a few years behind [The LOX]. So their cultural impact to the young people is—we may have gave you more cultural impact, bar-wise, but people remember the skulls, the videos, the [Diplomats] flag. You feel that,” Styles P explained. The Dips benefit from the iconography of fashion, pink Range Rovers, the Roc-A-Fella movement, and more. However, the LOX intended to play to their strengths. “We’re in the age of everything pops, but we’re also in an age where you don’t really see craftsmanship. We consider ourselves craftsmen.”
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Styles added that during Madison Square Garden rehearsals, both crews agreed that the battle would get “chippy.” However, both sides were adamant against any physical altercations in advance. The LOX entered the stage to an off-screen photograph of Jim Jones famously crying during his 2017 Funkmaster Flex interview. Viewers in the Hulu Room could see, but the 600,000-plus remote viewers could not. Additionally, there was an exchange involving a playful-but-deliberate kick involving Cam’ that many may have missed. Styles P confirms these exchanges, including thrown bandanas and other moments.
For Jadakiss, this was his second Verzuz appearance, following a battle against longtime collaborator Fabolous. “I’m 2-0; somebody better put me somewhere,” ‘Kiss said, likely alluding to a Verzuz Hall of Fame. “I’m the only person to do Verzuz twice.” He said the June 2020 battle gave him insights on how to be strategic. “For me, doing it first [against Fabolous] and then sitting with my brothers for the group Verzuz, I already had a little bit [of an idea] of what I wanted to do; [they knew] what they wanted to do. It was new to all of us because it was a live audience and there’s [a lot of] people there too. You gotta rock [for] the camera, and you gotta rock for the crowd. But being that it was in the mecca of New York, I knew we can go live—and [Dipset] wasn’t gonna do that, and we can do some freestyles, and they wasn’t gonna do that. So I knew that was gonna be a good counter, and that was gonna be building-shakers right there.”
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Freestyles were a big part of The LOX’s plan. The morning of the August 3 battle, Puff Daddy also suggested to his former pupils to use some mixtape highlights. Jadakiss’ “Who Shot Ya” became a tipping point in the battle. Meanwhile, Dipset performed over their own lyrics, to what DJs call “TV Tracks” based on how they were labeled on vinyl singles. “[Even] on the biggest platform of shows, unless it’s a certain caliber of artist, TV tracks is what they giving you. It’s just become a thing. We came from [an era when] that’s no bueno,” Jadakiss said. Styles added, “The TV track used to kind of just have the hypes in there. Now, they say TV track, and it’s the whole song. A lot of artists don’t know—and it’s not to shoot ’em down—if you have a craft and a skill, you’re supposed to rehearse at it. You’re gonna feel better and the audience is gonna feel better when you get that energy off.” Jadakiss chimed in that TV tracks make the audience pay the price. “One thing about rhyming over the song being played, you’re distorting the listener’s ears. You sound like noise after a while.”
Notably, The LOX also reveal their sound provider, Technician The DJ, provided a huge element. The Bronx representative who has performed with LOX, Rakim, and members of Wu-Tang Clan made improvised decisions. Late in the battle, when Juelz chided The LOX for lack of female-friendly records, Technician launched in a medley that showed the error in Santana’s comment. Later in the interview, at 46:00, ‘Kiss revealed that the freestyle showings were designed to make “make them bite”—provoking Dipset to doubt their crossover catalog. “That was all lined up,” he said. “The freestyles was definitely gonna somebody say, ‘Where’s the ladies joints?’ We could’ve easily gone to a couple other songs instead of the freestyles, but it was really about ‘stick to the craft; show ’em that—and that’s gonna draw them in to say this. It’s two-for-one.”
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Neither crew had guests. “We was gonna bring Ma$e and Diddy out,” Jadakiss says. Styles admitted that he never supported that idea. “I’m glad we didn’t; I was against it from the beginning. I thought it may be dope, but I really wanted to show what we do.” Notably, this battle featured The LOX performing first throughout. Jadakiss said he liked that positioning all along. “It’s always great to go first, and that’s something that I learned from [my Verzuz] with Fab too. You can set the tone.”
Since August 3, The LOX have not released any music, while many Verzuz contenders use the promotion to hype something. Styles noted, “The day we was gonna make the record, we got called to do the Kanye record; we had things to do. We’re busy men.” The trio appeared on a version of Kanye West’s Donda that he recently premiered at Atlanta, Georgia’s Mercedes Benz Stadium.
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Out of the Verzuz, Jadakiss continues to get special recognition for his performance. Styles admits that the trio treated Jadakiss’ hot hand like athletes. “I wanted do way more records, way more freestyles,” Ghost said. “‘Kiss was catchin’ every pass and throwing them bombs, it was like don’t take him out the game; let’s go.” Sheek echoed that sentiment while Styles made a bigger point. “I think that was a big difference too. I think a lot of groups need to understand: you gotta know where to place your ego, you gotta know how to move like a vehicle and who’s the machine and when to be the machine and how to do it. As long as we win [that is what matters]; I always want the MVP, so does [Sheek Louch], so does [Jadakiss]. But if he comes in and he’s hitting, keep hitting, bro. We ain’t gonna throw in our ego and pride in. Let’s stick to the plan.” The MC said that Dipset would have benefited from that same approach. “I think if Cam would have came out and Jim and Juelz would have kept that in mind with Cam, it would have been a different day. You didn’t feel the [synergy].”
The Verzuz battle began late, allegedly due to Cam’ron threatening to leave MSG before the event. Killa Cam was reportedly arguing to have his entourage gain access and required Swizz Beatz to get involved. As that power struggle was transpiring behind the scenes, Jadakiss admitted that he wanted to put Dipset in the hot seat. “We was kinda crappy when we heard [Cam’ron may be leaving]. We was like, ‘get us to the stage, now.'”
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Styles revealed that promoters from the concert series The LOX, Dipset, and State Property announced that morning were upset at some of the onstage antics that involved shouting out gang affiliates. During a personal moment on stage, Cam’ron was apparently telling Jadakiss to be mindful of promoters. Despite that brief conflict, the Verzuz set an example. “No matter how chippy it was, we all left there together saying ‘peace,’ hugging, chilling, laughing, and smiling with each other as brothers—callin’ each other later,” Styles declared. “[Dipset members] are such gentlemen, and I tip my hat to all of ’em, ’cause they all reached out, hit us personally as gentlemen of this game, like, ‘Y’all had a good night.’ Those are my brothers.” Styles also praised Cam’ron’s business acumen. Due to the ticket sales, the groups were reportedly paid to appear. Styles trusted that he received the best possible deal when he told Verzuz execs to pay the three members of The LOX the same fee that Cam’ron negotiated.
As far as the upcoming tour, Sheek Louch has no problem letting The Diplomats get top billing. “They can close it.”
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Styles P affirmed The LOX win. “We knew that they would use everything except the elements of Hip-Hop to win.” He said that Dipset had being from Harlem to their advantage, as well as fashion and flashiness. However, the MC who said “that’s so corny” into the mic while Jim Jones was receiving jewelry from stagehands before performing “We Fly High” explains, “I don’t have to be flyer than you to be dope; I just want to be better than you at rhyming.” He added, “Hip-Hop is a poor people’s thing. Besides the artists, think about all the people living [poor]—the whole world, basically. Who really holds us and lifts [The LOX] up? It’s poor people. I kept that in mind too.”
Earlier this summer, Styles P released Ghosting.
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#BonusBeat: AFH‘s What’s The Headline podcast reviews The LOX Verzuz Dipset, round by round: