To endure in hip-hop isn’t guaranteed. But through loyalty, perseverance, and a dedication to the craft, New York’s own The LOX have gone decades without slowing down. Together, Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch have been at the center of several prominent movements.

The Bad Boy Era found them connecting with Puff Daddy and The Notorious B.I.G, holding their own on scores of timeless posse cuts. From there came the Ruff Ryders, contributing to classic compilation albums alongside DMX, Eve, and Drag-On. Next up — the solo debuts, opening new doors for each rapper and launching discographies that remain consistent to this day.

For anybody who values authenticity, lyricism, and real music for the streets, The LOX stand comfortably alongside hip-hop’s most legendary groups. With a new album currently in the works, not to mention a documentary that’s been a long time coming, I had a chance to connect with Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch on a video chat. One that took place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping the longtime collaborators apart. Despite the unconventional format–new territory for all involved– it didn’t take long for their dynamic to kick in, old friends reflecting on a career lined with greatest hits.

This interview has been edited for length.

Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images

Jadakiss enters the chat.

HNHH: Hey, how are you doing?

Jada: What’s good brother, how you doing?

It’s nice to have a face to face after the last two phone calls — a pleasure to officially meet you.

Jada: Likewise, likewise.

Styles P enters the chat. He’s sitting in his car. 

Styles, what’s up! Thanks for taking the time.

Styles: How you feel?

Keeping busy, you know.

Styles: Same shit, different toilet.

True. I wanted to ask, how has the pandemic been affecting Juices For Life?

Styles: I’m outside of Juices For Life right now! We still working, baby. Following the social distancing. We have our customers call before they come. We keep the distance right, have people wait outside. They call it in, and we have someone bring it to them.

Jada: Business is boomin’ on the call-in tip. And the walk-up. Everyone wanna take vitamin shots, green grass shots. You know what it is.

For sure. I’ve been making juices at my place. Just got some dragon fruit, excited to start implementing that into the smoothies.

Styles: Dragon fruit is the shit! That’s really good, I do dragon fruits too, especially in the smoothie. It’s really cool. You got the yellow or the pink?

The pink.

Styles: The pink one tastes better than the yellow one.

Sheek Louch enters the chat.

Sheek Louch!

Sheek: What’s good ya’ll! Where the fuck ya’ll been man?

Styles: Chillin’, quiet.

Sheek: Styles, you always in the car.

Styles: Muthafuckin’ right. I gotta be outside Louch. I gotta stop by the juice bar, check on em’. Get some fresh air, breathe. You know I’m fidgety, I can’t be in the house all day. Shit don’t work for me.

Sheek: I just got caught in the rain, just got in the house. Beast mode.

Sheek, pleasure to meet you. First off, thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m a longtime fan of you guys. I know you connected in high school. When you were first starting to rap together, was it hard to find that common ground creatively speaking?

Sheek: Naa I don’t think so.

Jada: Naa it was easy.

Sheek: Organic, for real.

Jada: Bring on the beat and go in.

Sheek: You know the whole story man. Kiss been spitting, before me anyway. He got me into wanting to do that sh*t and Styles was this dope-ass dude from across town that was sick that we couldn’t wait to get with. That’s how that formed, then we formed.

What was the rap game like at the time coming up around that era in New York?

Jada: It was still rough around the edges.

Styles: Facts.

Was there a lot of music happening at the time? A lot of parties going on?

Sheek: Absolutely.

Styles: Hell yeah. It was the 90s, bro!

Jada: House parties and parties in the community rooms, pool parties and things like that.

Sheek: It was around that time where we were like “yo you heard what he said?” Like Kane and all them kind of dudes. You know what I mean?

So did you guys witness the battling back and forth? Like the Queensbridge battles that were going on at the time?

Sheek: We heard about it.

Jada: That was a little bit before our time. We had the live tapes and the battles.

Sheek: The only battle I’d really seen was Bill Blass and X. You know what I’m saying, that kind of shit. Word.

When you guys were working on your first songs and demos what were you guys going off of? Just wanting to go in and say some crazy bars? Was that the focus?

Sheek: I wanna say yes, like dope ass bars and that slick shit. We kind of had some format, right Kiss?

Jada: Yeah, structure. But we really had a chip on our shoulder to put Yonkers on the map.

Styles: I think them guys are not giving themselves enough credit. They had fucking hella structure. They knew how to make albums since early teens. They had songs where everybody was battling and cyphering, like you was saying, we did that. But them two gentlemen also knew to go hit a studio, make a song, and throw a hook.

Me personally being from across town looking at them two, I felt they were very structured. Way before people knew anything about fuckin’ structure. Everybody was pretty much rapping on a corner or bangin on a mailbox or a car hood but then two dudes was actually in a studio making songs so yeah, it was really structured. They’re being a little modest.

Sheek: Then you came with them hooks and shit? Right?

Styles: Yessir.

Sheek: Came with them dope shits and we put that shit together. Casper had that four-track, that was like new to us too, we was putting that shit together.

