Lost Boyz – Legal Drug Money (June 4, 1996)

The Lost Boyz were a four-man crew out of Southside Jamaica Queens, New York comprised of lead emcee Mr. Cheeks, B-mic and hypeman, Freaky Tah (rip), DJ Spigg Nice and Pretty Lou, who’s role in the group I’m still trying to determine. Cheeks, Tah and Lou met as kids growing up in Queens and would later meet Spigg Nice in high school where the four would vibe and soon form a group. Originally calling themselves the Stay Fresh Crew, they later settled on Lost Boyz after discovering the 1987 vampire movie of the same name (but spelled The Lost Boys). The LB’s would do shows locally and record demos, and one of those demos would end up in the hands of Uptown executive “Buttnaked” Tim Dawg (I don’t want to know how he got that alias), which lead to the LB’s signing a deal with Uptown, where they would release a few successful singles, and eventually sign an album deal with Universal/Motown, where they would release their debut album, Legal Drug Money.

As Mr. Cheeks has explained on several occasions, the album title, Legal Drug Money, references the Lost Boyz pursuit to get paid legally, slangin’ the very addictive drug called music. The album would produce five charting singles and shoot to number six on the Billboards Top 200 and number one on the Billboards Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Legal Drug Money would also earn the LB’s a gold certification after just two months of its release.

The Lost Boyz would go on to release a few more albums, but after the untimely murder of Freaky Tah in ‘99 and the 2004 bank robbery spree conviction of DJ Spigg Nice (which would land him a thirty-seven-year sentence; he would serve seventeen years of the sentence before being released in 2021), the LB’s would lose their momentum and things would soon come to an end for the group. Mr. Cheeks would go on to experience some success as a solo artist, and much like his time in the group, I have no idea what Pretty Lou went on to do.

I’m familiar with some of LB’s joints from being played on the radio and video shows back in the day, but I’ve never listened to a Lost Boyz album. I stumbled on a used copy of LDM a few years back, and thanks to this blog I will now get the opportunity to experience the album for the first time with you all.

And maybe I’ll get an answer to the question of the day: What the hell did Pretty Lou do the group?

Intro – The album opens with the soothing sounds of Kool & The Gang’s classic, “Summertime Madness” playing in the background, while Mr. Cheeks babbles on about all types of randomness.

The Yearn – The first song of the night is a hood PSA on safe sex. Pete Rock serves up a dimly lit but fire instrumental with his signature drums doing the heavy lifting, as Mr. Cheeks and Freaky Tah get off verses about the importance of using protection when you’re lustin’ and bustin’ (well, at least Mr. Cheeks does; I have no idea what Tah is talking about…oh and by the way, Mr. Cheeks, AIDS does have a name; it’s Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome…duh!). There is also a version of this song with a Pete Rock verse tacked on at the end that was included on the America Is Dying Slowly (AIDS) compilation album in connection with the Red Hot AIDS Benefit Series. Nice way to kick off the evening, fellas.

Music Makes Me High – This was the fourth single released from LDM. Mr. Sexxx and Charles Suitt hook up a bouncy west coast funk backdrop (built around a commonly used loop from “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll”) that Mr. Cheeks uses to drop random bars, while the simply hook affectively turns the song into a catchy party record that you can’t resist even though you want to with all your heart.

Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz – This was the lead single from LDM, and don’t let the song title fool you, this song has absolutely nothing to do with luxury automobiles. Instead, Mr. Cheeks uses the effective but ordinary sounding Easy Mo Bee produced instrumental to casually talk his emcee shit on. It’s not a terrible record, but definitely not fire enough to have it sequenced this early in the album.

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Shameless – Mr. Cheeks uses this one to share the stories of a couple of drug dealers around his way, Jack and Yvette. Each of the subjects gets a verse outlining their deeds and exploits before Mr. Cheeks uses the third verse to discuss his stent in the drug game and how he gave it up to start “hustlin’ his style and cookin’ up works with his pen.” Easy Mo Bee is responsible for this instrumental as well and it fares much better than the last one but might have shined brighter with a more talented emcee rhyming over it.

