These days, there's a frustrating phrase rap fans are probably tired of hearing: "Rap was better in the '90s." Regardless of whether or not that phrase is actually true (remember: It was our generation that decided to steal music) there are a few relics of that era who are still kicking. Two of the OG rap veterans who remember the good ol' days are Sheek Louch and Ghostface Killah. Both are members of legendary groups, they're both obviously fans of each other ("Living in the crack spot, banging that Sheek Louch!" - Ghost Deni), and what do you know? They have a joint project called Wu-Block which dropped this week.
To hear them tell it, it's simply a street record. And if you're a fan of either of those guys, that's exactly what you want to hear.
Ghost and Sheek dropped into the Complex offices to discuss the making of the album, when Ghost wasn't explaining how he tricked Def Jam out of his album, and when Sheek wasn't giving us a few details on the upcoming LOX album.
Interview by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
Complex: Ghost, let's talk “New God Flow,” which is hot on the radio right now. How'd it come together?
Ghostface Killah: I just wrote a verse to it, I did it like two months ago. I just sent it to them but nobody never got back like: “Oh, shit, I heard the song.” I just did it and I sent it, instead of just putting it out on my own. I just gave it to him out of respect and that was it. I just heard that shit today on the radio for the first time.
Complex: It’s a good look for you.
Ghostface Killah: It was alright. Yeah, you know what I mean. If we get some airplay out of the shit, like the first one. We need that shit right now because we’re about to drop this Wu-Block shit.
Complex: Right. Let’s talk Wu-Block. What’s interesting to me is that you guys are obviously big fans of each other.
Ghostface Killah: Hell yeah.
Sheek Louch: Definitely. The Wu got love for us. But with them being in the game first, we was listening to all their shit. We’re big fans. [We were listening to Wu] all day long when we were hustling out there. Me, Jada, and Styles listened to all of them. I was in Mary J. Blige’s MPV or her Range Rover, riding around and bugging out to their songs.
Yonkers and Staten Island is like basically the same sh*t. [When The LOX first came out], Rae was like, “Yo, these ni**as right here, watch them. They’re gonna be some sh*t.” They came out going in and it ain’t stop. They still throwing darts now. They like the hardest motherf**kers on the streets. - Ghostface Killah
To get to work with them it’s different. You’ve got people that you can’t wait to do a song with but they ain’t saying nothing no more, they ain’t hot. These guys are still hot, still rapping and saying that shit. So that’s what makes it even better.
Ghostface Killah: That’s the same thing with them though. Like I told them, Yonkers and Staten Island is like basically the same shit. [When The LOX first came out], Rae was like, “Yo, these niggas right here, watch them. They’re gonna be some shit.” They came out going in and it ain’t stop. They still throwing darts now. They like the hardest motherfuckers on the streets.
Me and Rae think the same. So it’s like, “You know what man? Merge that shit together.” Me and Sheek was supposed to do [an album called] Gorillas In The Mist a long time ago, like before I was doing FishScale and all that.
Sheek brought the idea to me but we never carried it out. When we got on the tour together, we started going and it came back up. He just came like, “Yo, Wu-Block.” Once he said that shit, it just stuck. We had to make it happen.
Sheek Louch: The energy was there between both teams because you can have resistance. Say like me and him is all aboard, you could have both teams like, “Ehh, I don’t know.” None of that was happening with us. Everyone was like, “Word? That’s dope.” I love them and we love them.
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, we got off our Canada run in November of last year.
Sheek Louch: And knocked that shit out, b.
Ghostface Killah: That be the glory of it. Because we could say, “We’re gonna build this building” but then you don’t do nothing. But you have to get up do it. When it’s complete, you appreciate it. Me and him, when we heard the songs one after another the way down, I told him, I said,”Yo, I’m happy man.”
Everything seemed like it was in place. It wasn’t like, “Oh yo, this is weak, this is weak, now scrape six songs off’.” Nah, it’s just finished. So, in getting these two crews together, these combining forces, it’s powerful, b. Especially for the street shit that y’all looking for. It ain’t them niggas talking knowledge and doing skinny jean shit. It’s like nah, it’s straight project-block shit. If you came up in the ‘90s, then you can expect what we got, b.
Sheek Louch: We ain’t go for no big [single]. The people in the streets and the consumers are gonna pick and make something a single, because we don’t know what it is ourselves. We don’t have like, “Yo, this joint right here is gonna be the single.”
Complex: How long was the process to make the album? It sounds like it was made very quickly.
Sheek Louch: Not that quick because man, Ghost be in Beijing probably tomorrow. Or he’s over there touring.
Ghostface Killah: You know how it be. Shit. When we left last November off the tour, that’s when we started working on it.
Ghostface Killah: Yeah so it’s not even November yet right now. We just said what we was gonna do. That’s shows you how fast time flies. That’s why you can’t sleep. If you’ve got something you want to do, do it right now.
Complex: We mentioned the first time you guys talked about the album. How about the first time you guys met?
