The Lost Boyz: Mr. Cheeks
Mr. Cheeks catapulted in the music industry at a transitional stage of hip hop, where the elements of graffiti and break-dancing were fading to the back and rhyming with ocular perspective served as the new staple for the culture.
The native of South Jamaican Queens joined the group Lost Boyz in 1991 alongside Freaky Tah, Spigg Nice, and Pretty Lou. The MC’s released epic bangers like Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless (1994), Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz (1995) and Renee (1996), before the death of friend and label mate Freaky Tah.
Lost Boyz released a series of touting albums like Legal Drug Money (1996), Love, Peace & Nappiness (1997), LB IV Life (1999), and LB Next Generation (2019).
Mr. Cheeks left the group and went solo in 1999. In 2001, he released popular single “Lights, Camera, Action” from long awaited album John P. Kelly. He collaborated with Lil Kim in 2003 for “The Jump Off” single. He’s still touring and alighting hits. Mr Cheeks is co-host on the Ryan Show host in addition to a brand ambassador for Voquilla Spirits.
How did you get into music?
I got into it by listening to good music while growing up. I worked at McDonald's and did what I had to do until I bumped into some people that could get me going. Shutout to King Dog and the Butt Necked team that got me started and got me in the gates. I took it from there. I was rocking in the park and all that, the Lost Boyz, and we finally got a chance to be with someone that could get us through the door. Once that happened, we were on and running, and that’s what it is. That’s what got me into music. I learned about good music from my mom’s cleaning the house and the family reunions and things like that—Run DMC Christmas music and all that; those things thrown together is what made me what I am.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
I liked Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, classics like Prince of course—Sade and all that good music, LL Cool J, KRS One, and all that; Rakim of course. The west coast rap music was all good—The crazy movies, Beat Street, Wild Style, all of that influenced me to become the artist.
“Lifestyle of the Rich and Shameless” was a huge success. What inspired that track?
My surroundings inspired that… stuff that I was going through, the things that I saw coming up. I was telling different stories about people I knew or people that I read about in the papers or whatever. I just wrote about it and the influence of the streets and the neighborhood. When you went outside your borough, all that influenced you.
What do you think about music transitioning through time and what do you think about music now?
There’s music that’s good, that’s out now. It changes with the times. It’s bananas. Music is doing a lot of different things like video games and stuff like that. It’s on and popping. I don’t listen to everything that’s out. No, I don’t do that. I hear joints and all that, but if it’s a classic from the seventies, eighties nineties and later, I listen to it. My Godson has music out there that he’s banging. Freaky Tah is out there. My son is on his way, and he’s about to go crazy. It’s their turn. I just fall back and listen to what’s going on, and I will continue to pump out what we do, which is making music, you know?
Coming from area of hip hop where you had great storytellers along with the beats, does that make you want to navigate your son and nephew?
They do that on their own. You don’t really need to guide them because they were born into it. They were right there when we were doing our shows. Now, I’m just listening to their music and bobbing my head. I’m proud of them for doing what they are doing. If they need me, they ask. They [are] riding. I just like what they are doing. I just fall back and check them out. I’m waiting for him [my son] to really do what he does. I want to go to one of his shows.
What are you doing now? What projects are you working on?
I’m working with my LB family. Our album is about to drop, The Grand Scheme 12:26. It’s just all our albums that we released together. I have my label, and I drop my music from my label called WunderTwinz Records. I’m doing that because I can do it without a big label behind me, so I can do what I gotta do and bang out. Besides that, I have Cheeks Denim going. People can check that out. I have a clothing line for the ladies only. Overall, we just banging out. Cheeks just doing what he does. I’m writing music, making music. I have a new single with Horace Brown called Picture Perfect. It’s real nice. I have a joint with Keith Murry called Music Makes Me High Part 2. We are rocking and rolling. Ain’t nothing major—we’re just keeping in going.
What made you want to dip your feet into broadcasting?
