Formed: 1996, Yonkers, New York
Members: Jayson "Jadakiss" Phillip (born Yonkers, New York, 27 May 1975); Sean "Sheek" Jacobs (born Yonkers, New York, 30 September 1974); David Styles (born Corona, New York, 28 November 1974).
Best-selling album since 1990: Money, Power & Respect (1998)
Hit songs since 1990: "Money, Power & Respect," "Wild Out"
The LOX are a resilient hardcore rap trio. They survived the changing tastes of hip-hop and a public face-off with Sean "Puffy" Combs, the powerful impresario. Their lyrics are gritty and street-oriented, enhanced with wit and a no-nonsense delivery.
Members of the LOX hail from Yonkers, New York, a lower-middle-class suburb of New York City. As preteens, the neighborhood friends started rapping together. They formed a rap group called the Warlocks and made tapes to sell at their high school. The trio entered Westchester Community College but soon dropped out to pursue rap careers. Fellow Yonkers native Mary J. Blige eventually heard their homemade mix tapes and introduced them to Combs, who signed them to his Bad Boy Records and suggested they shorten their name to the LOX, an acronym for Living Off Experience. The group started ghostwriting for Puffy, providing his verses on Notorious B.I.G.'s "Victory" and the remix to Ma$e's "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down."
Puffy introduced the LOX to the rap world, giving them cameos on hit songs "It's All About the Benjamins" and the remix of Mariah Carey's "Honey." Their ode to the late Biggie Smalls, "We'll Always Love Big Poppa," was the b-side of Puffy's runaway hit, "I'll Be Missing You." Although the LOX's debut album, Money, Power & Respect (1998), peaked at number three on the pop album charts, it presents a confusing image of the group. The single "If You Think I'm Jiggy," built off a sample of the Rod Stewart hit "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," portrays them as flashy and materialistic, while the title track, featuring Lil' Kim and DMX, underscores their harder side.
The LOX preferred the harder side. Uncomfortable with the glossy image of Combs and the largely R&B Bad Boy roster (Faith Evans, Total, 112), the LOX sought a label with a rougher image. They began a dialogue with Ruff Ryders Records, home of DMX and Eve. Combs refused to release them, and the LOX appealed publicly, wearing "Free the LOX" T-shirts at appearances and asking Combs to sign their release papers during radio interviews.
Finally, in 1999, Combs granted the LOX their wish while retaining a portion of their future publishing rights. The LOX's Ruff Ryders album debut, We Are the Streets (2000), is brash and unabashed. No R&B hooks and pop samples mitigate it. The title track is a diatribe directed at Combs. The gold success of Streets enabled the members to release single projects.
Jadakiss, often renowned for his wordplay and hailed as the group's best lyricist, was the first out of the gate with Kiss tha Game Goodbye (2001). It was a solid release, featuring the superstar collaborators Nas, DMX, and Snoop Dogg on the rapping end and Timbaland, the Neptunes, and Ruff Ryders producer Swizz Beats on the production side. The solo effort further raised his profile. He contributed to a remix of Mary J. Blige's number one pop hit "Family Affair" and a Reebok running shoes television commercial. Styles followed, scoring a hit with "My Life" featuring Pharoahe Monche and the marijuana tribute "Good Times." His album A Gangster and a Gentleman (2002) was critically acclaimed.
Sheek, known for a more buoyant and rambunctious style, has also broken off as a solo artist. Nevertheless, the LOX maintains a group identity and plans to record more albums as a trio. As a group and as individual members, the LOX caters to die-hard hip-hop fans and occasionally to a wider commercial audience.
Money, Power & Respect (Bad Boy, 1998); We Are the Streets (Ruff Ryders/Interscope, 2000).
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