When Sheek dropped his first solo album “Walk Witt Me,” no one really walked with him. The album didn’t gain too much fanfare. Falling behind fellow L.O.X. members Styles and Jada, who both garnered some success with their releases, it was sometime before we saw Sheek again. But now he’s back and he’s more aggressive; he’s got something to prove. Can he bounce back? Can he rise above his D-Block brethren’s shadows? “After Taxes” sure sounds like he tried.
The album starts off ferociously as Sheek announces that he is “Back Mawf-ckas.” It can be a sign of what’s to come. After all, the intro is followed immediately by the hood anthem “Street Music” where he claims he makes records for gangs across the nation from Bloods to Crips and all in between. He’s believable as a street soldier who almost always has his “thang” on ’em “packin’ a tool.”
Later “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye (Remix)” offers up a great mixture of street acts from various regions ranging from ATL’s T.I. to NY’s Fabolous and Philly’s own Beanie Siegel. In addition to this, “Run Up” features a vicious Styles P verse letting all enemies know that if they run up, they will get dealt with. This type of tough talk bravado is to be expected from the ex-Bad Boy Sheek. It’s good and refreshing to hear honest music from the streets, but things don’t add up quite right.
When the album commences, he claims his cred comes from the fact that he’s not like others who manufacture silly rap/r&b collaborations. He adds that he had “no r&b: ain’t had one mawf-ckin’ chick on it.” He’s right, and that was the appeal of his debut album. People touted him as the same Bad Boy minus the shiny suit and bling. He was respectable and ready for war with his “Mighty D-Block.” But “After Taxes” brings out a different side of Sheek: the singer.
On “45 minutes to Broadway,” he sings a little bit. That’s okay though. He’s allowed to do that. Then, we get hit with the unexpected: an r&b/rap track “One Name” next to Carl Thomas. Sure, he’s not a chick, but he’s still crooning in a love song about marriage. Louch even calls it “Sheek Def Poetry.” Sigh. That’s just the beginning.
Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if Sheek never dissed others for doing the same. On “Maybe if I Sing,” he claims that singing, snitching and crossing over is 50 Cent’s formula for success and bashes him for it. In the track he claims he “never sang on a song.” Sadly, he contradicts himself on “All Fed Up,” an r&b/rap ballad about a failed relationship that finds him singing on the hook.
Still, it’s not all bad. The soulful “Movie Niggas” finds him next to Ghostface on a nice old-school-inspired track. Redman adds a humorous element to Get Up Stand Up And as far as beats: Though not spectacular, for the most part, the production on the album is nice.
Lyrically, Sheek can’t wow listeners the same way Jada can and he isn’t as smooth with his flow as Styles. He’s also desperately missing the great story telling he displayed on his previous LP.
Sheek’s aggressive efforts show a tenacity and hunger a lot of emcees lack, but the contradictions and obvious attempts at mainstream acceptance douse the flames. While his last album was reviewed by DX as being “heat for the streets,” this one somewhat diminishes his fire.