Renee – This was the second single from the album and one of the few LB songs that I remember from back in the day. Mr. Sexxx lays down a quality mid-tempo bop that Mr. Cheeks uses to nonchalantly share a tale about a young lady named Renee that he met on the subway, quickly fell in love with and lost to gun violence way too soon. Cheeks’ story (that he has said in several interviews is loosely based around a girl named Ebony from his neighborhood who was murdered) is pretty anti-climactic, as he lets you know right after the first verse during the hook that Renee is going to die. Yet in still, it makes for an intriguing listen.

All Right – This one begins with someone spittin’ a spoken word poem about being a lady’s man in a stereotypical African slave voice. Then Big Dex drops an airy-minimalistic backdrop that he, Cheeks and Tah use to spit what sounds like, off the top of the dome freestyle rhymes. Cheeks does manage to get off one of his strongest bars of the night with his opening line: “I run with crooks, that be in Donald Goines books,” but things get progressively worst from there.

Legal Drug Money – After a short interview interlude with Big Lez (remember when she was on BET’s Rap City back in the day? Yummy), Big Dex drops a partial mystic, moderately dark instrumental laced with a callous horn loop that Cheeks and Tah use to talk about their transition from slangin’ dope to slangin’ rhymes. This was actually pretty dope, no pun intended.

Get Up – Cheeks is in party mode on this one, spittin’ bars about chicks, gettin’ high and kickin’ it with the crew over a Mr. Sexxx produced track built around a loop from a classic Stephanie Mills record. The more I do this blog the more I’m realizing how often Gwen McCrae’s “Funky Sensation” has been sampled in hip-hop records through the years, as this song also borrows her iconic “Get up, clap your hands” on the hook. This record is dripping with summertime vibes and makes for a great choice to throw on at a barbeque.

Is This The Part – The details of Cheeks story are blurred, but I was able to gather that he calls some chick a “stink bitch” for not responding to him when he tries to kick it to her during the first verse, and then another woman (or maybe it’s the same woman he called a stink bitch during the first verse) ends up cheating on him, and disgusted by her/their actions, he hi-lariously wraps up the song by calling her/them “two dollar bitches with three dollar haircuts” Cheeks’ storyline might be suspect, but the catchy hook and the soulful Isaac Hayes sample led backdrop (courtesy of Easy Mo Bee) make this record irresistible.

Straight From Da Ghetto – Big Dex keeps the soulful vibes coming, as he hooks up a soulfully warm and scrumptious bop that Cheeks uses to pledge his allegiance to the hood, good, bad or indifferent. This is easily my favorite song on LDM.

Keep It Real – You can add this one to the never-ending list of overused hip-hop song titles with “Real” in them. Dex loops up some classic Barry White for Cheeks to talk about some of the devilish deeds he did before beginning his pursuit of legal drug money: “Slingin’ rocks and packin’ glocks on the blocks, it’s early in the morning I’m selling jums from my Reeboks, tre’s, nicks and dimes, I write rhymes, but the ghetto times, they got the Cheeks doing crimes.” Cheeks’ rhymes and flow sound sharper and more aggressive than normal and I like it, even though it was sloppy of him to mention that he’s “smokin’ weed in ‘96”, only later to say he “might not be around in ‘95”. At least try to make me believe the song was written during the same time period.

Channel Zero – Cheeks uses this sorrowful soundscape to discuss his humble beginnings, address some hood issues, calls for unity in the hood and seemingly out of nowhere goes in on Marky Mark (For you young bucks, Marky Mark was Mark Wahlberg’s rap alias back in the nineties. Before he gave up his microphone for Hollywood, the Boston bred actor caught as much flack as Vanilla Ice from other emcees for being a corny token “great white hope” rapper, which is probably why he hates discussing his rap career in interviews to this day). I couldn’t get into this one. Dex’s instrumental is boring, Cheeks semi-harmonized cadence is annoying and Tah’s adlibs only make matters worse.

Da Game – More mid-grade hood filler material. And can somebody please tell me what the hell this “field jacket” is that Mr. Cheeks has been obsessed with for the entire album?

