by Alex Shtaerman
Set to drop his latest album, Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman), December 4th, longtime street-hop favorite Styles P has continued to stay relevant amidst Hip-Hop’s changing eras in a way few MCs that started rhyming a decade ago have been able to do. A member of three acclaimed rhyme syndicates including The Lox, the Ruff Ryders and most recently D-Block, the Yonkers bred lyrical phenom has managed to maintain a cult-like following on the mixtape circuit in between dropping gold albums and rhyming alongside fellow group mates Jadakiss and Sheek Louch. From serenading the late Biggie Smalls on “We’ll Always Love Big Poppa” to taking center stage in feuds with Roc-A-Fella’s Beanie Sigel and later 50 Cent and G-Unit, Styles retains an almost unparalleled street cred as well as the rare ability to reach Hip-Hop’s increasingly fickle mainstream audience. A difficult feat for an artist of any genre, Styles attributes his success to his continual growth as an artist: “I think when you’re MCing it’s a learning process and practice makes perfect. So I just try to keep learning and expand my mind and then it shows in the work”. Recently we had a chance to catch up with Styles P and talk about everything from his new album to his love for Hip-Hop and the potential for another Ruff Ryders reunion. Read the interview and get up on the latest!
RIOTSOUND.COM: Throughout your career you’ve been able to walk that thin line between maintaining your street credibility and underground fanbase while at the same time having the ability to periodically cross over into the mainstream. Many would surely point to that as the hallmark of your career. In a way the name of your new album, Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman), speaks directly to that aspect, as far as being able walk on both sides; how do you see it?
STYLES P: Pretty much, I think when you’re raised or live in a certain environment but you’re trying to get to a certain place, you need to definitely be able to live on both sides of the coin. In the business world and the regular world you definitely want to be a gentleman and a cool person and someone that people can do business with and get along with. But on the streets, if you call yourself a street MC, you should be able to walk amongst those people who buy that music and who the music is for. I’ve always felt like that and I’ve always tried to give what I’m doing 110% and leave it at that.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Can you talk about recording Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman), you got Ghostface on there, Akon, Black Thought; what was the recording process like and what were some of the concepts you were working with as far as the type of record you wanted to bring to the fans this time around?
STYLES P: Well, as far as the sound, the music and the concepts, it was all mainly a straight Hip-Hop vibe. I picked the people who I wanted on it because I respect their work. I believe they’re true Hip-Hop people and true lyricists. And as far as the vision I had for this album, I felt like [the different collaborations] all fit. On my first album I just used my partners [Jadakiss and Sheek Louch] and M.O.P, that’s as far as rappers, and on my second album it was my partners and Talib Kweli. But with Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) I wanted to go out a little further and do something a little different and do songs with people I respected and had admiration for their music.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Obviously, one of your major strengths as an MC is your refined lyricism. Lyrically speaking, how do you feel that you’ve evolved over the last decade?
STYLES P: I definitely get better, the album shows it, it’s the best work I’ve ever done. I think when you’re MCing it’s a learning process and practice makes perfect. So I just try to keep learning and expand my mind and then it shows in the work. [You need to] keep the fire and the hunger and it shows.
RIOTSOUND.COM: At the time you were still coming up in Yonkers, before the record deals or anything like that, who were you a fan of? Who were your favorite MCs or, for that matter, musicians of any genre?
STYLES P: I loved Kool G [Rap], KRS, Rakim, Chuck D, Jungle Brothers, Ultramagnetic [MCs], Chill Rob G. I was always a big fan of Marvin Gaye. [Then later on] it was Biggie, Nas, Jigga, Raekwon, Redman, Lord Finesse, just Hip-Hop in general, you know, Buckshot Shorty, Black Moon, Stetsasonic, the list goes on and on. It’s just about being a fan of Hip-Hop and loving this art, you know what I mean. I just always had a deep passion for good lyrics and good MCs and the way they put it down. So I just [liked] a lot of MCs that was nice.
