After being part of one of the most influential crews rap has ever seen, Loon knows the value of putting together a potent project. “The reason I called it No Friends is because this is the first project that I’ve put together by myself,” Loon explains. “I put it together to put something out for the streets and show some diversity and balance, things I never got to show on Bad Boy. This is me being able to put forth a balanced view of me. I’m way too interesting to be looked at one way. This is me collaborating with my own artists and putting together some treats that people might not be used to be hearing from Loon.”
The aggressive “Run,” the first No Friends cut, goes a long way to introducing another side of Loon. It’s a stark warning to phony rappers that their time in the limelight is coming to an end. “‘Run’ is a statement, telling people to get their stuff together,” Loon says. “I’m coming and people might not be paying attention to me only because I put myself in the position to be a sleeper. ‘Run’ is a warning shot. People are getting over on a combination and an opportunity in the rap business.”
Loon continues his intense approach on the fiery “Live Or Die” and the searing Ma$e dis “Anova.” After helping Ma$e establish himself in the late 1990s, the two former partners-in-rhymes fell out. Loon decided to take on the new G-Unit rapper because of his flip-flopping between being a religious man and a gangster rapper. “I got the record out there on my own independently and it made its waves,” Loon says of “Anova.” “Now that you’ve got Mase’s music pushed by the G-Unit machine, even though my record was hotter, his got visibility. I wanted people to hear my lyrical achievement.”
In addition to his harder material, Loon provides plenty of his signature female-driven material on No Friends. “Eyes On You,” in particular, features Loon rapping about bringing a regular girl into an A-List world. Over a sensuous Middle East-flavored beat, Loon assures his lady that he’ll be staying focused on her. “It’s a different way for me to apply my style to the ladies,” he says. “I think girls will get a kick out of me pointing out a few things that are true, like how girls get down in certain competitive environments.”
Elsewhere, Loon features Boss Up Entertainment signee Gritty (one-half of the group the Teamstas) on the up-tempo “Straight Jacket” and on the club-ready “Belly Dance.” “I’m not just an artist now,” Loon says. “I’m a CEO so I’ve got to look after my artists. I thought those songs were perfect opportunities to give people a look at Gritty.”
Born and raised in Harlem, Loon knows how important a person’s look can be. The son of street legends and grandson of a man who ran with Bumpy Johnson, Loon represents the real Harlem, the street side of the New York enclave that gave it its international reputation.
With these high stakes surroundings, Loon wrote diaries as a form of self-therapy. Eventually, he translated his entries into rhyme form. “It was an escape for me,” he recalls. “It was a mental and physical therapy that helped me escape the reality I was dealing with.”
Loon’s skills made his slot in Ma$e’s super group Harlem World a natural fit. The nimble rhymer also impressed Diddy and eventually joined the Bad Boy family, appearing on the smash hits “I Need A Girl” parts one and two, among others. Despite the opportunity afforded to him through Diddy, Loon felt stifled creatively.
“I just played my position,” says Loon, who released his self-titled debut album in 2003. “I didn’t really feel like the Bad Boy situation was designed for me to establish myself as a person or a complete artist. But we created something major as a team. We brought that whole ‘I Need Love,’ LL vibe back. It was a beautiful crash course of a learning experience. I was side-by-side with a mogul and I feel like I made a nice contribution that brought back a creative vibe to hip-hop when everybody was trying to be tough.”
But Loon’s frustration has turned into a blessing. Since he was known primarily as a ladies’ man, Loon knows that the new, harder edge material he unveils on No Friends will surprise -- and impress -- rap fans around the world.
“I’m trying to walk the fine line while I’m putting my actual album together, which is titled My Harlem, My World, and is about my transition from the streets to the music game,” he says. “No Friends is an appetizer to get people to be prepared for more integrity coming from Loon. Unfortunately, I was only able to give one dimension of myself at Bad Boy. As an artist, I wanted to make a valiant effort to change that.”
No Friends does just that.