With so many people trying their hand at Hip-Hop, it can be difficult to filter out who’s worthy of listening to, as opposed to those who have no business getting into music. But in the end, how can you deter someone from pursuing their dreams?
When it comes to Boston’s Jake the Snake AKA J the S, he’s neither the artist that will clog your eardrums with nonsense, nor does he resemble the material left over on the bad end of a strainer.
Originally from the West Indies, Nevis & St. Kitts to be precise, he later migrated to Massachusetts and honed his skills through the battle circuit, while making a name for himself.
Now with the underground experience behind him, he sets forth to bring his proficiency to the frontlines, and working with MC’s like Kool G. Rap, Joell Ortiz, Ras Kass, Devin The Dude, and B.o.B. just might do the trick.
The ex-middle school teacher turned full-fledged artist has been busy as of late putting the finishing touches on his My Will project, as he prepares for his official release, The Last Days.
With the moniker “Jake the Snake,” most people might relive their childhood and once again capture the image of the old WWE wrestler parading around the ring with a fake persona drummed up by Vince McMahon. But one thing is certain, when speaking of this new-aged “Jake,” he is surely not that.
iHipHop.com: So you’re originally from the West Indies, and then you moved to Boston?
J the S: Yeah, I’m from Nevis & St. Kitts in the West Indies.
iHipHop.com: Was it a tough transition for you at first going from there to Boston?
J the S: Before I moved to Boston, I moved around Massachusetts, but it was the obvious sh*t; like the weather. It was a little different for me because the American mentality is really different from the West Indies. I didn’t really even know what racism was until I moved to America, you know what I’m saying? Being from where I’m from race wasn’t an issue, and that’s just how I was raised.
When I came over here, I’d be friends with whomever in elementary school, and a bunch of white kids would be like, “Why are you hanging out with him?” They would say things like that, and I would just be shocked, because I never really heard sh*t like that before. Plus the way the American lifestyle is fast, and I feel time slows down back there [Nevis & St. Kitts].
iHipHop.com: When did you really start taking rhyming seriously?
J the S: Probably not until I was nineteen. I used to break dance, write graffiti, and freestyle for fun. Then when I was about 17-years-old my man took me to the studio, and he asked me to spit a verse. I really hadn’t been writing too much, so I told him I was going to write some sh*t. So I came back and recorded it, and I thought it was so ill to hear yourself back on the recording, and from there I started doing more and more stuff. It just snowballed, and I couldn’t stop. So from that point, that’s all I wanted to do.
iHipHop.com: When did you start getting a name for yourself?
J the S: I would say back in 2003… I linked up with some cats that had a studio, and they wanted to help me put out a CD. So I started doing open mic shows, and I started entering battles even though I don’t really like battling, but I knew that I needed to get some attention. After that, I started winning battles here and there. In 2003, I won this battle called the Super Bowl Battle, and it was one of the biggest battles in New England, but they don’t do it anymore.
I beat a lot of well-known rappers, so it was crazy and that started getting me attention. From there people were like, “Who’s this kid Jake the Snake?!” That really fueled me because I’m not a battler, I’m s songwriter, but I needed to get people’s attention. Then I dropped a CD and it started to get a local buzz, and I really started to go hard with it.
iHipHop.com: I actually spoke with another Boston artist not too long ago, and we were discussing how people associate Boston Hip-Hop with the “Crabs in a bucket mentality.” What’s your opinion on the state of Boston Hip-Hop?
J the S: It’s still that same mentality, and a lot of people will try to tell you that it’s not. Edo G hosted this show called the Unity Fest, and I performed, so did Big Shug, and a lot of other major Boston artists. The club was sold out and it was great because you had a lot of people in the same building who never really f*cked with each other before. But to be real, it’s almost kind of fake because when it’s over, it goes back to the same way it is.
I even did a song with Devin The Dude a couple of years ago called ‘Crabs In A Barrel’ where I was touching on issues like that. It’s real artificial, but there are some people, who are trying to eliminate that, and I like to see people come together and try to get passed that, but there are still a lot of people who hate. But you got cats like me, [Big] Shug, and Termanology doing it and showing that you don’t have to be headhunting with each other.
