Consider life today in the ghettos of urban America. Confined to geographic areas that are social and financially sequestered from mainstream society, the opportunities that arise for the ghetto's children are by no means numerous. Drug dealing, hustling, unemployment, violence-these are the sad facts of everyday life.
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Emerging from this dire scenario, from the south side of Queens, New York, are the Lost Boyz, four young men determined to successfully make their place in the world despite the reality of their surroundings.
The Lost Boyz-lead rapper Mr. Cheeks, DJ Spigg Nice, and rappers Freaky Tah and Pretty Lou - have all faced hostile experiences and harsh realities. The group's name refers to the their formerly restless lives which centered around roaming gritty streets and hustling everything from drugs to t-shirts. But taking ownership over negatives an flipping it around into a positive is the group's credo. Their hardcore hip-hop narratives convey the rawness of the ghetto, not to glorify or condone, but to speak upon. What the Lost Boyz are about, Mr. Cheeks says, "is the real deal street life."
"Everybody wants to be hard," he continues, "but we don't go for that. We believe in being ourselves. I ain't gonna say we experienced everything, but put it this way - all the stuff we talk about was either seen by us or done by us. We make songs about life."
Legal Drug Money is the group's debut album. The title is a tribute to rhyming as "the new hustle," a different way to come up out of the streets. As Cheeks expounds on the title cut, "The most addictive mood-altering drug in the world is music." Having honed his skills from his days of creating underground rhymes and mix tapes, it is Mr. Cheeks' brilliant story-telling lyricism, weaving dramatic and often revealing chronicles of life with solid aggressive beats (from producers such as Eazy Mo Bee and Dex), that make the album an omnipotent hip-hop presence. Remember, this is the group that hip-hop's unofficial chairman, KRS-One, recently called "one of the strongest young groups out today." Evidence of this claim can be found throughout Legal Drug Money, whether its the first single, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless" - a song that unfolds as a series of episodes exposing the no-win situations of the street hustling game - or its revamped remix that artistically continues the stories. Some die with a name/some die nameless, Mr. Cheeks soberly recites in the song.
The Lost Boyz rely on the influences of early artists such as Gil Scott-Heron and R&B visionaries Earth, Wind, & Fire, along with the raw energy of rappers like Rakim, Kool G Rap, and Slick Rick to make music for the worldwide population, a concept they metaphorically express on the track, "Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz." "To all the Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz, and the Benz/ To all my ladies and my men. To all my people in the pens/ keep your head up.."
However, one of the most compelling moments on Legal Drug Money comes courtesy of the single, "Renee," a riveting real-life tale about two people on opposite ends of the same spectrum that find harmony with each other, only to find their relationship end in tragedy. "There are so many songs out there about guys dying, but no one talks about their shorties dying," explains Pretty Lou. "Guys have feelings too, so we took it to another level."
The Lost Boys are a unique group of individuals that have surmounted the obstacles in their lives, using their experiences as fodder to concoct an album that will indelibly make its mark beyond the hip-hop domain.
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