Say Cheese, Sheek

I haven’t been to many rap concerts, which means a lot of my exposure to the genre is limited to albums, music videos and the occasional live concert YouTube video when I’m monumentally bored at work. I never paid much mind to this deficiency in my hip-hop consumption until I hit up the Ghostface Killah show in Ann Arbor in October. I don’t need to dedicate much space to saying Ghostface knocked his set out of the park. The real surprise of the evening, at least in retrospect, was Sheek Louch.

I’ve never been much of a Sheek fan, and full disclosure, his set didn’t change that. If anything, it left me and my friends underwhelmed and wondering, “What the hell is Ghost coming on?” Sheek just doesn’t boast a terribly distinguished catalog and for some reason, the sparse instantly recognizable joints in his arsenal (“Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” & “Mighty-D Block”) were truncated during the set.

Despite the lackluster showing, something about the set stuck with me in the weeks that followed. For as forgettable as the actual music was, Sheek’s demeanor is tattooed on my brain. Rappers of Sheek’s cut aren’t the most cheery-looking musicians out there. Most photos of these guys a Google Image search turns up look similar: Mean-muggin’ guy with a chip on his shoulder. There was some of that during Sheek Louch’s 30 minutes on stage, but that expression was outweighed by smiles.

Yes, Sheek Louch, the guy who’s got five albums packed with raw, make-your-parents-cringe lyrics, spent much of his time on stage trying (and failing) to restrict a toothy, ear-to-ear smile. Details like that are reminders that there’s still that genuine passion for what they do that despite the calloused image a lot of these performers project. In retrospect, that genuine enthusiasm peeking through Sheek’s face that night reiterated that the material—the money, the cars, the women— are peripheral to the sheer passion of standing before an audience and spitting some bars.

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