R.I.P. Freaky Tah: 1972 –1999
Live In The Sky
Following in the footsteps of Naughty By Nature, The Lost Boyz specialized in crafting party grooves that were embraced by the ‘hood and the mainstream. The Jamaica, Queens, foursome — Mr. Cheeks, Freaky Tah, Pretty Lou and DJ Spigg Nice — released their 1995 debut, Legal Drug Money, which entered at No. 6 on the Billboard charts. With Mr. Cheeks as the lead MC and Freaky Tah as the energetic adlib specialist, The Lost Boyz released an amazing six singles off their debut — “Renee,” “Music Makes Me High,” “The Yearn (Remix),” “Get Up,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless” and “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimas and Benz.” Legal Drug Money quickly went gold two months after its release.
The group followed up with their sophomore album — Love, Peace & Nappiness — in 1997. The album also went gold and featured the singles, “Me & My Crazy World” and the title track. Then tragedy struck two years later on March 28, 1999. After leaving Mr. Cheek’s birthday party in Queens, Freaky Tah, then 27-years-old, was shot in the head and killed while leaving the Sheraton Hotel. The assailants were eventually caught — Kelvin Jones pleaded guilty to murder in 2001, while the getaway driver, Raheem Fletcher, was sentenced to seven years for manslaughter. The group, however, would never be the same.
Revered for his madcap adlibs (long before Young Jeezy ever touched a mic), gruff voice and energetic persona, Freaky Tah will always be the heart of The Lost Boyz. While Tah was known more as a hypeman, he did rock the mic on songs such as “1, 2, 3” off Legal Drug Money and “Get Your Hustle On” off Love, Peace & Nappiness.
Six months after Tah’s passing, the remaining members of The Lost Boyz released the lukewarm, LB IV Life. It was a solid release, but without Freaky Tah the results just weren’t the same. Mr. Cheeks, however, went on to enjoy solo success in 2001 with his album, John P. Kelly, which featured the hit single, “Lights, Camera, Action!” and the somber Tah tribute, “’Till We Meet Again.” Speaking on the eighth anniversary of Freaky Tah’s death, Mr. Cheeks reminisces with XXLMag.com about his fallen comrade and the legacy of The Lost Boyz.
Where were you when you found out about Freaky Tah’s murder?
Shit, I was dropping somebody home right after we just left the party we was all attending that night [at] the Sheraton Hotel up in 151 Street off the Conduit [in Queens]. We was at the corner store and we seen ambulances and shit going over there. We was like, “Damn, niggas wilding out already?” Come to find out it was my nigga.
What was going through your mind at the time?
I couldn’t believe somebody shot my nigga. I never thought something could happen to a nigga, ‘cause we just represented the hood and everything we stood for was Queens. I never thought that something would even go wrong, so it bugged me out. It just fucked us up.
Did you ever try to figure out the motive behind his death?
Nah, I ain’t really focus on that. But they caught the nigga and all that shit. It is what it is, man. It’s a fucked up situation. No doubt about it.
Do you ever think you could have prevented his murder?
Yeah, I think about, like, maybe we should’ve left together and all that shit. I think about all that shit. I think about it [because] before he died, he told me he loved me that night, like, “I love you, nigga.” I was like, “Damn kid, no doubt.” That shit hurt. Nigga died on my birthday—March 28. I celebrate that shit and I mourn for my nigga.
How did his passing affect the dynamic of the crew?
Tah had his team of niggas he was fucking with on his side of town. Spiggy had his team of niggas. I had my niggas. Lou had his niggas. But we were all one crew. But after Tah passed, it was like; people on his side and my side didn’t know how to communicate no more. It was different. Niggas weren’t fucking with each other, rumors were popping off and shit definitely went crazy. My nigga Spigg got locked up doing bank robberies or whatever that shit is. Niggas ain’t stay focused on what it was about. It was always about making music and keeping [our] legacy poppin’. I’m gonna still make it pop, but I’m just gonna have to bring it back to the essence for those in my camp and those outside that might’ve forgot how we do it. That nigga was a big part of that. I miss my nigga [the most] when we do shows. I’m doing “Renee” and “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimas & Benz,” and I don’t have my nigga bouncing with me.
What are some of your fondest memories of Tah?
When we were all out in Jamaica, shooting the “Love, Peace & Nappiness” video. That nigga Tahleek was wild! The entire day was crazy. We was riding on the back of that truck…the whole experience was crazy. It was the four of us just doing it. It was just bananas. I miss that nigga. That nigga was just an ill hype nigga. Sometimes I might dream that I’m talking to this nigga, and I’ll wake up like, ‘Damn, I was really buggin’.’
Did he have plans beyond The Lost Boyz?
Oh yeah, he had his groups. He [had] his crew, the 134 All-Stars. He was juggling projects he was going to put out. He was out there bumping shit for the ‘hood.
Do you feel The Lost Boyz’s legacy is often overlooked?
No doubt about it. We were trendsetters. We started a lot of things. Right now, there’s a lot of gimmicks going on. So it’s kinda crazy, but it’s good to see niggas eating ‘cause there are a lot of jobs out there for niggas right now in the music industry. It’s not like niggas is making music where niggas can learn from the shit anymore. The nigga Lil Wayne is lookin’ like me [Laughs]. I love that lil’ nigga. Certain things niggas was wearing, like white tees and all that. When we brought it to the table, it was like the labels were scared, but now everybody is doing it.
Have you kept in contact with Lou and Spigg?
Pretty Lou is straight. He’s taking care of [his] shorties right now, to tell you the truth. I guess he got his little artist that he’s fucking with [too]. [Spigg Nice and I] talk through our friends. We talk through our peoples. A lot of people think I owe niggas. There’s a lot of people I don’t fuck with no more, ‘cause my nigga is gone. I don’t feel I should fuck with certain niggas I don’t like. I been in the studio doing what I got to do, staying fully focused. And it’s like, if niggas ain’t on the same shit you trying to do with the music, you got to do what you got to do.