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.
Complex: Ghost, did you ever work with Chris Lighty?
Ghostface Killah: I didn’t know him all the way like that. More like, “What’s up? What’s going on?” It’d be like small talk. That was it. But he wasn’t no rah-rah type of dude, he was always cool. Smooth, smooth dude. Voice was smooth, low tone.
The Father, at the end of the day, knows the true story behind all that shit. R.I.P yo. It’s sad but at the same time yo, life is real. That’s why I look at this, especially for the New York rap scene, I always felt like enough was enough of whatever.
When I went to the South and I saw how they treated each other and how they treated me? They was in there giving me bottles like piss. It’s like, “Yo, hold on b,” because I’ve never had that happen to me like that before. I’m like, “Nah, I’m good.” “Nah, take that b. Whatever you need, this is southern hospitality. This is how we do out here in the A.” - Ghostface Killah
It’s like, a lot of us be emcees that be having beef with each other and for silly shit. It’s like, “Nigga, I don’t even know you. We ain’t even broke bread together!” So what are really beefing for? Like we never sat down and ate like, “Pass me the butter, son.” We never did none of that. So what’s really the beef? And it’s not over no money.
But when I went to the South and I saw how they treated each other and how they treated me? Nigga, they was in there giving me bottles like piss. It’s like, “Yo, hold on b,” because I’ve never had that happen to me like that before. Like, “Go ahead, take that,” and I’m like, “Nah, I’m good.” “Nah, take that b. Whatever you need, this is southern hospitality. This is how we do out here in the A.”
For a nigga to get ahead of this dude, and then I’m walking through and here go Young Joc doing the same thing. It’s like yo man, you know what b? It’s crazy because I can’t even get that in my own hometown.
If I wanted 50 or Jay or Nas to come to the video shoot, these niggas won’t even budge. It feels like we’re so distant and so divided. But if they see me, Sheek, 50, Hov, Nas, Kiss, Rae and them niggas on one fucking track? Them Atlanta dudes would be like, “Yo man, that’s the bomb. Those are the Yankees right there. Those are my favorite niggas that I ever wanted to see on one track.”
But they can’t get it, but you can get that over there with them niggas. Jeezy on a track with 2 Chainz, Future, T.I. and all these niggas and it’s all they shit. But we can’t get that. We need unity.
Sheek Louch: It’s starts with everybody too man because even on the radio over there, they’re playing artists that you’ve never heard of. They don’t even have record deals, but they’re playing them. They help their artists blow the fuck up.
Complex: New York is a grimy city. They booed Outkast, they booed Jay Electronica, Scarface. Just because they’re from the South, people get booed.
Sheek Louch: So you’re saying it goes both ways?
Complex: Nah, I’m just saying, New York is filled with haters. [Laughs.]
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, it’s like The Apollo crowd.
Sheek Louch: I think everybody is stars in New York. Not necessarily you are a star, but their mentality is like, “Who the fuck is this?”
Ghostface Killah: Exactly. But that’s almost like everywhere. Because it’s like, if you was somewhere in the South, and you was kind of new, I don’t know if motherfuckers would just sit there and listen to your shit. If they don’t know one word and you a new motherfucker, it’s like come on. They’re gonna want to listen to the next motherfucker that’s coming on, that’s from their town that they can relate to.
It goes both ways. I remember they chased us out of Texas back in ‘92 or ‘93. If it wasn’t for Ol’ Dirty, we would’ve been fucked up. We were in Houston in the Fifth Ward. They had a big mural of Scarface on the wall. So I felt it, I’m a spiritual dude. I told Killah Priest, “Yo, listen man, shit don’t feel right in here. Let’s stick together.”
RZA had the Heineken bottle in his other hand and just trashed him [and hit him over the head with the bottle]. And it was on! And you can carry guns over there. So we was on stage, we ran outside that side door, and these niggas came but we was all in the van. We rushed in, all of us got in the van, but we had nowhere to go. - Ghostface Killah
So, to make a long story short, we’re on stage and RZA is talking. We got one little knucklehead nigga in the crowd. He’s like, “Get the fuck outta here with that shit. Get the fuck out! We don’t want to hear that shit.” So RZA’s like, “What? What you say?” So RZA gave him the mic. Dude took the mic and was like, “I said get the fuck out of here. We don’t want to hear that shit.”
