Queens, N.Y., has always been a major hotbed for hip-hop. Home to some of the biggest names in the genre's history, from LL Cool J to 50 Cent and everyone in between, musically, the borough boasts arguably the most storied legacy. But one group that may get overlooked from time to time is the Lost Boyz.
Comprised of frontman Mr. Cheeks, rapper-hype-man Freaky Tah, DJ Spigg Nice and Pretty Lou, these Jamaica, Queens ruffians bumrushed the scene in 1996, with their debut album, 'Legal Drug Money.' They followed that up with their sophomore effort, 'Love, Peace, & Nappiness,' in 1997, and in the process of recording their third album, all was looking up in the world of LB until tragedy struck. Freaky Tah was murdered on March 28, 1999, while exiting a birthday celebration for Mr. Cheeks.
With Freaky Tah deceased, the Lost Boyz chose to complete their next album, 'LB IV Life,' salvaging vocals Tah had recorded prior to his death. The effort was released on Sept. 28, 1999. Due in-part to the controversy surrounding Freaky Tah's murder and the remaining members in mourning, 'LB IV Life' didn't fare as well on the Billboard charts or on radio as their previous releases. This effort came and went without much hooplah. The album would prove to be the group's last, as they decided to split up soon after.
Fifteen years since its release, we feel 'LB IV Life' never got a fair shot on the first go-round. As a result, The Boombox gives the Lost Boyz's third LP some burn to find out if it stands the test of time.
The Lost Boyz get it popping from the outset with the stuntastic 'Let's Roll Dice.' Mr. Cheeks games up around-the-way fillets with lines like "Shorty got a n---- back up against the wall / Short and sweet, y'all, about 5 feet tall / Her and her friends burning weed, smelling good, indeed / You, you ain't what I want, you something that I need / No fronting, I love the way you flick the hips / And you making matters worse the way you lick ya' lips / Make that s--- hard for me when I'm in front of you / Trying to keep it cool, but yet, that's what I wanna do," while Freaky Tah lends his frenetic energy on the third verse, posthumously. Co-produced by Mr. Sexx and Alex Andino, while the track comes off a bit dated by today's standards,'Let's Roll Dice' passes inspection with a thumbs up and sets this audio journey along smoothly.
Mr. Sexx shows up on the boards dolo for 'We Got That Hot S---.' Mr. Cheeks handles business on his end, but gets trumped by L.G.'s guest verse, in which he impresses with bars like "Try me and watch, get knocked, I'm lying to cops / Advanced, bought a brick and kept supplying dem spots / All my n----s in the street know / I'm not the one, I pack a gun and let the heat blow." Although a bit of a fall-off from the previous track, the song is far from a disappointment and makes 'LB IV Life' 2-for-2 out the gate.
The Lost Boyz get busy on the Ralph Lo-produced 'Ghetto Jiggy.' Mr. Cheeks is on cruise control on this number, sprinkling sharp line like "Many mistakes made, mad sins committed / Any hot chick that was wit' it, I was bout to hit it / I keep a Yankee fitted, my world stay spinning / I seen them f----- n----s grinning from the whole beginning / Me and my team, man, we live life and spending cream / Hot chicks up on the scene, man, we sitting mean / Jewelry shining, ghetto cats masterminding / Living life inside the rough, but shine like a diamond." Repping for their Big Apple stomping grounds on the hook, 'Ghetto Jiggy' sees the crew hitting on all cylinders.
'Take A Hike' finds the Lost Boyz going ham over an amped up Dre Most production, with impressive results. Mr. Cheeks delivers on his end, getting aggressive with bars like, "In pool halls we throw dice and we get nice / Think about this bad bitch I only hit twice / My underworld, it still spins like the wheels, fam / No matter what, I'ma still show the skills, fam / You can't stop me, beating me, f--- around, kid, catch a beat-down / Like the chick caught cheating, came to break all the fake crews that fake moves / Dump that ass, think you can beat me from lake views."
West New York meets Queens when L.G. pops up alongside Mr. Cheeks on '5 A.M.' Both trade bars back and forth conversationally, with Cheeks referencing the death of Freaky Tah, poignantly rhyming "Ayo, these n----s wanna outline us / What's the deal, god, ain't hard to find us / Be prepared to feel my nine bust / Took my brother from me, ayo, you know how deep the slum be / But you's afraid to even come see." The hook is nothing to write home about but doesn't hamper the track, making this Mr. Sexx and Alex Andino co-production a solid effort.
'Risin' to the Top (No Stoppin' Us)'
Mr. Cheeks goes for dolo on the Mr. Sexx-produced 'Rising to the Top (No Stoppin' Us).' Opening the track strong, spitting "You know the lifestyle, plain and simple, out to get it / This ghetto game us n----s play, no doubt we, stay committed / Am capable of bringing hot s---, no matter what / And when we aim we do our thing to get the fatter cut / See, my success is based on struggling hard times / And boulevard dimes, Linden Boulevard crimes / They got me on my P's and Q's, these playa haters hate us often / On and off the the corporate cause we make our threes in twos," while singing on the hook is a tad bit of a killjoy, overall, LB scores another strong offering to add to the list.
