The Lost Boyz were one of those groups of the '90s that dropped a couple of hits and then vanished.
Comprised of Mr. Cheeks (the main rapper in the group), Freaky Tah (the hypeman who occasionally raps), Pretty Lou (who doesn't really do anything) and DJ Spigg Nice, Lost Boyz came onto the scene in 1995 when they dropped their debut single, "Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless." That song landed them a deal with Uptown Records, and soon after, they released the hit track "Renée."
"Renée," which achieved gold status in 1996, led to the group's first LP, Legal Drug Money. Consisting of production from the likes of Easy Mo Bee and Pete Rock, the album was certified gold in the same year it was released.
Almost exactly a year later, Lost Boyz put out their second project, Love, Peace & Nappiness, off the strength of their hit single "Me and My Crazy World." Although it wasn't nearly as critically acclaimed as Legal Drug Money (and rightfully so), Love, Peace & Nappiness also reached gold status.
That was when things spun out of control for Lost Boyz, and it wasn't due to any internal conflict or anything of that nature. No; this went far beyond music.
In 1999, six months before Lost Boyz put out their third and final full-length album, LB IV Life, Freaky Tah was tragically gunned down at Mr. Cheeks' birthday party. So, after LB IV Life, Lost Boyz split, and they were never to be heard from as a group again.
DJ Spigg Nice made the news in 2004, however, as he was sentenced to 37 years in prison after being convicted of several bank robberies.
Talk about things unraveling, huh?
Rest assured, Lost Boyz were still able to put out some good music when they were active, and many consider Legal Drug Money to be a golden era classic.
Are those people right in saying so?
Exactly like it sounds.
2. The Yearn
Pete Rock is on the board for the first actual song on Legal Drug Money, and not surprisingly, the beat freaking knocks. Not only that, but on another version of the track, Pete actually drops a verse (track that version down if you're interested in hearing his effort). "The Yearn" is an all-around winner, and it's tracks like this that make you wish Freaky Tah would have rapped more often instead of primarily being a hypeman.
3. Music Makes Me High
The energy level takes a rather significant dip here. Charles Suitt and Mr. Sex (no; seriously) lay down a pretty lackluster instrumental on what was one of the album's five singles, and Mr. Cheeks isn't exactly able to elevate it to sounding like anything worthwhile. There is a remix of this record featuring Canibus and Tha Dogg Pound. Check that out if you're willing.
4. Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz
This was the second single off of the album, and it sounds really freaking good. Easy Mo Bee crafts the production, and you'll be able to tell as soon as the beat starts, as it has his fingerprints all over it (you can just hear The Notorious B.I.G. flowing over this). There really isn't much not to like about this cut, as Mr. Cheeks rips it, too.
5. Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless
The aforementioned first single and the second straight Easy Mo Bee-laced song. It isn't as awesome as "Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz," but it's still pretty damn good. I really like the hook on this track in particular, and Easy's instrumental is solid.
"Renée," Legal Drug Money's third single and arguably Lost Boyz's most popular record, is actually a very touching cut about a female friend of Mr. Cheeks that was shot and killed. Mr. Sex's beat is really good, and Mr. Cheeks' storytelling is outstanding. The way he ends the song by saying "I'm from the ghetto, so listen this is how I shed my tears" puts the cherry on top. Great track.
7. All Right
To say Big Dex's instrumental is "unorthodox" on "All Right" would be an understatement (it sounds like he put the sample in reverse). Still, somehow, it works. This record isn't half-bad, and Freaky Tah's verse makes it that much better, as simplistic as it may be. All in all, this was a bit better than just "all right," even if it may have run a bit too long for its own good. Big Dex drops a verse too, by the way.
8. Legal Drug Money
The beat at the beginning of this cut sounds really awesome. Unfortunately, it's not the beat that Lost Boyz used for this title track. The instrumental that Big Dex ultimately ends up laying down pales in comparison. It isn't terrible, but it certainly could have used some stronger drums. Side note: Freaky Tah's "don't know who wants to kill me, don't know who wants to love me" line just sounds spooky today given what ended up being his fate.