Sheek Louch: Of course. I bet you don’t know this one Ghost. You was laying something in Daddy’s House. Me, Kiss, and Styles was in there and you was with Puff. Y’all was in there. You had your shoes off and was stepping on the back of them and shit. Me, Styles and Jadakiss were like, “Yo, that’s Ghostface!”
Ghostface Killah: Oh yeah. That was the Babyface record, “This Is For The Lover In You,” I did. I didn’t know you was there!
Sheek Louch: I was in there and we met you for the first fucking time. But you was as comfortable as you are today.
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, I remember Styles. Y’all wanted to smoke something but I was dusted the night before. I wasn’t touching that shit again.
Sheek Louch: That’s where I first met him. I said, “This guy’s a nut. I love him.”
Complex: Besides reflecting on the old days, I wanted to ask what you guys think of hip-hop today?
My whole take on the lyrics is, I don’t think they trying hard enough. Some of them don’t put no effort, no thought process. You do got dudes that I think is dope lyricists, like J.Cole and Drake. These kind of dudes, I think they lyrically dope. - Sheek Louch
Sheek Louch: As far as what? On lyrics or hip-hop itself?
Complex: Lyrics, because you guys are known for your lyrics.
Sheek Louch: My whole take on the lyrics is, I don’t think they trying hard enough. Some of them don’t put no effort, no thought process. You do got dudes that I think is dope lyricists, like J.Cole and Drake. These kind of dudes, I think they lyrically dope.
But more than that, it’s like they get into the hook and the beat and they really don’t care what they saying or where they’re going with it. Like they rhyme probably take them like seconds and it’s over.
Complex: Let me ask you something, because this is a conversation I have all the time, when people say, “The 90s were better.” Was it was greater in the 90s than it is today?
Sheek Louch: It was greater definitely in the 90s. There’s more money right now. There’s more money to be made right now.
Complex: There’s more money now you think?
Sheek Louch: Hell yeah. Them deals wasn’t happening back then. Record labels was giving Cash Money, Ruff Ryders, Bad Boys, and So So Def big budgets. Those were key people though. But them Sprite deals, them movie endorsements, those Reebok deals? That wasn’t happening. It’s more corporate shit we get into now. Back then, niggas could break and get $10 million for their record deal, but it wasn’t a lot to get into after that.
Complex: Right, it was limited to just music.
Ghostface Killah: That’s the same thing with the Internet shit. When that came into play, a lot of shit changed too. It made it possible to get your hands into a lot of other shit. But it’s a tit-for-tat because now ain’t no more record labels. Shit’s just down to like three fucking labels. They crunched that shit up. But the ‘90s was...
Sheek Louch: —It was a greater movement.
Ghostface Killah: And it felt better. Like he said, these motherfuckers take like two seconds to go ahead and write a rhyme.
Sheek Louch:But it’s crazy because that be a hit to these people. I’m not gonna tell my son not to love it. I know a man, he did four bars of the same fucking line. What the fuck? I ain’t gonna name nobody’s lyric but he did four bars of the same shit over and over, repeated it and then the hook came in. And they doing a dance with it. Get the fuck out of here!
There’s more simple-minded people than there was before. We still had a little conscience on us in the ‘90s. This goes for the parents because I got a son that’s 24-years-old. When you look at the parents that had the babies that was coming up, [you see] that’s why they simple-minded like that. - Ghostface Killah
Ghostface Killah: Because you know why? There’s more simple-minded people than there was before. We still had a little conscience on us in the ‘90s. This goes for the parents because I got a son that’s 24-years-old. When you look at the parents that had the babies that was coming up, [you see] that’s why they simple-minded like that.
You’ve got to look at the parent now. See where their parent’s head is at, for the kids to be so simple-minded now. They don’t give a fuck about nothing: kids on drugs, Molly, Ecstasy and they out every fucking week.
But when we was coming up, we still had that respect, that guidance. A little something, even if it was just from the people that you was around. Now? Kids don’t give a fuck about nothing. And all that is in that net of that simple-minded shit. That’s why they going for anything.
Like you said, you could do four bars of the same fucking thing. Repeat it, repeat it, repeat it and the hook come in, and it’s a record. When before, come on, you just had rhymes. And it was fun.
Complex: You mentioned how people have diversified their portfolio and are getting endorsement deals. One person who made that possible was Chris Lighty. Did you guys ever do some stuff with Chris Lighty?
Sheek Louch: I never actually did no deals with him, I know he damn sure wanted to. I remember when G-Unit came into play, Chris Lighty was always at D-Block Studio like, “Yo man, every time we put something out, D-Block puts something out immediately.” We were in the mixtape game back then. We was always like, they put something out, we put something out. Before we started beefing, he was like, “Yo, y’all don’t let up.”
He wanted to make something happen over there at Violator, but it never took place. I always say that to say this: His ear was always to the street. Chris’ ear was to the street all day long. For too many people to be hurting for that brother, he had to be doing something right man.
He was a good dude. I remember I seen him after we was beefing, us and G-Unit. He was like, “Yo man, this is business man.” He downplayed it like that. And that was the kind of dude he was. God bless man.