Styles: That’s why I said we was structured as fuck! Actually when you think about it, nobody else was trying to do that shit like that.

Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images

Those structures must’ve played a big role when the demo finally hit Bad Boy. I imagine that was part of the reason why it was such a good match at the time.

Sheek: The structure was dope for Mary [J. Blige] riding around and playing it for everybody. That’s what that was with them tapes. With Puff he just wanted to hear us spit in person, he wanted to hear us actually rap. I don’t even know if he heard the demo.

Jada: Yeah, he heard it.

Styles: He heard it on the bus.

What was it like preparing to rap for Puff in person at the time?

Styles: Fuckin’ easy bro. Fuckin’ murdered it. Thats why you on the fucking Zoom with us now, cause we murdered it. [Laughs]

Sheek: I don’t think we was ever nervous or nothing. It was more like “what up dog, good to meet you” type shit.

At this point, I know you guys were working with B.I.G or developing a friendship with him. Is there something you wish more people understood about him as a man and a creative that you picked up working with him?

Sheek: I know he was funny. He had a crazy sense of humor. I know his music came off as like hard, hard-working, but he joke around a lot in the studio before he got to work, from what I seen.

Jada: He liked to have fun but he was a very hard worker.

Styles: He was very classy. To say the least he was a classy guy. Very very classy and charismatic.

Sheek: Never fronted on us either, like “yo get them ni**as outta here, I’m working.” It was always dope.

When you guys were working on music at the time, was the dynamic very much in-studio dynamic? Did you guys write on your own or did you guys write together?

Sheek: Always.

Jada: We did it all.

Sheek: If we was working separately, Kiss phone would ring or Styles phone would ring, like “yo check this out” or vice versa like, “yo what you think of this?” We would literally call each other telling each other’s lyrics and shit, y’all remember that?

Styles: Yeah.

Sheek: I wonder if ni**as do that anymore. Nah, n**as don’t do that no more now. You don’t even gotta call nobody no more right?

Styles: Nah they go in the studio and make their shit up on the spot.

Jada: They make their whole album in twenty-minutes!

Styles: Right on the spot!

For sure. A lot of people associate with The LOX is the back-and-forth flow. I think a lot of people have borrowed that style from you guys.

Styles: We borrowed it from somebody. We borrowed it from EPMD bro, we can’t take the credit for that. M.O.P. was nice with it.

Sheek: EPMD. Run DMC, “Now Peter piper picked pepper, but Run rapped rhymes.” All that shit. I ain’t gone lie Styles and Kiss be killing that shit. You know what’s so crazy though? When I be on stage with them and they do that shit, I be like damn man. And I know they been drinking and smoking and all that shit, like how they nailing it word for word? I’d have been fucked that up. [Laughs]

Styles: I think we got great timing with it to be honest with you. A lot of people in hip-hop do that but they don’t get the credit. We do it well so we deserve the credit but Ghost and Rae is dope at it, Billy and Fame, Slick Rick and Dougie, Nas and AZ, Kanye and HOV. But me and Kiss we just got great timing with it. Even with the LOX when we do one, it’s great timing. It’s the great timing that people appreciate.

Sheek: I think what separates y’all two. Y’all pick like the little words. Other people do it with a long ass sentence, a phrase, like a long verse and then come back. But y’all would do like the little joint, little little detail shit.

Styles: Yeah that’s true.

 Greg Doherty/Getty Images

For me, a big part of discovering your music was through the Ruff Ryders, and that part of the movement. What were the early days of the Ruff Ryders like? What was that dynamic like moving into that camp?

Sheek: You came after Bad Boy? How old are you?

I’m 30.

Styles: He’s a baby, n**a! You’s a baby, my n***a!

Jada: I got dress socks older than you boy!

Oh shit. [Laughs] Well, I got to enjoy a lot of music after the fact. I really started getting into the East Coast sound around 99, 2000. DMX, Jay-Z, you guys — then Ruff Ryders. What were the early days of the Ruff Ryders like?

Styles: It’s like a black cowboy movie. It’s like a black urban cowboy movie. Like a cowboy, but black and urban.

Sheek: Word. Shawshank studios. Shawshank Redemption studios. You comfortable cause that’s your environment and shit for the most part it’s just a lot of guys around. Dogs. Guns and all that cool shit. We just came from that area so we loved it. The studio’ right in our hood.

Jada: N***a said it was Shawshank Redemption studios.

Styles: Couple killas here and there.

So which of the Ryde or Die albums was your favorite one? Whether it was recording it, listening back to it, what was the one you hold close to the heart?

Jada: One. For me the first one, cause that was something new for all of us.

Sheek: How many we had?

Jada: Three…or seven.

Sheek: Three or seven? [Laughs] It was cool working with Pun. The Pun joint was on there right?

Jada: That was the first one, bro. The first one was historic. One and two!

Styles: What was “Dope Money?”

Jada: One!

Styles: Yeah, one for me then. “Dope Money” and the Pun joint and the Hov joint was after “Dope Money” right?