Aw, man. It’s a cool gig to do, talking and interacting with fans, and just being a regular dude. They know I’m Mr. Cheeks so it’s all good. I’m just kicking it with people on the same level and its not just rap stuff. I always felt good about doing things like that and getting my music played early. I’m going to slip that in there.
If you could use your musical platform for good, how would you influence the youth?
I would give back. Everyone isn’t as fortunate as I am. People are going through things that we don’t even know about right now, and we need to help… the homeless, the veterans that need help, the kid’s hospitals and all types of things like that. We could put music in school, the classes and all that. I’d rather do that type of stuff.
With someone who’s from New York, and I know you’re familiar with Pop Smoke, how did his death impact you as an artist and as a man with children?
It affected me because he’s another young dude dead, and I don’t understand no more. Like, all the little shorty’s that got killed over the music. Music is like, they’re forgetting the essence of what it’s about. N**gas can’t even celebrate what they achieve no more without somebody [hating]… it’s bugged out to me. They think death is better than living right now. I don’t know, like [maybe they think] they sell records better when they gone. It’s crazy right now. Like I said, it’s bugging me out because I got my son. Like I said, he’s about to get in the game and do what he does. I gotta rock with my son. I gotta be where he goes just to make sure he good. I guess if shorty’s [Pop Smoke’s] father were with him, he’d probably do it differently than what he’s doing. They Just need that guidance around them instead of n**gas shutting them down when they’re trying to do what they doing. We’re the n**gas that’s gotta talk to them, you know what I’m saying? We gotta do a better job with us, though, older black n**gas. They gotta have somebody to look at hustling [making music] in the game besides getting to the bag and all of that.
What is one of the toughest lessons you learned coming into the industry?
One of the lessons is reading the contract, and not even reading the contract sometimes. I was thinking about the paper. I wasn’t really thinking about the fine print. I didn’t even know the situation. I came in the game young, and in my twenties. I never had paper behind me like the labels. Nowadays, they should know that—they should have the right people around them. Sometimes, people try to give you advice and you don’t listen. Then, you have to find out the hard way.
If you can give advice to your younger self, what would that look like?
If I knew what I know now, I would listen more to my uncles and different things that they told me I should’ve done. I’m still blessed to make moves, but I wished I would’ve learned earlier instead of learning the hard way. I was just running around and in my own zone with the music playing. I was an artist and I wasn’t thinking as an entrepreneur. I should’ve really looked at it. I’m still doing what I want to do. However, I would’ve told myself to watch what’s going on.
What do you hope readers will learn from you when they read this interview?
They’re going to learn that the kid made some joints [albums] and check out my Lost Boyz catalog, my solo album, that catalog. I mean, check my music out. It’s not a hype. My music is pure. Just check me out. I got the Raised album, The Ladies and Ghettoman, and The Lost Tapes produced by 9th Wonder. We’re just running. I’m from Southside Jamaican Queens. Don’t get it twisted.
Who was your favorite collaboration?
Those [my albums] are my babies. They were all my favorites. The toughest album, the biggest album I made is with a friend, MC Craig G from The Juice Crew. The album is called Strike Team. That was one of my greatest times recording that album. You can check that out on YouTube. We got it popping over there. You can check out my Mr. Cheeks YouTube channel and subscribe. My mans, Buddy White and Jeff from the group Intro, we have a lot of fun. We have a song out called New York S**t. We’re still having fun with it.
You say its still fun, how do you keep that zest for hip hop, to go in the studio with the same fire and love from earlier in your career?
I got to. It’s like, they gotta hear the kid [Mr. Cheeks]. Shoutout to everybody doing it majorly or even if they aren’t major. I’m always going to rock because that’s what I came into the game to do. I feel like I’m twenty-three or twenty-five, ready to ball, all day every day. The music is there. I was given a gift. I don’t know, I just bang out. I’m always hype.
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