9. Get Up
This was Legal Drug Money's fifth and final single. You may recognize the Stephanie Mills sample as the same one that would eventually be used for DMX's "When I'm Nothing." Unfortunately, "Get Up" isn't nearly as good as that DMX track.
10. Is This Da Part
Another Easy Mo Bee joint. "Is This Da Part" is pretty nice, even if the hook is fairly lame. That's all I've got.
11. Straight From Da Ghetto
This record, which was produced by "Buttnaked" Tim Dawg (the hell?) and Big Dex, isn't really anything spectacular. The beat is decent, if not a bit bland, and Mr. Cheeks' verses are pretty straightforward. All things considered, "Straight From Da Ghetto" felt a bit forced, especially taking into account how "Renée" already flawlessly covered the ghetto topic.
12. Keep It Real
Unfortunately, this isn't nearly as good as Miilkbone's "Keep It Real," but fortunately, it still sounds really freaking good (no; that statement is not contradictory). The Big Dex instrumental is pleasing, and Freaky Tah's chanting in the background adds a nice element to the cut overall. It helps that Mr. Cheeks really kills this, too.
13. Channel Zero
The first thing I think of when I see the title "Channel Zero" is the Canibus song, which is funny, because Lost Boyz and Canibus were tight back in the '90s and Mr. Cheeks actually appeared on the hook of that joint. My feelings on this track are ambivalent, however. I can't really decide if I like it or not. I guess that's not a bad thing, but it's not exactly an endorsement, either.
14. Da Game
Either I'm just getting lazy, or Legal Drug Money if full of records that I don't have much of an opinion on either way. I will say that "Da Game" is superior to "Channel Zero," so take that for what it's worth. Plus, this is under four minutes in length, and that's usually always a good thing.
15. 1, 2, 3
Is it weird that the best cut on the album is a Freaky Tah solo? Well, honestly, I don't really care, because this song freaking bangs. Bangs. The production by Dwarf The Black Prince absolutely rocks and is simultaneously soulful and raw as hell, and Tah's grimy voice brings "1, 2, 3" to another level of awesome. The chorus is also great; I don't care how simplistic it is. Well done, fellas. Well freaking done.
16. Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless (Remix)
Unlike most remixes, this is a completely different song than the original. That being said, "Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless" really didn't need to be remixed. That should tell you all you need to know about how I feel about this version.
Like many other albums that I have reviewed, Legal Drug Money has way too many clunkers for me to label it a classic. That isn't to say this isn't a good project though, because numerous songs on here work really well, and it holds up rather well in 2013.
Mr. Cheeks is a solid MC, but his biggest weakness is his voice. It's not bad, but over the course of a full-length LP, it can get old pretty quickly. That is one of two key drawbacks on Legal Drug Money, the other being the fact that some of the beats are nothing better than average.
I also really wish Freaky Tah would have gotten more shine on this album. I understand he is the hypeman and that hearing his voice over 16 tracks may become a bit tiresome, but he is not a bad rapper at all, and I don't think it's any coincidence that his solo joint ("1, 2, 3") is the best record on Legal Drug Money.
Due to the fact that this project was released during arguably the greatest year in hip-hop history, it tends to be forgotten, and that isn't necessarily fair. While it certainly doesn't hold a candle to some of the best albums of 1996, it is still a fine piece of work, one that may have been looked upon more favorably had it been released a couple of years later when rap was going downhill.
I guess I'd recommend that you give Legal Drug Money a spin. At the very least, you need to add "1, 2, 3" to your iPod. It is one of my favorite songs of all-time, and nothing is going to change that.
Rest in peace, Freaky Tah.
1. 1, 2, 3
2. Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz
3. The Yearn
5. Keep It Real