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|Before establishing himself as a
solo artist in early 2001, Grammy Award winning rapper and actor,
Terrance Kelly a.k.a Mr. Cheeks, made a name for himself in the early
1990’s as a member of the seminal, platinum selling rap group the Lost
Along-side band members Freaky Tah, DJ Spigg Nice and Pretty Lou, the original dreadlocked South Jamaica, Queens rap quartet the Lost Boyz gained world-wide critical acclaim following the release of the certified Platinum and highly acclaimed debut Legal Drug Money (Uptown / Universal 1996). The classic hip-hop album produced five Billboard Hot 100 and Top 40 singles featuring the hit song, "Lifestyles of the Rich & Shameless", the gold-status single "Renee", as well as "Music Makes Me High", "Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz" and "Get Up". In 1997 , the Lost Boyz released another certified gold album entitled Love, Peace & Nappiness (Uptown / Universal) which featured another Hot 100 hit single, "Me & My Crazy World" and one of the groups most famous single , "Beasts From The East" which featured A+, Redman and Canibus. Deemed underground favorites, the Lost Boyz enjoyed success, toured the world, blessed stages overseas, and participated in countless projects. The group additionally contributed its "Renee" single to the ‘Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood’ movie soundtrack, were featured in the hip hop documentaries ‘Rhyme and Reason’ and ‘Statistic’, and appeared in Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst" television commercial.
On the night of March 28, 1999, at a birthday party for Mr. Cheeks, and at the height of the Lost Boyz success, LB member Freaky Tah was shot in the head while exiting the Sheraton Hotel in Queens. Tah was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:20 am, at the age of 27. When Freaky Tah met his unfortunate demise, the remaining Lost Boyz members finished their third album LB IV Life (Uptown / Universal 1999), paying homage to their fallen soldier. The Lost Boyz split-up soon after the release, and Mr. Cheeks went into retreat, taking a long hiatus.
Cheeks endured substantial obstacles throughout his young, yet remarkably dramatic life. Growing up in a broken home with no father figure and an alcoholic mother left his aunties and grandmother the responsibilities of parenting him. However, being a product of what most may view as an unfavorable environment, Cheeks was surrounded by a musically inclined family from an early age; his aunt Pat was married to Gil Scott Heron and his uncle Freddie Bucks a DJ at 98.7 Kiss FM, all of which influenced the young MC – who idolized the rapper Rakin - to eventually turn the tides in his favor.
Cheeks reminisces, “I remember my aunties and my grandmother loved to dance, and music was always at the forefront of entertainment in our household. With auntie Pat married to Gil Scott Heron, the energy of Heron’s music inherently influenced me daily. One day, my mother’s boyfriend turned me on to the McFadden and Whitehead song ‘Ain't No Stoppin’ Us Now’, a tune that changed the way I viewed music. My cousins and I would get together and sing along to New Edition, and that was the first time I remember thinking seriously about starting a singing career.”
Developing a reputation as one of underground hip-hop’s pre-eminent lyricists, in 2001 Mr. Cheeks resurfaced , crafting an intelligent and more aggressive , raw, raspy solo rap style , releasing his debut solo effort John P. Kelly (Universal) . Named for both his cousin and his grandfather , the album featured the massive hit "Lights, Camera, Action!" featuring P. Diddy and Missy Elliot as well as production by a broad roster of producers including Bob Marley’s son Stephen Marley, Bink!, and Easy Mo Bee. This time Cheeks came with a more mature outlook on life that informed his rhymes with a greater sense of knowledge and truth than ever before. John P. Kelly went on to sell over 600,000 units and featured a heartfelt tribute song to Freaky Tah entitled, "Till We Meet Again” featuring Stephen Marley, and the reggae-flavored favorite "Mama Say".
In 2002, Cheeks embarked on a world tour with N’Sync and P. Diddy, catapulting his name into the spotlight. Cheeks followed up with two more back to back solo albums Back Again! in 2003 for the Universal label, and Ladies & Ghettomen, an independent release that hit streets in 2004. That same year, DJ Spigg Nice of the LB crew was tried and convicted of multiple bank robberies in New Jersey and was sentenced to 37 years in prison. In response, the remaining Lost Boyz members released a compilation album Lost Boyz Forever released in 2005 (Contango Records). The compilation featured previously unreleased LB tracks, past hits featuring the original LB members, as well as unreleased vocals from Freaky Tah himself.