J the S: I don’t want to call it a mixtape, because it’s definitely not a mixtape. It’s all original production, and it’s been properly mixed and mastered.
I don’t want to call it a “street album” either because that’s so cliché, but I guess you have to call it a mixtape because it’s not my official album. It’s kind of like a prelude to my album, and it’s going to give people a sense of what to expect from The Last Days.
I got people on there like Donnie Goines, Kool G. Rap, B.o.B. from Atlanta and some other people. I’m not that dude that’s going to spit bars and bars and bars, because people get tired of that. These are all songs with concepts, ideas, and just creativeness. I’m going to be putting it out as a free downloadable mixtape, because times are hard right now and I don’t blame people for not coming out to shows and buying CD’s. So I’m going to give this one out to the people.
iHipHop.com: Staying on the subject of collaborations, you also worked with Joell Ortiz, Ras Kass, along with the aforementioned. Was any one of those collaborations your absolute favorite?
J the S: I worked with so many dudes like Skyzoo, Devin The Dude, but I would probably say working with Devin was my favorite because we did the track and then we just kicked it. He was really cool besides just the rap sh*t. So working with him was the best, because it came real natural and so he was my favorite collaboration so far. Even though it’s old now, but it still is. B.o.B. was cool too, and he’s a talented artist.
iHipHop.com: Every new artist comes into the game with certain goals. So what expectations do you have for yourself?
J the S: I wanted to be the biggest artist I could, but I didn’t want to sell my soul out. Right now I kind of changed my goals and priorities, and now I feel like I can speak on more things than I could a couple of years ago. If I was to say some intelligent sh*t a couple years back, people didn’t want to hear that; they wanted to hear me talk about some fly sh*t, selling drugs, or whatever. I feel like the time is right as of now, so my main goal with The Last Days album is to make something that’s going to last. I want to make something that I can be real proud of, and I didn’t sacrifice anything.
iHipHop.com: I read that you were also a middle school teacher at one time, was that something you just fell into?
J the S: Yeah man… When I was in high school I got into a lot of trouble, and I was about to be kicked out of school. So they made me join this volunteer program after school for elementary kids. I never worked with kids before, but I started doing it and I love it. I was so naturally good at it, and the elementary school wanted to hire me to work there.
So I did that, and as I got older I started working at other different programs in Boston. Even though I didn’t have a degree to be a teacher, I had enough experience, so they brought me in. The only reason I stopped is because the music started taking off, and I had to leave teaching to do this full time, but I miss it a lot.
iHipHop.com: Would you go back to it if your schedule allowed you to do so?
J the S: Yeah, I was thinking about it that, and just thinking about how long do I want to even be in this game. I might drop this album, and then say f*ck the industry. I’m going to always love Hip-Hop because it’s in my DNA, but the music business and Hip-Hop are two different things.
iHipHop.com: Also with a lot of new acts being released, are you concerned that your voice might get drowned out?
J the S: When I was younger in the game, I felt the same way. There are always new cats trying to come up. Right now you have the XXL [Magazine] with all the new kids on the cover, and last year they did the same thing with other artists. I used to care about that sh*t, but now I don’t because I’m confident that I don’t sound like anybody else, and the way I come across is very unique. There are a lot of “hipster rappers” that are very popular right now, and I’m not knocking anybody’s style.
But these kids are getting snatched up by the labels because of their image, I’m not saying that it’s a gimmick, but can [they] make a career from being all about the 80’s? I don’t know… There are dope rappers that come out on that sh*t, and honor it, and I wish them the best, but I don’t care because I don’t sound like Mickey Factz, Charles Hamilton, Asher Roth, or the Cool Kids; that’s not me. I’m not knocking that, but that’s just not what I’m about. So I don’t get concerned with any of that truthfully…
The big man from D-Block and Yonkers native sat around idly for years while the power current from his spot light was transferred over to his more known brethren.