1, 2, 3 – Since Cheeks has played the A mic for most of the night, it’s only right that Freaky Tah gets a solo joint, I guess. This one begins with dark sporadic piano chords and almost inaudible wah-wah guitar licks playing in the background, while Freaky Tah rambles on about trying to avoid beef in the streets. Well apparently, he couldn’t avoid the beef, as he spends the next five verses screaming, explaining in great detail how he knocked off three cats as payback for what they did to one of his guys. This is probably the longest and worst murder rap song in the history of hip-hop.

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Shameless (Remix) – This remix not only comes with a shiny new “happy-go-lucky” instrumental, but it also gets reconstructive surgery on its hook and verses. Pleasant way to end the evening.

On Legal Drug Money, the Lost Boyz rely heavily on polished radio friendly hip-hop beats and simple but catchy hooks that make up for what they lack in content. That’s not to say that Mr. Cheeks, who carries the bulk of the lyrical load on the album, is completely trash, but he even admits on “The Yearn” that he’s not the “best or the smartest rap artist”. On the other hand, Cheeks’ unique high-pitched raspy voice does make his “average at best” rhymes easier to digest, while Freaky Tah’s adlibs fill up the gaps in his flow and bring energy to a lot of the album’s tracks. There are a couple of skippable moments on LDM, and the hour and eleven-minute runtime could stand to be shaved down by ten minutes or so, but with all its flaws it’s still a solid debut from the Jamaica Queens foursome. I still want to know what Pretty Lou’s role was in all of this.

-Deedub

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9 Responses to Lost Boyz – Legal Drug Money (June 4, 1996)

  1. Anthony Shoo says:

    First off let me start by stating this is one of the greatest hip hop albums of 1995. But we were at the peak of creativity and originality In the 90s (golden era) for what it’s worth..For you to sit here and critique the album almost 30 years after it’s time doesn’t really do justice. But for the sake of what you do for us and the culture. I will ride with you for what’s it’s worth. Album had 5 singles and if I recall 5 videos all were banging…

    Lex, Coups, Jeeps
    Lifestyle of the rich..
    Renee
    The Yearn
    Music makes me high (remix)

    I believe if it wasn’t for the death of freaky tah LB could of been one the greatest most original groups of our time. Style, music, and swag, influence on the street. Etc

    • deedub77 says:

      Let me start by saying I appreciate your passion for the Lost Boyz, and hip-hop in general. By definition “classic” means to be judged over a period of time and be of the highest quality and most outstanding of its kind. A classic album isn’t determined by nostalgia or “being there” when the music was created, but more so how it sounds and holds up over time, and of course that is subjective. In my humble opinion (and you know what they say about opinions), Legal Drug Money isn’t a classic, but it’s still a decent album.

      By the way, I said I enjoyed the “Renee” record, why you killin’ me for that one?

      Thanks for checking out the blog!

  2. Anthony Shoo says:

    And for starters you cannot down play the RENEE single any more that what you just did….I was there! This video was number one on Rap City for a couple of months east back then…huge single and video…and original

  3. Anthony Shoo says:

    Actually stand mistaken… ami actually remember what made the album so unique..lost boyz had about 6-7 videos for the albums

    Jeeps, Lex, Coupes, Bimaz
    Lifestyles of the Rich
    Renee
    The yearn
    Music makes me high
    Music makes me high (remix)
    Get Up

    Now that I recall this is what made the album such a standout at its time cause the group had original songs and bounce along with 7 videos for OnE album… nobody was doing this at the time….. not sure what kind of budget they had at the time …

  4. Anthony Shoo says:

    Then to go and trash Channel Zero…Whoa dude I know this is you site and all…but if you wasn’t on the album when it dropped…why you go so hard… I’m beginning to think your reference point for great music is todays music…so your opinion may be skewed a bit….
    This album is a classic. Especially in queens, NY. Ask around…

  5. Anthony Shoo says:

    Pretty Lous relevance in Lost Boyz is just as relevant as Jarobi’s relevance in Trube called quest…if your asking

  6. kOsTyLe112 says:

    There was a lot of hype behind the LB’z before their album even dropped. I want to say it had received a 3.5 in the Source prior to its release. Back then, anything over a 3 would be worth checking out. This album dropped in the thick of the West Vs. East Coast hip hop beef. I can say that this album got a lot of play on the West Coast, during a time when it was difficult for an East Coast group to get some shine on the West and vice versa.

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