What Millennials Should Know About… The Lox’s ‘We Are The Streets’

Features

VIBE spotlights music’s most essential timepieces for Gen Y. You gon’ learn today

THE LOX We Are The Streets (2000)

Selling point (in one sentence): The Lox’s second album shook up the rap game and more importantly shedded the shiny suit image of their Bad Boy days, repping from the street corner to the corner cell with lyrical smackdowns that are harder than graphite.

The singles: “Wild Out,” “Ride or Die, Bitch,” “Recognize”

Deep album cuts: “Fuck You,” “Breathe Easy,” “Blood Pressure,” “Y’all Fucked Up Now”

Peak moment: Jadakiss unintentionally creates a hip-hop myth with some superhuman wordplay on his solo track “Blood Pressure.” After two minutes of walloping Swizz’s dramatic strings and synths with punchlines—probably unconscious at this point—Kiss rattles off some wordplay that predates the lore of Karrine Steffans: “Got a chick named Superhead/she give super head/Just moved in the building, even gave the super head/I cop big guns that spit super lead/So play Superman, end up super dead.” In just two bars, Jada blows listeners’ minds and births a fellatio legend that Steffans would soon infamously adopt. Nothing sucky about these rhymes.

Bet you didn’t know: J-Hood, who would later become D-Block’s flagship artist, makes his first on-wax appearance with a quick couplet on the skit “Rape’n U Records,” which also serves as one of many jabs at The Lox’s former boss Puff Daddy and his history of questionable recording contracts.

Most slept-on: The Lox and DJ Premier finally collide on “Recognize,” one of only two tracks handled by a producer outside of Ruff Ryders’ camp. Yet while “Wild Out” became an anthem that’s like a first cousin to M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” (which dropped later that year) and the Timbaland-produced “Ride or Die, Bitch” gave ladies something to bump, “Recognize” slipped through the cracks as a single. Preemo’s stellar machete work here adds another layer to the project’s sound and perfectly fits Styles, Sheek and Jada’s gutter introspection.

(But don’t snooze on this either): Jada’s aforementioned blackout on “Blood Pressure” is forever a classic solo serving, but Styles P provides some of WATS toughest talk on his own track “Felony Niggas.” He rattles off threats like “kill everybody dead just so no one can smile” and “I’ll put six in your stomach, nigga, lace your food,” truly earning his rep as rap’s hardest MC.

Lines best for status updates:

> “Everybody’s a snake, that’s why I try to keep the grass cut/So I can see ‘em when they coming, then I heat they ass up” —Jadakiss (“Fuck You”)
> “Y’all like watermelons: big but crack easy” —Sheek Louch (“Breathe Easy”)
> “Too hard for MTV, not black enough for BET, just let me be” —Jadakiss (“Recognize”)
> “I pray to Allah, but I’m too foul to go to the mosque” —Styles P (“Wild Out”)
> “Through ninth grade I ain’t go to high school, I went to school high” —Sheek Louch (“Recognize”)
> “I show up to your wedding, rockin’ a white tee/Your wife like oohh-wee/And if I dance wit her/Then I got a chance wit her” —Jadakiss (“Scream L.O.X.”)
> “I like to rock Prada suits and my ass is fat” —Eve (“Ride or Die, Bitch”)
> “Gave me head cause the movie was wack… word” —Styles P (“Ride or Die, Bitch”)
> “Blood thicker than water, only in certain cases/You need water to live you learn that in the basics” —Styles P (“Can I Live”)
> “Like that rooster and that chickenhawk, I teach about a gun” —Sheek Louch (“Wild Out”)
> “And just because you might have seen me in and out of your house/It’s no way that she could have a baby out of her mouth” —Jadakiss (“Breathe Easy”)
> “I’m black and deadly and my burner just like me” —Sheek Louch (“Recognize”)
> “I’ll cut your fuckin’ hand off if your pinky ring is hot” —Jadakiss (“Blood Pressure”)
> “Beef is like a brand new car: You better ride” —Styles P (“Breathe Easy”)
> “Think you Scarface but you ain’t see the end of the movie” —Jadakiss (“Can I Live”)

Synopsis: Before Omari Hardwick began calling himself “Ghost” on Power, before Jadakiss rocked actual visible hair on his head, The Lox were NYC’s most respected lyrical trio. We Are The Streets was a pivotal factor in Jadakiss, Styles and Sheek solidifying their place in the rap books, proving they can attain mainstream success while relentlessly repping for the streets .

The Lox signing to DMX’s Ruff Ryders in 1999 was congruous to The Diplomats joining Roc-a-Fella years later; the gritty, street-certified sect brought even more credibility to an emerging label already flanked by a rapper who barked like a dog. WATS is the only proper Lox album to be released under the Double-R umbrella, yet it’s an excellent, unapologetic street statement.

Through the first 13 tracks, We Are The Streets is blemish-free, capable of standing against Rotten Apple landmarks like CNN’s The War Report. Jada brings the lyrical finesse, S.P.’s realness scares the shit outta you and Sheek’s wordplay falls somewhere in the middle, often eliciting chuckles. The back half of the album lags a bit, with a bit too many bitter bars aimed at Diddy (“Bring It On,” “We Are The Streets”) over some hokey beats by Swizz. But still, The Lox last long-player paved the way for Jadakiss’ bold top-five D.O.A. claims, as well as Sheek and Styles’ blossoming solo careers, and still has fans salivating for its sequel, 15 years later. —John Kennedy

Cop The Lox’s We Are The Streets on iTunes here.