Styles P Biography
Styles met Sheek in junior high but it would be until they began attending Gordon High School that the trio would form The LOX. Though he didn’t graduate from Gordon-he did get his degree while in county jail-his mother, an educator, instilled him with an appreciation of knowledge. “My mom’s a reader. She’d bring me to the library and I’d be down in the kids section,” he remembers. “[To this day] I enjoy a good book.” The reformed drug dealer cites Kool G. Rap and KRS 1 as his main rap influences with heavy dosages of everyone from Big Daddy Kane and Ultramagnetic MCs to Lord Finesse and the Jungle Brothers. “I grew up a rap head. I was the cop every tape kid,” he says.
His story after leaving the life of crime for a life of rhyme has now been told infinite times. The glossy sheen of The LOX’s days at Bad Boy Records (their 1998 album Money, Power, Respect went Gold) conflicted with their grimier rap aesthetic and ended with them demanding their freedom to slide over to Ruff Ryders Records. After another LOX album, We Are The Streets (2000), Jadakiss was the first to release a solo in 2001 (Kiss Tha Game Goodbye) and Styles followed with his own in 2002.
“The first album did a lot better than I thought it would,” admits the MC also known as The Ghost about his Gold selling debut. “I had expectations of just making a good album. A Gangster & A Gentleman is definitely a classic in the hood.”
Whether as part of the triple threat that is The LOX or as a solo artist, Styles’ razor sharp slick talk has enamored him to countless heads that like their Hip-Hop hard to the core. “I always looked at myself as one of the hardest, street spittin’ MCs,” he says.
Braggadocious claims are inherently Hip-Hop but Styles has the skills to back his claims. But he does retain a level of humility and astuteness that will help further his career. “I can’t honestly say that I feel I’m the all around best as far as making good radio songs,” he rationalizes. “I wasn’t looking at the game on a business level, like I should have been. I was looking at it as an artist. This album I went in as a business person slash on my extra artist shit. Anybody that knows me or works with me will tell you that I put in a lot of work. That’s part of my reputation, good hard work all around.”
That busy business schedule includes sharing Co-CEO of D-Block Records duties with Jadakiss and Sheek. He’s also raising his two kids-daughter Tai (10) and son Noah (6)-and is engaged to his girlfriend. On the artistic side of things he’s been just as busy with his guest appearance on Akon’s “Lock’d Up” and Jadakiss’ “Why Remix” keeping him on the mainstream radar. However, along with his own hit songs, including “Good Times” and “The Life” as well as burners with The LOX (“Money, Power, Respect”, and “Ryde or Die Chick”), the aforementioned songs didn’t take Styles to that next level of rap superstardom. This go around he’s prepping to do just that, but without forsaking his rap principles.
“Last album I stood to my format, what I do,” he reasons. “This album I tried to get in everybody else’s lane but in a natural transition. It wasn’t forced. Nobody could ever force me to do a song before, like, ‘Yo, you gotta do this kind of song.’ I’d be like, Hell no I ain’t doing that. But this was a conscious decision like, Yo, I’ma go out there and on this album I’ma have songs for the ladies. Cause I done proven my point to niggas time and time again.”
While he proved that he had the goods to hold an album down for self with A Gangster & A Gentleman, the album’s run was prematurely cut short. While in the midst of promoting the album, Styles was ordered to turn himself in and serve an eight month sentence for charges stemming from an altercation a year before. The involuntary vacation, he was released August 4, 2003, served as a serious wake up call to his priorities.
“When I was sitting in jail I didn’t make any music. But the first two lines of “I’m Black”, I thought of that in jail and I just kept it in my head,” says Styles of the inception of what may be his most important song to date. “For the longest time I was telling myself I wanted to do a song about being Black. But I never did it. When I came out Alchemist played the beat, and that was it.”
The magnificent track “I’m Black” featuring Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry is Time is Money’s lead single and finds Styles P lyrically offering a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Black man in an inherently racist world. Despite his propensity for gun busting lyricism, he’s always dropped a certain amount of knowledge in his verses. “I want to be known as the kid who’s saying some shit, and I hope that people catch the jewels,” he says. “Even when I’m coming hard, I always throw a jewel in it.”
“I’m a lyricist,” he continues. “We’re in an industry where lyrics don’t really count anymore. The beat and the hook count. Nobody really cares what you say as long as they can play it in the club. But, at the same time they’re plenty of people that want to hear something.”
Throughout Time is Money Styles continuously packs on the heat that makes it one of 2005’s most anticipated releases. Though those familiar with the mixtape circuit have been privy to scorching Styles linguistics regularly, the album showcases more refined verses and finely chiseled songs. On “How We Live” dancing flutes and strings converse over thunderous kicks as Styles weaves thoughtful lyrics throughout the Havoc (Mobb Deep) produced track. The Mario Winans produced “First in Line” sports an underwater groove with thick shuffling base. More gems are provided by Scott Storch (“Day You Die”), Coco Chanel (“Tryin’ to Get Rich Homes”) and Bink! (“Watch Ya Self”).
“The standout experience I had in the studio with another artist was my joint with Sizzla, it was just magic in the room,” says Styles about teaming with the reggae legend on “Fire & Pain”. “The song with Talib Kweli, I knew that was going to be ill too,” he adds about “Testify”, where he teams with the Brooklyn rapper for some hardcore consciousness over Hi-Tek’s rubbery bass, where he kicks, “Damn right I make gangsta music, but I spit poetry just like Langston Hughes did.”
With Time is Money Styles sidesteps any notions of a sophomore slump by instead accomplishing the impressive task of surpassing the high expectations set after his solid debut album. For Styles, it was always part of his job description. “I always try to improve and get better,” he says. “Once you get to a point where you don’t need to get better, then you don’t need to be here.”