As of late, the New York lyricist with the in-your-face-flow has been getting his just due as The LOX continue their group hiatus in order to pursue solo endeavors.
With Jadakiss’ highly anticipated album, The Last Kiss [Click to read review] scheduled for an ’09 release, (hopefully) the man once considered as the odd ball can take credit for playing a big part in keeping the entire movement afloat.
With three studio albums under his belt, (that’s right, one more than “J To The Muah”) he decided to further his catalog by releasing Extinction (Last Of A Dying Breed), [Click to read review] a mixtape with is a collection of songs that didn’t make his Silverback Gorilla project back in March.
Further capitalizing on his momentum, he also plans to drop another full-length album during the summer. So with all that going on, will the Hip-Hop community ever hear another LOX album again? You’re just going to have to read, and find out.
iHipHop.com: So were you happy with how Silverback Gorilla was received?
Sheek Louch: Hell yeah, I loved everything about Silverback Gorilla, no lie to you. I loved my single, and it was a Top 10 record. Just seeing it on the number four and three spots on 106 & Park, it was just crazy! That was a whole ‘nother lane for me to be added on pop stations, so it was dope.
iHipHop.com: What made you release Extinction (Last Of A Dying Breed) [Click to read review] as a mixtape, instead putting some more songs on it, and dropping it as an album?
Sheek Louch: That wasn’t my intension. It was more like me just hollering at KOCH and telling them I had some joints that didn’t make the album, and lets put something out as a mixtape and hit the streets with it, you know what I mean?
It wasn’t like having the whole concentration of an album; it was more fun. Instead of holding on to these songs and not letting people hear them, I wanted to put them out.
iHipHop.com: With it being called Extinction (Last Of Dying Breed), [Click to read review] is that how you view yourself? Is the title a little personal?
Sheek Louch: It is… That’s how I view myself, and my two brothers; you know what I mean? Plus a handful of other people. I came up the in era with the mixtapes, like the DJ Clue’s, the Ron G’s, and all these people. You had to be NICE to be on those!
It was a real honor to get on those. As for now, not discredit to anybody, but there is a lot of garbage mixtapes out, and it seems like everybody just drops every two days.
They come out with a mixtape, and put anything on it, you know what I mean? I’m from the era of the B.I.G.’s the Craig Mack’s, and the Total’s, and there’s only a handful left that are cut from that cloth.
iHipHop.com: With that being said, about dropping all the time; Silverback Gorilla was released back in March, and now you have this new project. You’re not worried about over saturating yourself?
Sheek Louch: Nah, and that’s why I wanted to make it clear: This is not an album; this is straight fun. This is a time where we can drop a lot of music. One of the complaints that I hear just from my research alone—and actually Fabolous talked about this not too long ago on the radio.
He was like, “Yo, D-Block/The LOX them n*ggas are crazy, they’re hot!” “They just don’t put out a lot of music.” Besides Fab saying that, it’s true. People always say we don’t drop as much as other people, and people would love for us to put more stuff out.
iHipHop.com: So is that more strategy-wise? Like waiting a little bit longer than anyone else?
Sheek Louch: Before it was like that because Kiss was dropping his album, now I came out with mine because his wasn’t coming for another month. So it was more like that. Then everybody heard the songs, and they were like, “Just let them go.”
So I just put this out to feed the streets, then we have a compilation album coming out that’s CRAZY! But definitely go support that Jada album that’s coming out. Then I’m coming out around May with my real album.
iHipHop.com: Speaking of Jada dropping, Styles [P] has Gangster Chronicles out on top of The Last Kiss, [Click to read review] and your project. So when is everybody going to hear The LOX as one whole unit again? Are you guys too busy?
Sheek Louch: [Laughing]… I hope not, damn I hope not. EVERYBODY wants that project man, and it feels dope. But we’re definitely going to bang that out, and as far as I know Jimmy [Iovine] and everybody at Interscope wants it.