Jada: Yeah that’s all one. Those was on the first one.

Styles: Yeah I’ma go with One, for me.

Jada: Had the song with Siegel and Mysonne and them. One had knocks.

Styles: Yo Kiss, I forgot about the Siegel and Mysonne them shit, my n***a. Holy shit!

Jada: Yeah they had knocks on one and two.

Styles: I gotta go hear that shit.

I kinda came in the Ruff Ryders game with Volume Three. I had that one close to heart. Technically, I had heard “Down Bottom” first, that song was crazy.

Sheek: All the crazy shit was on one.

Styles: That’s “me and my n***as we lick shots?” That’s Drag and Juvie right?

One had bangers. You had a track with Pun on there, Sheek.

Sheek: Yeah, that’s pretty cool man. Rest in peace. Pun is dope. He came down to the studio on the freight elevator that day. It was wild shit. He came in there and started getting busy and shit. Cool dude.

All of you guys had tracks with Pun too, but that was kind of like a duet.

Sheek: Yeah, “Piña Colada.” I couldn’t do that song at shows and shit, cause of the hook, but it was a dope record. Shit was a little weird.

Styles: [Maniacal laughter]

Sheek: You know that shit, Styles! No! [Laughs]

Styles: They would have told you “PAUSE.” Oh shit. That just killed me. I’m dead.

Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images

I saw an interview with Eve on how she had to cypher her way into the group with the Ruff Ryders — an audition — and I was wondering were you guys there for that?

Sheek: You gotta ask Styles and Kiss. I wasn’t around a lot of Eve sessions. Of course I seen her a hundred times but I’m not sure.

Styles: I seen her go through it.

Jada: I seen her get in the pit once or twice. That was just Ruff Ryders though.

Styles: That wasn’t a crazy experience, that was our everyday life. If you wanna make it you gotta be hungry and you gotta be willing to go against all odds. To us it wasn’t crazy, that’s what it took.

It comes back to that battle culture from the early come-up days of hip-hop.

Styles: It wasn’t just battle though. It was battle and cypher culture. It was like a mixture of both. Like some shit when you don’t know somebody and I’m standing there with Louch and Kiss, they feel like they coming hard, I’ma try to tear em up. We all going to try to tear em up. If it’s your homie and he rap and you know him and y’all just checking on each other, it becomes a cypher. It could be friendly or non friendly. That was just the culture. It was part of our life, everyday. We didn’t look at it as nothing that we was doing. It was just our life.

I think that resonates in the music. There was that healthy competition but it was all love.

Sheek: We still do that to this day.

Of all the posse cuts that you guys did, the ones where it was you guys and emcees from different camps — I know you have songs with Raekwon, Ghostface, Pun, DMX, Jay-Z — Was there one you guys remember preparing for or wanting to really go in on? One you hold close to heart?

Jada: All of them.

Sheek: All of them.

Styles: Every one. Every single fuckin’ one of them bro.

Sheek: All of them got like stories of where we was at, what we was doing, and all that shit. From freestyles to Clue tapes.

Clue tapes, man. I never actually owned one, but I think I had Napster at that time…

Sheek: Oh shit, that’s hard.

Styles: He had Napster during the Clue tape times!? That’s crazy. What’s your best Clue tape?

Professional 2.

Jada: That was fire. That was the end of the Clue stage.

A lot of people who read our site love hearing about hip-hop history. What’s one story you guys never get tired of telling that you feel would be a treat for The LOX fans?

Styles: It’s kind of hard to give you the story to be honest with you. We are three great looking gentlemen…

Sheek: Nah he’s talking about a crazy story that we ain’t tell nobody! [Laughs] LOX shit.

Styles: I ain’t going to jail, I ain’t telling none of that. Not really. Somewhat, not really though. My story would lead to indictments. Ima leave that alone, my personal story.

Say no more. What do you guys have next up?

Sheek: New album! New LOX album. We critiquing it right now.

Nice! Jada, I imagine this whole thing really fucked up the Ignatius tour plan.

Jada: Definitely. When the world open back up, the banks open back up.
Sheek: Jesus Christ, bro. I sent cheques out before this shit happened. All kind of shit I was getting started. Not even music man. 20 here, 15 there. Like yo, do this over!

Styles: That’s landlord Louch, baby!

Sheek: Nah, but dawg, this shit is whack!

I think we can all agree on that.

Styles: You gotta take the good out of it. A lot of family time’s been spent. A lot of finding yourself. Being with your loved ones. Your lady, Louch. The real heroes of the world. On the frontlines. We saluting the real heroes. That part’s cool. Everybody connecting with their families — or going crazy. One of the two. Love is love.

Coming out of it, people might learn some lessons and take some habits they picked up during this period and move it forward into their lives. Whether it’s more empathy, saving money–

*Sheek Louch’s screen freezes*

I think we lost Louch.

Styles: It’s just having love. We all have love for each other. I love you Mitch, have a blessed one! Let’s build again, L-O-X album soon. Fucking crazy!

Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images