So RZA, he passed the mic back and shit, so RZA up there still doing his shit. So money just took his shit and threw his cup on RZA. But RZA had the Heineken bottle in his other hand and just trashed him [and hit him over the head with the bottle]. And it was on!
And you can carry guns over there. So we was on stage, we ran outside that side door, and these niggas came but we was all in the van. We rushed in, all of us got in the van, but we had nowhere to go.
All of a sudden Dirt was like, “Yo, make a left this way, go through here.” Word is bond. Out of nowhere, it was freedom, freedom. Free at last! And we just made it right to the highway nigga. And we got beat. Because that’s when we was getting $100 a show and we’d have to split it $10 a piece. We had the money and it was a fake hundred dollar bill.
These new niggas that Sheek talking about, these new niggas never went through that.
Complex: Sheek you ever went through a crazy tour story like that?
Sheek Louch: We done did it with everybody man. We was in Boston and they was looking for DMX for something and we couldn’t find him. So to make a long story short, they said they were fucking up everybody. We got into it all crazy with the whole team. With The LOX it seemed like that was our shit. Niggas thought we was coming to fight at everything.
We was young and wilding. We was on beautiful yachts parties and Puff would be like, “Everybody, The LOX is on here. They gonna fuck something up.” Bless my swag up but that’s how we was, but we thought that was the way to move. But it’s cool now, now we about that money.
Complex: I wanted to follow up on one thing Ghostface mentioned too, the lack of record labels. This record for you guys is being released independently, through E1. Does that work for you now in your career?
Sheek Louch: Yeah, I did couple of albums with E1. But my solo album is on Def Jam. I think Ghost wanted to do the whole E1 thing because how the independents let us move with that freedom. Not even necessarily, we’re gonna see this amount off each record. Nah, it’s more like, we can put this shit out the way we want and have that creative control and we gonna hit this road and tour and go big time. Labels like E1 are very important man for guys like us, it gives us an outlet.
Complex: You mentioned you have your solo record on Def Jam. When is that slated for?
Sheek Louch: I’ve probably got like eight joints done on my solo, I know Ghost is almost done with his solo. Since we got off tour, I’ve mainly been working on this LOX album, with Kiss and Styles.
Complex: Yeah, it’s about time.
Sheek Louch: Man look, I ain’t even want to spill the beans on that but we’ve probably got 15 joints done. Probably take it to like 30, then pick it out, and then present it. But every night [I’m working on it.] After doing my interview here, I’ve got to meet with them in the studio and go finish up a Swizz joint.
Since we got off tour, I’ve mainly been working on this LOX album, with Kiss and Styles. I ain’t even want to spill the beans on that but we’ve probably got 15 joints done. Probably take it to like 30, then pick it out, and then present it. But every night [I’m working on it.] - Sheek Louch
Complex: I never understood why you guys didn't make an album because you guys constantly made songs together. Every time Jada would drop an album, you would be on it, Styles would be on it. So you guys have basically made a LOX album.
Sheek Louch: Definitely. But they want that original one and y’all gonna get it. We got [DJ Khaled and Swizz Beatz] executive producing it right now.
Complex: Are you slating that for this year or next year?
Sheek Louch: Realistically, I would say next year.
Complex: What’s up with you Ghostface? Seems like your done with the Blue & Cream album.
Ghostface Killah: Yeah. The Blue & Cream joint, I’m like 80-85% done with that. I didn’t put the features on yet. I’m just still looking to see whatever beats I could get that might knock something else off. Then, I’ll put the skits on it and everything is a wrap. I’ve been sitting on it for like two years. I was doing it when I was on my last shit on Def Jam, but I gave them a mixtape.
Complex: Apollo Kids?
