As one third of the gritty NYC trio The Lox Sheek Louch has seen almost everything. From being a part of one of the biggest hits in rap history (“All About the Benjamins”), to having to deal with the repercussions of signing a bad contract. This spring Sheek will be releasing his third solo album, Silverback Gorilla, on Koch Records, and this week RapReviews caught up with him to find out more about the project, his thoughts on the indie scene he’s now a part of, including what kind of artists he feels stand to gain the most from it, and why if you see him in the street you shouldn’t hesitate to say what’s up.

Adam Bernard: Talk to me about your upcoming project, Silverback Gorilla. What can listeners expect from it?
Sheek Louch: It’s a metaphor, there’s no monkey business, and when it comes to the rap game, they call it a concrete jungle out there and I’m just saying if it is I’m one of the fiercest motherfuckers that’s in that jungle, the silverback gorilla. You look at the nature channel the silverback gorilla is a monster, he’s got his kids climbin all over him, he ain’t botherin nobody, but he’s ready for whatever.

AB: So in your off time you’re watching a lot of animal planet?
Sheek: All day. I look at the, Animal Planet, the National Geographic channel. Why not? No doubt.

AB: You’ve always been very business minded, so fill me in on why you chose to go with Koch and how that relationship is going?
Sheek: I think Koch is great, man. I’m not downing any majors because we came from the majors and all that, but at the time when I decided to do a solo project, just seeing the whole process that my partners had to go through and not even just my partners, in general you can’t drop because you gotta wait for five other groups before you and then you finally can come and then you gotta wait three more years before you can come again. I just wasn’t ready to do all that. Plus an artist over on a major would get like 15%, if that, off of each record, other than that you get an advance and they kick you in the ass and tell you go hit the road, do your shows. With an indie, I don’t know how everybody’s deal is structured, but you can get seven dollars off each unit sold, so it’s a better look for yourself, especially today with these sales, I don’t care what big artist you are, sales are not that. Indies are doing bigger sales than major labels right now without that million dollar coin behind them. It’s like wow, these guys did 70,000 this week while this other guy did 30 something with a bigger song. C’mon now, it don’t add up. Indies are runnin it right now.

“If you’re just fresh coming into the game and nobody don’t know you from a can of paint, I wouldn’t go indie.”

AB: For an artist like you who has been in the game for 10-15 years indie is definitely a viable option, but can any artist go indie, or do some still need the machine working for them?
Sheek: That’s a good question. I would say, like you said, an established artist such as myself or any one of my partners could go indie, or any other person out there who has a name already and a fan base from here to the UK definitely should do the indie route and have some other options in the majors and do all kinds of stuff, but if you’re just fresh coming into the game and nobody don’t know you from a can of paint, I wouldn’t go indie. And you’ll find right now these indies like Koch and them, before people would think I could just go to an indie and get signed, no you can’t, not no more. They’re looking at you like who are you? Why should we? The indies, they’re not just here put this out and not care, they go out in the streets with you and try to feel it out; “you know what, let’s move on THIS single, let’s do this.” I was in the club last night and other people, big corporations, they just put the joint out there, they don’t care, the guy doesn’t even listen to your music, doesn’t know your music, doesn’t know your history, none of that. He’s punching out at the end of the day going home.

AB: With that in mind, what do you feel are the most important aspects in regards to music distribution? Clearly it’s more than just putting an album out.
Sheek: Knowing your artist and knowing his core fans. People say step out the box and try something different, definitely. If that artist is ready and willing to try that and that he can. Don’t just throw people out there. They got these people that don’t really understand that particular artist. You gotta know him first. You have to know I just signed Sheek, I just signed The Lox, I know what these boys are about, I’m not going to make him into a Nelly. That’s one of the main things from the jump, know who you’re dealing with.

AB: You and your team have survived for quite a long time, nearly 15 years now, in the public eye. What do you feel gives you your longevity?
Sheek: We stay young. We still feed the streets freestyles and I listen to what’s going on out there and I try to bury all that. When we get into the studio together we don’t “yes” each other to death. You got these people in the studio who will tell each other “that’s hot, put it out.” We’ll tell each other “that ain’t hot. Get the fuck outta here,” or “yo, you gotta do that again Kiss. Sheek, you gotta do this over.” Not to mention we put out mixtapes, we leak things, it keeps you alive out there. I also stay in shape. We recently did a show at BB King’s in New York and we tore that shit down. People were like that was the illest shit ever.

“Financially I think we have a lot to accomplish. We were stagnated at a young age. I felt I was joining the Chicago Bulls…”

AB: What do you feel you and the rest of The Lox have left to accomplish?
Sheek: Financially I think we have a lot to accomplish. We were stagnated at a young age. I felt I was joining the Chicago Bulls with Jordan and Pippen and all these guys when I’m looking at B.I.G, Craig Mack, Total and Puff and everybody, but they had our publishing so early. Certain things that if we had known back then as far as when we’re writing “Benjamins,” “Victory” and all these joints, we should have had the millions back then because these were songs that went for summers and summers. Our managers didn’t look out for us, matter of fact we didn’t look out for ourselves back then. We were 17, or whatever, getting into the game and that’s what I think we have to accomplish, get that money we rightfully deserve and thanks to Diddy he let our publishing go. The motherfucker didn’t have to. You sign a publishing deal, say you get an artist tomorrow and he signs a publishing deal with you, that’s your shit. You don’t gotta give him back nothing, but he did. It took a long time, it took a lot of stuff at stations and yelling on the air and I’ll do this, but you know what, it’s done. Now whatever I write for somebody, it comes to us now.

AB: Tell me one aspect of the game that people don’t know about that you feel they should?
Sheek: This is probably for the younger people that are trying to come in, I would say you gotta work, you gotta hustle, especially in the indie scene. It’s not just sitting back on your ass and let your manager do everything, you gotta get out there and grind. You gotta make your calls, you gotta call on time and do your interviews. It’s not all glitz and glamour unless you make it that way, unless you put your money to the side for the right causes and don’t just run out there and do silly shit because the video is over. Once we say cut it’s done for that day. Don’t go out there and front in these clubs and get your head knocked off just trying to be that person you want them to see. I got a song on my album called “Don’t Be Them,” it’s one of my favorite joints on the album and it’s telling the young dude or girl coming in that we don’t need another Sheek, Styles or Kiss, we need whoever the new you is.

AB: Finally, is there anything about Sheek Louch that people may be unaware of?
Sheek: I’m approachable. When I’m talking to you on the phone right now and talk to you again later on you’re gonna say man, that’s the same dude I spoke to a few months ago. People in the street when they see me and say what’s up I give them a pound and love, all that. They see me again it ain’t no bushi shit or none of that. I’m the same dude later on when I get off stage as I am on stage and I pretty much speak for me and my fam. I think that is why we have been around so long and we relate to everybody, because I just came from there, right there, I was just on that block they were talking about.