D-Block: All We Got Is Us
Although not always reflected on the charts, D-Block, like The L.O.X., is the streets. With a new and developing line-up, that Yonkers brand has expanded with this month's E1 Records release No Security. Still carried largely by Sheek Louch, Styles P and 'Kiss, the extended team includes names like A.P., Bully and Don D., all popular artists on blogs, looking to translate digital exposure into retail units.
In a conversation with HipHopDX, Styles and Sheek tell HipHopDX about coming full-circle with Diddy, looking to work with Will and 'Ye being bosses and booth-beasts, and what's been the secret to D-Block's success amidst times where crews and labels are falling apart.
HipHopDX: There have been dozens of crews that come in the game, and due to egos, money or reasons unknown, they break up. The L.O.X. have never had a public dispute or break-up. What is it thats held you together for so long?
Sheek Louch: The respect I got for the brothers and the respect we have for eachother...the respect I got for them and they got for me goes beyond all that. Im happy seeing [Jadakiss] [click to read] or [Styles P] [click to read] come through with a new car or get a big house. I love seeing my brothers doing good. That bond, that respect has nothing to do with the music
Styles P: Just being real. Like this shit is bigger than Rap and bigger than money. You want to see your brothers do good. I mean these are dudes I grew up with, broke down Chinese food with, got fucked up with. Its bigger than just being a Rap group. Even if we werent doing this, we would still be finding ways to get money together. We came up with mob principles. We always focused on having a strong family. We put having a strong family first. Strong family, strong mob, strong brotherhood, strong army or whatever you want to call it. We were raised where honor is important, dignitys important, respect is important and when you got that concept instilled in you, you tend not to let shit like money get in the way. Like you got to understand, we came in the game young. We came in on the best label in the world at the time, Bad Boy, and we were exposed to so much both the good and bad. The only way we could have made it here today is if we stuck together. [In] good times we stuck together, [and in] hard times we stuck together. I tell people all the time its more important to have half the money and all the respect than all the money and half the respect.
DX: Todays artists are usually focused on getting that one hit that catapults them to the mainstream. With you all having lengthy and respectable careers in the game already, whats more important to you now, the commercial success or just making music for the love of the streets?
Sheek Louch: Any artist that says they dont want that commercial success is lying. Everybody wants to know what it feels like to have that record sitting at the top of the charts for weeks and weeks. But probably more than that its the fans that have been waiting for this for years and years and were finally giving them what they wanted. That would be the most fulfilling thing. But to be real, I want it all. I want the big checks, hitting the road doing the shows and reaching all them people that have been online for the past few years asking, Man, when yall going to drop that?"
Styles P: Its for the love of the music, the culture, the love of the whole shit, but being an artist, you also want the commercial success. The commercial success is basically when your music reaches the masses. I want the commercial success because of my love of the music. I want the music to be heard. But theres all different kinds of success. The industry is so focused on the commercial success, but they forget about the respectful success. Weve gained a lot of respectful success over the years. We will always be respected for what weve done, what we do, and what we stand for. For some people one is more important than the other so I guess it all depends on what you want.
DX: You now function as D-Block, which is both the name of your label and the name of your crew. As label heads, what is it that draws you to an artist?
Sheek Louch: Well, we ain't like other muthafuckas 'cause we pop those demos in. We listen to people. Like well really sit there and listen to peoples music. We were just having a conversation about somebody were listening to right now. This kid is crazy. But we listen all that and if theres something there, we done what we need to do after that. But some of the guys are from our hood, theyre from Yonkers and all that. But its not just that like these are dudes we seen growth and potential in, so we decided to put them out there.
Styles P: For me, its the person. Their humbleness, their hunger, their work ethic, their personality and how they work with others. If they know how to feed off each other and be competitive without letting the egos and competition get out of hand.
DX: One of the first artists you tried to break was J-Hood. Given the outcome of that situation have you changed your approach to dealing with your artists?
Sheek Louch: Yeah. With him, he was more like a little brother to us. We wanted to take our time and get shit right. Certain songs that we thought was fire, a lot of people didnt. People werent thinking shit was hot like that. You dont know whats going to be that hot, big record so you have to keep working and bringing songs to the table. We couldve dropped his album on some fuck it and just throw his shit out there but we took our time
'cause we wanted the best. Now, were just going to get that big record and were going to move. Were going to get out there and let shit rip, no time to waste. And trust, I understand the frustration of being a new artist and wanting to get your shit out there, but you cant just make a record and get out there. We Gonna Make It, I Get High, nobody knew those were going to be big records. You never know how well something do until it happens.
Styles P: I try to keep keep things a little more on the professional level and a lot more about the business. We try to give guys more information about [what] goes on [on] our end and how things go from a business standpoint. Like when the guys start getting nervous, we have to sit them down and tell them "Look at Red Caf, he ain't out, look at Papoose, he ain't out. You know, all the dudes that have been out there, been grinding still havent really come out yet. Like when I start to see the frustration, I try to take some time out to talk to them more often about how the game is. I try to give more conversation in regards to what goes on and what it takes for an album to come out.
DX: What can fans expect from the next generation of D-Block?
Sheek Louch: D-Block is looking real good. We got Don D., A.P., Bully [click to read] - a lot of dudes out of Philly and New York. The album [No Security] is out right now. Were on the road while Im talking to you right now doing promo and shit. Were just trying to give these dudes a chance to really get out there and do their thing.
