Over 2 decades in and The Lox are still doin what they do best - dope beats, dope rhymes, and no gimmicks - only pure MC skills amplified by that gritty New York City feel. Although Sheek, Styles, & Jada have all had moderate solo success that allows them to easily stand on their own, it’s together as a unit where they’ve achieved their most success, most notably on their Bad Boy debut Money, Power & Respect - succeeded by their Ruff Ryders follow up We Are The Streets - and now over 16 years later Yonkers finest has returned to bless us for the holiday season. Promoted as their first studio album together in over 16 years (disregarding I suppose the Trinity EPs & mixtapes that were not only official projects but were fire all the same), The Lox most definitely have the skills to bring real rap back to NY streets and radio, thus as is usually the case the impact will be dependent on their quality of songs - and it’s safe to say every Hip Hop fan over the age of 20 hopes they got some new 🔥🔥🔥
Filthy America… It’s Beautiful is critiqued track by track below.
“Main arteries when it's game time, Satan's offspring, yeah I claim mine, crazy how I could think about it and will it, look at something and kill it, bloodshed is the illest, corpse that you ran through, cross on the mantle, sit Indian style in a circle of candles” Produced by Buda & Grandz this instrumental is super tough, illuminated by the demonic verses that compliments the tone of the record perfectly. Although this isn’t a classic LOX record, it’s still heat and a solid intro to the album nonetheless.
“What about Benzino? are you guys safe in Boston? I heard he has a lot of Love and Hip Hop fans” This skit is classic… mind you it’s extremely rare that you ever hear a good skit or even a skit with a purpose anymore… yet this one dedicated to stupid questions by the media is clever and effective… and it leads perfectly into the next record as the lead single.
What Else You Need To Know
“Yeah, I came from the ghetto so I like shit rough, so I sorta spazzed out and threw that chair at Puff, we had beef with the ROC, I was riding with the strap, HOV, Sigel, and Free could have all got clapped” Ultimately this is a trip down memory lane that every fan of Hip Hop needs to hear… the Bad Boy days… the Ruff Ryders era… and although the aim is for these talented MCs to recreate that energy into new moments - the significance of that Golden Age in Hip Hop is too legendary to ignore.
“Years in this rap game, still no Grammy, y'all use the word loosely when y'all say the word "family", family might argue, but family don't show it, never on social media, not a bitch won't know it, family'll go hard when it's raining or sunny, family'll do shit for you and not for your money, family'll load the Ruger and put something in your head, family's the only people by your hospital bed, family could move away and not see you in some years, something happen to you, cry the same amount of tears, I met a few ***** that's more family than family, I ain't expect an aunt or cousin who would understand me” This is likely the best Sheek verse on the album… yet produced by Von D this one is a straightforward album cut and nothing more.
The Agreement ft Fetty Wap & Dyce Payne
“Good sweatsuit, pair Air Force, don't forget your ID for the airport, first time in first class, throw your shades on, I sip mimosa, play some Marvin Gaye songs” I can do without the Fetty Wap hook but this has a real good Jada verse on it… and that shouldn’t be overlooked by the relative mediocrity around it… 6 songs in The Lox are cookin but they need to turn up the heat…
"Bathroom rap and classroom rap, shit on ***** and teach 'em they ain't master rap, I blast the gat if hip hop is a lost cause, lot of mumbling rappers, DJs with the aux cord” and here we are 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 FIRE 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 The Lox over Premier… and Premier absolutely murders thisss 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 this was a classic combination then and it’s classic combination today - and with that being said your favorite mumble rapper needs to hear this
Savior ft Dyce Payne
“Yeah, if one ride they all ride, all around the world with the family, no tour guide” … this is cruise control… and this time around that’s not what we needed… granted it’s got a feel good vibe to it where the hook by Dyce Payne and the instrumental by Dayzel the Machine are definitely it’s best qualities… yet the verses from all 3 could have been tighter without question.
Don’t You Cry
“I don't care what your new shit did, I'm a god, you been on my dick since you was a kid, and I ain't never fall off, I got greater, took it as constructive criticism instead of calling you hater after that I made more hits, made more knocks, while you was talking bout the LOX, I had the Range on your block” when Sheek is on point it can make a LOX record special, yet this one is just cool with a nice lil concept - where basically it’s not fire it’s not wack it’s just arguably filler.
Hard Life ft Mobb Deep
“Top down in the winter time, If you on the boom list then it's dinner time, horse head in your bed just so send a sign, this is dope right here ***** get in line” The Lox x Mobb Deep is a classic combination, even in 2016, and on this record Jada spits flames and they all do their numbers. And ultimately when you have legends on the track you can never hear enough verses…love this record and props to Dame Grease on the production for recreating that feel.
“The system is designed to burn me, not learn me, my arresting officer is related to Mark Fuhrman, throw the noose up on the tree, that's how they do here, I ain't see a black ***** get acquitted that came through here, and I ain't do fear, so all I ask the court is that they move me to a new jail, every two years” The title track of the album is a nice concept record and they go in on it… where ultimately Sheek, Styles, & Jada share their last words in front of the judge before their life sentence… and produced by Pete Rock this is another timeless record...
“I pledge allegiance to the bag for my cocaine cowboys of America, and to the republic which is measured in grams. All is created under this black God, *****. We invincible, secured, and getting paper until the day we fall” 2 for 2 regarding skits for the album… if every song was a skit they’d be batting 1.000
Secure the Bag ft Gucci Mane & Infared
“It ain't nothing worse than dealing with these fake promoters, all these super cops that's out here tryna make they quota, as far as the pie, I need a slice and I'm good for the day, it's in my blood so I was naturally good with the yay, you can lose your life in the hood for a day, you know me, I count it twice then I put it away, yeah, bring some woods and some vanillas through, we chain smoking, haze cookies and guerilla glue, money right, they glad that it's pure, nothing else matters as long as the bag is secure” They need to let Jada get the first verse on these records more often… I fux with this 🔥🔥🔥 it goes perfect with the radio format and with Gucci it should do numbers
Overall Filthy America...It’s Beautiful is a solid body of work that will certainly satisfy their fans, but it’s unfortunate that despite it’s provocative title, there are only a few moments that are genuinely notable (Move Forward, Hard Life, Filthy America) with too many records that could easily be mistaken for mixtape quality - and otherwise don’t do anything to help this record make any legitimate impact. Meanwhile one potential reason for that may be the content itself - as while The Lox have always stayed true to themselves and have used a proven formula throughout their careers - in 2017 the mafioso raps may have potentially run their course, and in that regard it’s somewhat disappointing that these talented artists have struggled to redefine themselves through their transition from street soldiers to respected OGs.
What’s even more perplexing is that in real life Sheek, Styles & Jada are far from one dimensional in every way, whereas their interviews are always insightful and thought provoking, and most recently they’ve even put their knowledge and wisdom to good use - opening multiple juice bars throughout the New York City boroughs - most recently collaborating with DJ Envy & Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club by opening Juices For Life in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn - in addition to their locations in Yonkers and the Bronx. Furthermore they’re all politically conscious (Styles P & Sheek in particular), and in many ways this album seems like a missed opportunity to put those types of jewels on record. All the same this album is still the essence of good Hip Hop, and as detailed above some of these records deserve to be right alongside the rest of their classics.