I don’t know who’s responsible for overseeing Styles P’s latest album Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman), but I wish they’d consider another line of work. From a purely musical standpoint Styles (amazingly that’s his government name) delivers some of his best flows in years, but his talent sometimes gets lost in the albums uneven execution. Styles’ lyrical expertise has been clouded by contract disputes for years, the fight between his group The Lox and Bad Boy Records is legendary, but things appeared to be clearing up when he signed to powerhouse label Koch. Now I admit …
DJBooth Album Review
Let’s start with the Super Gangster side of the equation. Styles P is inarguably at his best when he’s spitting vocals that don’t’ hesitate to smack you in the face. U Ain’t Ready takes the devil’s marching band on a tour through hell with production full of drum roll snares and ominous horn. I’d recommend you follow SP’s advice and throw on your hoodie before listening: “Gun (check), rope (check), hit the club rob sh*t doin’ coke (check).” Lines like that aren’t lyrically intricate, but Styles’ delivery is razor sharp. Plus, the increasingly prolific Beanie Sigel contributes yet another memorable guest verse. Koch knows tracks like U Ain’t Ready won’t make it to radio, let alone cuts titled Shoot N****s, so they did what everyone does when they need a radio hit – call in Akon. Got My Eyes On You bangs the same Konvict sound hip-hop fans could recite in their sleep, Akon delivers the chorus everyone expects, and Styles comes through with some tightly worded verses. So why doesn’t the track add up to something great? Is it reaching the point where Akon's becoming overexposed? All I know for sure is Styles P stands out from the crowd when he embraces the raw style that just doesn’t translate to mass success. In fact let’s go ahead and rename the album Extraordinary Gangster.
Which brings me to the Gentlemen portion of the program. I’m not sure there’s a gentlemanly song on the album, unless by gentlemen he means “someone who doesn’t shoot people.” Styles puts down the fists and picks up nature’s miracle for Blow My Mind, an unmistakably Swizz Beatz production full of ad-libbed shouts and a bouncing beat. One listen to Blow My Mind conjures up unavoidable comparisons to Drink N My 2 Step: similar Swizzy beat and a slowly paced flow that parallels Cassidy’s. While Styles does drop his most imaginative lyrics, “in the tub but it feels like an ocean,” I can’t help but think Drink N’ 2 Step did it better. I’d still take Blow My Mind over the album’s other less-gangster tracks. Let’s Go features top-notch quality production from Hi-Tek, but a chorus featuring pornstar/singer Ray-J doesn’t exactly scream gentleman. On the bottom of the pile is Look @ Her, a 90’s synth-heavy track featuring Styles P trying on his more romantic side. Look, I don’t go to Lloyd for hardcore rhymes, and I don’t turn to Styles P for my club music.
I’m not trying to deny Styles his cash flow, but these radio-friendly jams unfortunately dilute his often remarkably deep lyricism. All I Know Is Pain uses an underground Alchemist beat to lay the foundation for Styles’ brutally honest response to critics of gangster rap: “You ain’t gotta condone it, but you was never homeless.” In fact the album’s full of scattered proof that Styles is a more intelligent MC than many heads give him credit for (Alone in the Streets for example). These tracks deserve more attention than they’re likely to get, and that’s a damn shame. I may be a professional critic, but I don’t want to just criticize. In the end I have a pretty clear idea of what an outstanding Styles P album sounds like: no pointless comedy interludes, fewer club-oriented tracks, more cut-throat lyricism like Star of the State, and more political flows like Cause I’m Black. I even have a title worked out for my fantasy Styles P album; Extraordinary Gangster (Superb Street Poet). Somehow I doubt Koch will be offering me a job anytime soon.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 12/7/07
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"For Real ft. Gerald Levert" (2006)
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