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, but that was a mixtape. That wasn’t no album. They wanted Supreme, I’m gassing for them to do Supreme. But I caught them niggas real quick for their bread and then gave them Apollo Kids. That was gonna be called The Warm Up, but they was like, “Nah, I know what you’re trying to do.” They caught on.
So I just called it Apollo Kids. But I still kept Supreme on the side though and I’ve been holding it. I’ve been holding it, holding it, holding it and I still got it. That’s why I try to be like, “Yo, hold on man.”
But then we came and we just say, we’re gonna do the Wu-Block. So I pushed it to the side. It’s a good idea because I could follow up from that. But then what’s coming now is we’ve got the 20th anniversary of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) next November.
So, it’s a lot of shit that’s in the mix right now but I gotta get that. I don’t wanna be sitting on this fucking record man. I don’t wanna fuck around and put it out and rush it. I want everything to be right. I’m not comfortable with coming out in the summertime. The summer is not my season, I go through a lot of shit in the summer.
Sheek Louch: You make a lot of dope records in the summer though.
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, but I’ve never released a record in the summer.
Sheek Louch: No, but you make summertime records though.
Ghostface Killah: Oh, I can make records like that, but as far as my luck, it’s finished.
Complex: Your luck is bad in the summer?
Ghostface Killah: Yeah. Shit just don’t go right. You know yourself, you gotta know your seasons. There be certain seasons, it’s telepathy. Those are my February-March months. Once April-May hit, I’m finished up until like September. In June-July, I’m fucked up. I don’t give a fuck where I’m at. I could be in Europe nigga, the tour won’t even go right.
I’m a spiritual dude, so I’ve experienced these things and I do a lot of reading. And it tells you, you have to know your seasons. We all got it. You gotta know when it’s your time. You might wake up one day like, “Damn, I just feel good,” but you’ve been feeling like that for a whole month. That’s your season.
Remember when it comes back around the next year and look for it. So that’s why I say those months like May, June, July, it’s too much for me. It starts clearing up for me in August.
Complex: You were saying about with Def Jam you were putting out Apollo Kids and kind of pulled the okey-doke on them. Are you still signed to Def Jam?
Ghostface Killah: Nah. Def Jam just made deals with me. They wouldn’t let me go because they didn’t really have that much street cred. So they kept me around. I’m like, “Okay you gotta give me this and I’ll give you this” type shit. I did an R&B album for them niggas and they still couldn’t take me nowhere. It is what it is though. I ain’t gonna shit on them, but my career really didn’t go nowhere on Def Jam.
Complex: You put out FishScale on Def Jam though.
Ghostface Killah: But that didn’t really go nowhere. It was just there. I could do the same shit I’m doing on my own or wherever else.
Def Jam wouldn’t let me go because they didn’t really have that much street cred. So they kept me around. I did an R&B album for them niggas and they still couldn’t take me nowhere. I ain’t gonna sh*t on them, but my career really didn’t go nowhere on Def Jam. - Ghostface Killah
Complex: You feel like the independent route is the way for you?
Ghostface Killah: It’s whatever works. Sometimes you need your label to go ahead and get you out there. You might do a 50-50 with somebody.
Complex: Both of you guys seem to have a full plan for the next few years.
Ghostface Killah: Basically right now, I don’t care where I’m at. It don’t make a difference with me. I’m Ghostface, b.
Sheek Louch: Once your status is where it’s at, you’ll be fine.
Ghostface Killah: It don’t make a difference because we still gonna do the same music. The companies ain’t behind you like that no more. They making you do all the work. What they used to be doing 300 person staff, it’s no more.
Sheek Louch: Yeah. It’s more computerized right now.
Ghostface Killah: I was talking to Redman, he said they only got like 10 cubicles up in [the Def Jam office] and that’s it. Ain’t no more this floor, that floor, that floor. They crushed all that shit down to like 10 fucking desks. What you gonna do for me man when you got like 60 artists you gotta look after, b?
Complex: It is the Internet era but I feel like the Internet has helped you guys.
Sheek Louch: It’s a gift and a curse to me. It’s definitely a double-edged sword, and I don’t mean that on no Wu-Tang shit.