The Lox's 'Money, Power & Respect' Is Still Key 20 Years Later
Styles, Jada, & Sheek now serve as hip-hop’s example of loyalty & integrity.
Money, Power & Respect took over our neighborhood in Paterson, New Jersey when it dropped. My boy Jeyru lived on top of Eastside Pizzeria on Market Street and would play the new Lox album from front to back. It was the soundtrack when we loitered in front between games of NFL Blitz after school. Most of us were in high school, some of us had already dropped out, but we all considered ourselves street smart and used that album as a confirmation that we were running the streets properly. Jadakiss was like an older cousin to look up to for slang and outfit inspiration, Styles was the cousin we seeked advice and acceptance from, and Sheek was the one we called when we had to handle beef. We took the meaning of their acronym—The LOX—seriously because we, too, were living off experience.
We would hotbox to B.I.G.’s Life After Death CDs and rap “Last Days” word for word. We had the DJ Clue? tapes where a young Lox trio held its own in freestyle sessions with Biggie. Money, Power & Respect was one of the more anticipated debuts in the history of the sport, as far as we were concerned. One of the tracks from the album that made its rounds on the mixtape circuit was the Jada solo cut, “All for the Love.” We played it constantly. His cadence made it easy to memorize, so much so that I could probably rap his bars just by hearing the instrumental; “You hear that flow? It drove the underground wacko” is ingrained in my brain forever. “All for the Love” was one of the first placements for a 20-year-old up-and-coming producer by the name of Swizz Beatz, introducing that signature Ruff Ryders sound to the world.
During weed cyphers, we'd argue about who was better—Jadakiss or Styles P—and would compare verses until we almost came to blows. Kiss was usually the victor mainly because his hype was at an all-time high thanks to that raspy voice and the ease in which he spit slick shit. Most of us were too young to care about how Puffy tried to present them to the world—the shiny suits and clout goggles on the album cover, and the lead single “If You Think I’m Jiggy” was an afterthought because everyone knew what they were capable of. As a teenager, we were into those shiny suits and big budget hip-hop videos as much as we were into Capone-N-Noreaga, Mobb Deep, and Big Pun. Bad Boy provided both of those perspectives at the time.
In hindsight, Money, Power & Respect showcases a great balancing act between commercial raps and the group’s Yonkers back block foundation. The Lox followed up the made-for-radio single “If You Think I’m Jiggy” with the album’s title song “Money, Power & Respect” featuring Lil Kim and DMX, which served as a way to feed their growing, hardcore fanbase. The plan worked. “Money, Power & Respect” is still the trio’s most successful single, peaking at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, proving they were here to stay. The album also featured “We’ll Always Love Big Poppa,” an ode to the recently slain Notorious B.I.G. which also had some chart success, too.
This would be their only album on Bad Boy. A year after its release, the group wasn’t happy with the deal and how Puffy was handling their careers. They launched the “Free the Lox” grassroots campaign complete with T-shirts to force his hand. Diddy would eventually buckle to public pressure and release them from their deal allowing them to sign with their managers Dee and Wah over at the newly established Ruff Ryders Entertainment. There The Lox would further cement their standing as rap’s favorite hardcore rap act, releasing a second album, We Are The Streets, and various solo projects.
Twenty years later, Money, Power & Respect still holds up. The storytelling is something the game is lacking these days; the cinematic Hitmen beats will take you back to a time where rap music videos had million dollar budgets; and listening to the some of the obvious radio plays serves as a time capsule of a recording industry that hardly practices the same formula to sell records anymore. And you know what? We enjoyed listening to tracks like “So Right” featuring Kelly Price. Can you imagine the Lox making a song like that in 2018? It would never happen.
The Lox never breaking up is another reason to appreciate this album even more. Rap groups are damn near extinct because having to split checks can only last for so long. Styles, Jada, and Sheek now serve as hip-hop’s example of loyalty and integrity. So, dust off the shiny suits, throw on some Nike Air Force 1s, and hit play on Money, Power & Respect because that’s the key to life.
You can stream The Lox's entire discography here.