What many would be tempted to call a comeback, Sheek Louch considers strictly beast mode.
The Yonkers native hasn’t been one to take a day off in years, balancing a schedule filled with extensive touring, getting busy in his self-owned studio and being a family man. His fans have had a hunger for a new solo project, during a waiting period spanning five years. Sheek’s solo work not topping his priority list has been a theme throughout his 20-year career, but with such a positive outcry from fans on sites like SoundCloud and the encouragement from some of the best in the game, the opportunity presented itself clearly again.
“I was on some beast mode shit,” says Sheek, reflecting on the original Silverback album. “When I made that project, I was strictly in the studio. Whereas with this one, I wanted to have the same kind of thought process, beast mode, even though I was touring all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and getting a lot of beats sent to me from the road.”
With each new release, Sheek treats his time on the mic as a humble reintroduction. Some fans have eagerly grown up alongside every track dropped by The LOX (Sheek, Styles P, Jadakiss) while others are admittedly less-versed on the prolific nature of his body of work. It’s all love regardless, with Sheek’s music attracting new and old listeners alike. His wide-ranging fanbase speaks volumes to the dedication to his craft has on being an integral component to the longevity of his career.
With the introductory track, “Bunndy,” Sheek opens Silverback Gorilla 2 on a personal note with no hesitation. Diving right into it over brassy elements, lyrics like “Started making green when I was 16/Grown man sh*t ‘cuz daddy was a coke fiend” show Sheek has no time to waste. He’s got work to do, stories to tell and something to prove, time and time again.
“One reason I wanted to say everything I said is I’m an OG. You may know the LOX, you may know Styles and Jada, but there are kids out there that don’t,” Sheek says of the decision to open with a track as raw as “Bunndy.” “I really wanted to introduce myself again and let them know even more. The people that do know me sometimes are like, ‘damn, I didn’t know all that, I didn’t know he was in all that sh*t.’ Through the whole album I wanted to reintroduce myself but with more focus, moving forward.”
“Talking about being an OG, we didn’t have social media like that then, man,” Sheek says of the role SoundCloud’s had helping get his music to new fans. “We had to go meet outside the station, wait for a DJ to come outside and try to hand him your music or your mixtape. These days, it’s a gift and a curse with its positives and negatives. A positive is definitely posting my music online and being able to send it to 100 DJs at once. It’s been good!”
For his sixth solo studio album, Sheek calls on the likes of Joell Ortiz, Pusha T, Trae Tha Truth, Swizz Beatz, Styles P, Ghostface Killah, Fabolous, Jadakiss and ASAP Ferg. Each virtuous feature helps tie the album together.
“I made my calls to everybody I’m a big fan of, from Fab and P and Trae and so on, and I had no hesitations from any artists or producers,” Sheek says. “It came to life, like it was all meant to be.”
With classic boom bap production and a soulful flair, the album flows with variety, shining light on both gritty and passionate sides of Sheek as an artist. With tracks like “Hood In You” speaking truth from the female perspective and the catchy hook in “I’m Working,” Sheek covers a lot of ground material-wise. “Hood N*gga,” “Trap Stories” and “What Is It” feel reminiscent of Sheek’s early approaches vocally, with the polish that only comes with the wisdom of someone who’s been in the rap game as long as he has. Tracks like “Bang Bang” and “What’s On Your Mind” feature unique, forward-thinking production that help balance out the record’s vibe. It’s a well-rounded album, and one Sheek is deserving of being excited about.
“If you love this Hip Hop game, it should be actually fun,” Sheek says with conviction, during an interruption in our interview where I pause to address I appreciate how he’s having such a great time discussing the new album. “We ain’t going to work to do construction, or to you know, get fit while we at the job. It’s fun what we do. It’s a gift we’ve been given. If it feels like you’re killing yourself to do it, you ain’t having fun at what you do. That goes for rap, that goes for journalism, it’s everything. If you’re not having fun, doing these interviews or doing this or that. It should be fun coming to work, period. Or you don’t love it.”
His fans have definitely picked up on that excitable energy as well, with their response to the album a positive one. “From top to bottom, they’ve been saying it’s off the hook, which is dope. I wanted that response and I’m loving it, especially after taking so long in between albums and jumping back into it,” Sheek says.
“I’ll always try to prove myself,” Sheek continues. “I’m always trying to get better and better and better, and I love when people are like, ‘Yo Sheek, damn. Your sh*t is crazy.’ I really had no interest in making solo albums until way, way later when my man convinced me to go on stage and do a freestyle and the feedback was incredible. So I had to go from, ‘I don’t know’ to ‘That sh*t is hot!’ I’m forever going to be on the come up. I want my next album to be way better than this one. I never want to get comfortable. I want to show growth every time you hear me. Like man, I didn’t think he could top that one.”
Taking a moment during our conversation to shout out everyone involved in working on his project, Sheek says he would like to expand on his long list of collaborations throughout his career to include J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar. “I know it’s not Hip Hop, but if I could have worked with one person back in the day, it would have been Curtis Mayfield. If I could have had him on one of my hooks right now, man. Soulful and powerful content. It would have been amazing.”
Much like Jadakiss, who in an interview in Issue #268 of The Source Magazine discussed fans going crazy in the comments asking where new music was, Sheek says the main question he gets these days is, “when is the LOX album coming out?”
“With all these projects dropping at once and not even planning it that way, the stars aligned, so enough is enough,” Sheek says of building towards the next group album. With Jadakiss and Styles P both releasing solo albums this year, and exemplary albums at that, the momentum has been building towards another LOX album. “We got a little running around to do right now but we’ll be back in the studio and getting focused,” Sheek says. “This album needs to come right now! I’m saying next year, there’s so much light on all three of us right now, why not go for it?”
Next up for the rapper is the next Wu-Block album, a collaboration between Ghostface Killah and Sheek, but this time the next chapter will have more involvement from other members of the Wu-Tang Clan and D-Block. “It’s going to be a strong year. I just want to keep going!” he says. “For one joint on my solo project, I was playing a beat and ‘Kiss came out of his room at the studio, and was like ‘Yo, what song is that? I gotta get on that,” Sheek reflects, a testament to how his creative process working with frequent collaborators such as Jadakiss, comes “natural, like a motherf*cker.”
“It was organic. For the track, we thought of ASAP Ferg, so we called up Ferg, he was working in the studio with Pharrell. He told me Pharrell left the room for a few hours, so he pulled that sh*t up and recorded it right there. There’s too many stories like that!”
Even his story of signing a deal to release this project with Tommy Boy Records was a story that shows a fitting partnership. “I run around a lot and out on tour in Australia, I ran into Tom Silverman, and he was like, ‘When we get back to New York, we have to talk,’” Sheek says. “His knowledge on Hip Hop from Bambaataa all the way till now is impressive. I was just picking his brain on the bus, he knows a lot of sh*t, man. He gets what I want to do and when he said we want to do a project, I was like ‘perfect.’”
Sheek will be home for Christmas this year, as opposed to last year where he had to FaceTime during the holidays due to being on tour. When asked about what his family thinks of the new record, Sheek says they love it. “My son was like ‘Yo, Dad why don’t you have Fetty Wap on it,” Sheek says, laughing. “I was like, it probably wouldn’t have fit in with what I’m doing. That’s the young generation, man.”
Sheek Louch and Ghostface Killah will be on tour throughout the winter, as well as touring Europe with The LOX in December. As I’m sure Sheek would agree, Silverback Gorilla 2 is a necessary soundtrack for anyone on their grind.
Silverback Gorilla 2 is available now via iTunes.