There's a refreshing moment during "On the Road Again" where LOX member Sheek Louch admits his last album didn't do well, but it's back to the drawing board, this time the independent label drawing board where there's more freedom. Without this freedom, the great "45 Minutes to Broadway" probably wouldn't have the quirky, hypnotic Havoc-produced loop it does, or the sleazy swagger of "One Name" probably wouldn't be as irresponsible as it is (although the seduction-oriented track with Carl Thomas as guest does go against the album's opening declaration that Sheek is so free there will be "no R&B"). Frequent target 50 Cent gets a proper thrashing on "Maybe If I Sing," a track that's triumphantly vicious or simply amusing depending on whether or not you take the D-Block versus G-Unit war to heart. All these tracks make After Taxes a filling, winningly diverse street album, but it's the infectious "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye" that really makes the album pop, partly because Beanie Sigel delivers a line about feeding and burping his disrespectful protégés, but mostly because of Sheek's snide verses and extremely catchy chorus. Topping it off is Ghostface's cool boasting on "Movie Niggaz" as the man brags about having "Enron money" over the Alchemist's soulful production. Skits that are funny and an endless parade of wry putdowns and pop culture references that deserve a laugh out loud are all contrasted with bleak, vivid verses that are primal rage and provocative (leaving your enemy's dead body where his children play isn't even the worst of it). It's an interesting, uncompromising combination that suggests Sheek is a more complicated artist than given credit for, but the bile and thugging that make the album so street and independent is intense enough to alienate gangsta detractors. There is an overall feeling the tracks could have been ordered in a more sensible way, but After Taxes handily beats his solo debut while giving the LOX faithful something to bump as they enter their fifth year of waiting for the crew's return.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Carl Thomas
feat: Ghostface Killah
feat: Styles P