DX: How do you balance the role as label execs and also being artists yourselves?
Styles P: Being an artist thats been in the game for a while and having gone through a lot of ups and downs, theres a lot to apply to both situations. I think it makes you a better CEO when you know what an artist is going through, and if youre a good business man, if youre fair, youll do what you can to see you and your artists succeed.
Sheek Louch: We had to learn that. We had to learn how to manage that whole artist/ CEO thing. For example, there are times when I get on a track and want to go nut as an artist, but as a CEO, I need to know when to fall back and pass that on. You have to do that when you have artists that you want to succeed and you want to see shine. So a lot of times when we work on freestyles or do radio and shit like that, we kind of fall back and let the young boys go in. Now us as artists, as The L.O.X., we feed off of each other. Everybody comes and brings something to the table.
DX: Coming from the "golden age" of Bad Boy Records and working so closely with a guy like Diddy and having all your own ups and downs in that situation, what lessons did you take from that that you apply to yourselves as artists and overall business practices?
Sheek Louch: Me, Styles, and 'Kiss always bring up stuff from when we was down with Puff. We was even talking to Puff about the work ethic we picked up from him when we seen him the other day. The late nights in the studio and getting the same swag he had, like before everybody was even using the word "swag," that whole energy we had and how we try to get that to rub off on the artists we deal with. And not only that, but just everything. We learned shit that applied to us and helped us during our growth as fathers, as men, as artists, as businessmen, all that. Just being smarter and thinking outside the box.
Styles P: We got to come up around Diddy. We got to see him grow from then to now as a CEO we saw the progress, the ups, the downs, all that shit. From us coming in as young boys, we learned a certain amount of things that apply to us as artists and CEOs. We picked up a lot both directly and indirectly from Puff and from a lot of other people. Now seeing things from both points of view, being on both sides of the coin, youre going to want to be a fair person.
DX: While were on the subject, there were rumors that Puff wanted that new L.O.X project. Will you be back in business with Puff anytime soon?
Sheek Louch: Thats definitely true. I dont know if you seen when he came on [106 & Park] with us, but thats how it started, so yeah, thats how the conversation got started. I think it would be a dope move. I know some people out there are probably like Yo, why would they go back to him?
Styles P: I mean weve been through a lot over the years. Working together to Summer Jam, to getting our publishing, we been through a lot of shit so why wouldnt we have a sit down and do business.
Sheek Louch: Were grown now. No man can do anything to me if I dont let it happen. Whatever happens, I have to put blame on myself first before I blame anyone else. And not saying that hes going to do that or anything like that. Were all in a better space now and I want to learn to make that big money and do it real big. So hell be dealing with us with this album. He wants to put the project out and add his part on to things but were going to do what we do and deliver that fire. Shit, we all come too far not to be able to do what we do.
DX: Between the promo for No Security and Jadakiss working his solo album how much longer will fans have to wait for that new L.O.X. project?
Sheek Louch: If we get things worked out with Diddy, itll be out by like Christmas time. He wants to put it out by Christmas and personally, I think that would be a great Christmas present for the fans, us, him and the state of Hip Hop, period. Nobody out there can say that wouldnt help fix the game. Im not saying change the game, but help lean it back towards the right direction. As far as sales, I think it would do well but more importantly, we need a break from all the bullshit going on right now in this Rap shit. And with me, 'Kiss and Styles, you already know shit is going to be nuts, the production would be nuts. Like I would love to sit with Kanye [West]. Like not just him sending a beat, but let me sit with you. Let me pick your brain and you pick ours and we cook up some shit. Him, will.i.am [click to read] and shit. I want to get crazy with it.
DX: In addition to your following as a group you both have strong followings as solo artists. When can fans expect your next solo projects?
Sheek Louch: My next joint, Im coming with nothing but hit records. I dont want to say who I got on there, but Im taking it there. I had some joints on Silverback [Gorilla] [click to read] but Im taking it to that next level with this one. Im looking to let that out around October or maybe back-to-school time.
Styles P: Were working that D-Block album now, Styles will come after that, then we got that new L.O.X. album, then Ill probably come after that. I really havent started working on my next solo joint because we just been working so much but I know where I want to go with my shit. Itll be like one part N.W.A. [click to read] and one part Public Enemy [click to read]. Theres a lot of shit that needs to be said that people ain't talking about right now. But Ill be able to tell you more when I get in the studio and start working on shit.
DX: With the music not being as lucrative as it used to be a lot of artists are branching out into other areas of entertainment. I heard Styles is working on a book, what are some of the other projects you all are working on?
Sheek Louch: Man, Im into real estate. Im all on that buying three-family houses and renting them out and shit. We got the car wash and looking into getting a couple studios to rent out. I want to do a lot. Sheek as an artist, Ive been a lot of places but I want to do the Japans and all them crazy international markets. I want to spend some time out there and see what we can get going out there.
Styles P: I got a novel coming out called Mr. Invincible. Its coming through Random House. You know Im just trying to touch on other lanes and help expand our brand. I felt like I have a lot of creative energy and this is something I can get into and still be doing after the music stops. The main thing is just to get in there and do it right. No matter what we do were going to get in there and do it right and give 150%. I would love to get into doing scripts and screenplays and shit. We all got a lot of talent and there are a lot of avenues we can expand into. There are a lot of Hip Hop stories or what they call "urban stories" out there, but I wanted to try to do something different.