The rap group score another winner in the Ralph Lo-produced 'Only Live Once.' Dedicated to Freaky Tah and other slain rap stars and friends, Mr. Cheeks is steady as usual, but co-star Izzy Dead steals the show with standout lines like "'Cause we in this bitch, raw dogs / Is you asking for a New York City war call / We keep it gritty for all of y'all / But some you n----s act like you going through menopause / And that's the second we send 'em to morgues / Lay ''em down, get in them draws / Then put on, what you telling me for / Look at 'em begging for more." With dope performances from all parties and a soulful beat powered by a sample of Jerry Butler's 'Whatever's Fair,' Cheeks and company continue the album's winning streak.
'LB IV Life' hits its first snag with the lackluster 'Cheese.' Produced by DJ Rob, while Mr. Cheeks does his part, the beat leaves much to be desired and the hook would've been better served on the cutting room floor, making for an forgettable selection.
The team redeems themselves in a big way on 'Plug Me In.' Co-produced by Ralph Lo and D2, the hard-hitting track serves as one of the best on the LP and Cheeks comes through in the clutch with three solid verses which, added together, equals a banger of a record.
Legendary mixtape DJ-turned-producer Ron G makes an appearance on the boards for 'New York City War Call.' Cheeks is no-frills from the jump, breaking in the track with bars like "What's ya n----s thinkin, mad that we increasin', while ya shrinkin? / Button up your lip, your ship is sinkin / You must be coked out, frontin' like that ass is loc'd out/ I'm gettin cheddar from this s--- I'm spittin' / And I'm gettin smoked out / Skate through the streets in whips crossin five digits / Takin' shorts from no midgets / My style is top-notch, y'all n----s can't f--- with the status / I'm climbin up the ladders, droppin' s--- the phattest," and abusing the track without regard for feelings. This is rawness at its finest and one of the more stellar selections on the LP.
"You know the life situations, hard times and deep conversations / Beef in the streets, eliminations / S--- gets iller, it's mad bulls--- us n----s go through / They hate us being broke and getting dough, too." With those opening lines, Mr. Cheeks goes into one of the more introspective cuts on the album, 'Can't Hold Us Down.' Produced by Ralph Lo, the track is nothing short of a winner.
The Lost Boyz give a little air-time to fellow Southside Jamaica reps Queens Most Wanted and J-N-J on the free-for-all posse cut, 'Colabo.' Co-produced by DJ Rob and Mr. Pito, the beat is serviceable at best and while all MCs come correct, they fail to make a lasting impression, resulting in a track that's more bottom of the barrel than cream of the crop.
Our ears are blessed with one of the superior cuts on the LP via the silky 'Ghetto Lifestyle.' With Ralph Lo on the boards, Mr. Cheeks breaks down a typical night in the life of LB, spitting "My lifestyle's about marijuana, sex, and booze / I use rap skills as tools, so, who's next to lose / We chasing women, playing pool, we got our game on / I said to pop dukes 'I got's to get a dame on' / He started laughing while making every shot he got / Anita Baker's playing in the background, she hot / Now, Earth, Wind, and Fire brought the people to they feet / No doubt, I can tell tonight about to be sweet." Sounds like a good night, as well as a dope track, if you ask us.
Mr. Cheeks professes his allegiance to his LB family with the Glenn SON Faide-produced 'LB Fam 4 Life.' Featuring J-N-J, it's far from a homerun, but a respectable selection and carries on the momentum built on previous tracks.
'LB IV Life' closes out appropriately with a few enthusiastic words in lyrical form courtesy of Freaky Tah. Showcasing his endearing humor with off-the-cuff lines like "Met two shorty's, yeah, no doubt / Took them and we back to the house / Told my n----s to get the hell out / 'Bout to get busy, yeah, no doubt / Bone one to death, eat the other out / Get real freaky, put my tongue in her mouth, put my tongue in her mouth / You know how I do," blessing us with his last performance on wax. R.I.P. Freaky Tah.
Platinum plaques and fanfare may have eluded 'LB IV Life' upon its initial release, but we can attest to the fact that it's an album definitely worthy of your attention. Freaky Tah's absence from the project is felt in a big way, however, Mr. Cheeks does his best to fill the void in grand fashion, delivering a plethora of quality 16's and steadying the ship from start to finish. Another name that must be mentioned in regards to 'LB IV Life' is Ralph Lo, who provides numerous standout soundbeds for Cheeks and the crew to run roughshod over. There may be a slight miss here and there (most notably, 'Cheese'), but in its totality, 'LB IV Life' is a testament to the Lost Boyz legacy and an album that we wouldn't hesitate to put our stamp of approval on.
R.I.P. Freaky Tah.