But like you said, we just been busy man. But we’ve been teasing people, like with the Pete Rock joint we had out, ‘It’s Like That Y’all.’ So we’re keeping them hungry, because when they hear us all together, it’s like, “Oh my God!” Plus we been killing these big arenas like the Summer Jam’s and the Power Jam’s.
iHipHop.com: Right now it seems that a lot of fans are obsessed with SoundScan numbers. Are first week sales something you think about?
Sheek Louch: Nah, especially not right now, HELL NO! [Laughs] NOBODY is selling, with the exception of Lil Wayne, and that never happens. Look at the statistics.
Me and Ed Lover was talking about how somebody will come out, and sold about 200,000 in their first week; then you check months later and they’re only at three-something… [Laughs] It’s a crazy game right now as far as sales and the whole Internet. A lot of the Mom & Pop stores are going down.
iHipHop.com: So what does the 2008 “Sheek Louch” know that the 1997 “Sheek Louch” didn’t know?
Sheek Louch: Ah man! You know my main one, I’m not going to give up on that one, and it’s to read your paper work. That was too much money I lost, you dig? But I would have jumped into the game a little earlier.
Like when you were only hearing Styles [P] and Kiss; I should’ve really been thinking about getting a studio and getting our own sh*t popping.
iHipHop.com: With you basically being the epitome of East Coast Hip-Hop, do you think that’s hindered you a little bit from reaching larger audiences?
Sheek Louch: I think so, but I f*ck with all of the West Coast and the South; everybody. I f*ck with all of them. I think it was because I was younger back then, but as you get older, it’s okay to do that record with Snoop [Dogg] it’s okay to do some Southern records.
I had a joint on Silverback Gorilla that had [DJ] Unk on it. As I got older, no one was beefing, so it was okay to do those records with [them] dudes.
iHipHop.com: I want to go back to how you said it took you a while to jump in the game: When you first started doing solo material, was it difficult to create knowing that all 16’s would be fall on your shoulders?
Sheek Louch: At the beginning I know everybody was like, “Let me see what this n*gga got” because at first all you heard was Kiss and Styles [P]. They would hear records with just them two, and they were wondering where I was at.
So I know I had something to prove, and not to be that third wheel, and I knew I had to hit them and hit them. So I came out with “Everywhere we goooo” then it was “You can kiss your ass goodbye,” and I just kept dropping mixtapes. So when I came in with my third album, people were like, “Homie is hot!”
iHipHop.com: Also, you’ve been on the independent circuit for a while, but would you align yourself with another major, if the opportunity presented itself? Or are you content with what you’re doing now?
Sheek Louch: My only concern with a major is the traffic. There’s traffic at KOCH, and all these independent labels but I can drop three albums if I want to this year or the next year coming up. I wouldn’t do it, but I can if I wanted to because I have creative control.
Over [there] you just get caught up in all of these long-term contracts and it’s all political and you have to wait because [Young] Jeezy is dropping, or this person or that person is dropping. At an independent, it’s hands-on and I meet with the people I need to meet with.
At majors, they don’t even know who each other is, and they’re emailing each other when their offices are right next to each other… [Laughs]
At least when you’re dealing with an independent, some coin comes back to you. So when you get that check, you’re like, “Damn, that’s another house!” You know what I mean?
iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… So how do Sheek Louch and The LOX stay relevant in a fickle industry, especially surviving all the red tape drama you’ve all been through?
Sheek Louch: You want to know why? I keep my ear to the streets man… I’m really out there, and I go to these clubs, and I’m not on none of that bullsh*t. I hear the music, and I go out there and see that sh*t changed.
A lot of it has to do with changing with the times, and changing yourself as a person. A lot of people get into the game and they’re like, “Damn, now I have to become this other person.” On my last album I had a song on there called ‘Don’t Be Them,‘ and I meant that.
iHipHop.com: So you’ve never felt pressure to change?
Sheek Louch: Nah, hell no… If I did, it’s still going to be that music that you love. I can’t do any dance routines, I’m not going to lie to you fam, I can’t do none of that sh*t.
I ain’t got a dance step for you, I ain’t got none of that! You know what I mean? [Laughs] I’m not trying to be none of that at all, I’m “Sheek Louch” and it’s D-Block ALL DAY!