Cheeks comments, “It’s LB fam no matter what. We’re still here, still trendsetting, solo career or not, we’re still holding things down, representing that lost society of cats that didn’t think that they could do it. ”
In 2005 and 2006, The Lost Boyz chief rapper continued on with his solo career, and appeared on various singles including as featured MC on Lil Kim’s hit song, "The Jump Off" and acting in the independent film , ‘Brewster Project’ released by Madness Films. Known as the “King” of remixes , Cheeks also touts countless remix productions, including ‘I’m Going Down’ for Mary J. Blige , ‘You Remind Me’ a Lost Boyz remix for Usher, ‘Hands High’ featuring Elephant Man & Pee Duble, ‘Stress Ya’ featuring Jadakiss and Pharrell , and ‘Get By’ featuring the vocals of Kanye West, to name but a few.
From 2007 through 2009, Mr. Cheeks cemented his musical relationship with long time friend and business partner, Stephen Marley and the rest of the Marley brothers, appearing on the single ‘Iron Bars’ off of Stephen Marley’s Grammy Award winning album Mind Control (Tuff Gong / Ghetto Youths / Universal 2007), and collaborating on the single ‘Oh Girl’ off of Julian Marley’s Grammy Nominated album entitled, Awake (Ghetto Youths / Universal 2009). During those years, Cheeks also toured with Stephen Marley during his ‘Mind Control’ run; with Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley on his ‘Jamrock’ tour, and on several tour dates with Julian Marley during his ‘Awake’ tour. It wouldn’t be the first time the rapper collaborated with the Marley brothers. Cheeks contributed ‘Paradise Child’ to Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley’s Grammy Award winning album Halfway Tree (Ghetto Youths 2001) and additionally, in 1999, contributed ‘Guiltiness’ to the Stephen Marley produced remix album Chant Down Babylon featuring various hip-hop and rock artists covering songs by Bob Marley & The Wailers, which also garnered a Grammy award, marking a total of four Grammy wins and / or nods for Cheeks and his contributions to Marley related projects.
Cheeks explains, “Stephen Marley and the Marley brothers are my extended family, we watch over each other, we’ve watched our kids grow up. The connection I have with them is a blessing. Since our first meeting at Lollapolooza in the late 1990’s and through the constant musical collaborations we have been able to establish throughout the years, one thing always remains the same, and that is a common goal of creating purely good music with conscious viewpoints and positive vibes .”
From inception, the South Side Jamaica Queens, New York born native has practiced a sincere and literate style of underground New York City hip-hop, sustaining substantial critical acclaim with the Lost Boyz, and an elusive solo career. Cheeks joins the ranks as one of the most influential rap groups / rap MC’s hailing from Queens, NY along-side : MC Shan , Craig G, Juice Crew, Q-tip and A Tribe Called Quest , Pharoah Monch , Ja Rule, Phife Dawg, Jam Master Jay (Run DMC ) , Rev Run (Run DMC ) , Darryl McDaniels ( Run DMC ) , Talib Kweli , Nyce and 50 Cent, to name but a few.
Cheeks notes, “To my South Side Jamaica , Queens Father’s - Doc Johnson , Charlie Brown, GMV, Dewitt, J.P. , Spank G , Dodda Roc, Cooler B, 40 P and Tape Master , I pay respect to you all and to many more, you know who you are.”
Today, Mr. Cheeks finds himself front and center again as he prepares for the release of another highly anticipated solo album entitled, And The Winner Is , produced by Stephen Marley and due out on Marley’s own Ghetto Youths International label in late 2010 / early 2011 . The first single off of the album will feature Stephen Marley, and in true Mr. Cheeks fashion, the rapper promises to display the most versatile works that fans have seen in his 10 + years as a recording artist.
Cheeks entertains, “I know you all are tired of that fast food rap. Get ready ‘cuz I’m gonna fill in the holes of the current hip-hop music scene, I’m about to feed you a four-course hip-hop meal.”
With an endless amount of goals in sight, Mr. Cheek’s legacy is bound for success. Cementing a 2010 endorsement deal with Forever K Michael Designer Eyewear and an upcoming LB clothing wear line in the works, the versatile rapper is quickly becoming a triple threat.
“The Lost Boyz was the greatest experience of my life, but I love what I’m doing now. I’m here to fly, gonna raise the game ‘cuz I’m not afraid of pushing the envelope, and to me, not trying is worse than failing.”
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