RIOTSOUND.COM: When you talk about certain things in the streets, its not just talk, you’ve personally endured a lot of adversity as well as spent time in jail. Right now you are married and have two kids ages six and ten. As they grow older, what kind of picture do you try to paint for them as far as the harsh realities of street life as well as the path that they should try to follow in life?
STYLES P: I mean, I just talk to them about it here and there. You have kids not to burden them with your past; you have kids to brighten their future. I let them face reality with current events. They watch TV, they hear the news, they know what’s going on but we don’t let them get too much of [what they shouldn’t see until they get older]. They still kids, you know what I’m saying; so with things that are in their face that do come up, I talk about it and discuss it with them if I feel it’s a problem or if they feel it’s a problem. I just try to raise them to be better. My kids ain’t on the streets, my kids don’t live in the streets, you know what I’m saying. They know from what they hear and what they see when I might be traveling or when I’m moving or when we go to visit family. But shit, my kids live in the ‘burbs, so you don’t burden them with that kind of stuff, especially at a young age. That’s something that you wait until they get a little older. I mean, you break it down a little bit here and there and tell them that they lucky to be fortunate and sometimes I explain [about] when I was in certain situations when I was they age and what happened to me or what I went through at that particular time so that they could get a grasp of how lucky and fortunate they [actually] are. But we don’t try to go too deep. When they get a little older is when I really get to break it down to them.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your career has had several eras to it; there was the Bad Boy era, the Ruff Ryders era and most recently the D-Block era. From the perspective of making music and enjoying Hip-Hop in general, what would you say is your favorite one of those three eras in your career?
STYLES P: Uhmmm… as far as putting [the music] out, I would have to say [the present] era because I’m feeling the greatest I’ve ever felt with releasing this album. It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever been and the most free I’ve ever felt making an album. As far as enjoying the music, not my music, I’m just talking about music in general and Hip-Hop, then it would have to be both the Bad Boy and the Ruff Ryders eras. Both of those eras were critical times in Hip-Hop. There was a lot of elevation as far as good MCs becoming great entertainers. I felt like good MCs were also great entertainers [at that time] and I don’t see that with the present era too much.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Are you planning to tour in support of Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman)?
STYLES P: I’m on a promotional tour right now, just going through cities, going to radio stations, going to perform shows. I mean, I think you always gotta do that. I’m an artist that’s always done that and I definitely wanna catch a real big tour too. But it’s definitely important for you to hit your fans and reach your fanbase and hit your peoples, especially for an artist like me, that’s always been a point. That’s just a way of life for me.
RIOTSOUND.COM: We’ve also been hearing of things bubbling with a new Lox album, can you give us an update on that?
STYLES P: Yea, I figure it’ll be out by summer. We got a bunch of songs [already] and we’re going to do like ten or twelve more. [Jadakiss] gotta release his solo album, Sheek is gonna release Silverback Gorilla in February and my album is out December 4th, and then after that we working on The Lox joint.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Periodically we hear rumors of a Ruff Ryders reunion and then it seems the rumors are discredited. Is there any chance of a Ruff Ryders reunion happening sometime in the future?
STYLES P: Yeah, everybody is still cool, people just do different business. I don’t see why not.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Is it something that might happen after The Lox project drops?
STYLES P: I’m not sure because there’s a lot of things [at play], we got a label, they got a label. [DMX] does something, Eve does something, so I couldn’t tell you that because it’s [something that involves] a lot of people. We were supposed to do a show [together] and we was gonna do it, we had no problem with doing that. But, you know, I couldn’t tell you [the status] of [a Ruff Ryders Reunion at this time].
RIOTSOUND.COM: You got the new album dropping December 4th, what else should the fans be looking out for as far as Styles P goes?
STYLES P: Get that album, get my partner Sheek’s album, cop Kiss’ album and watch out for that Lox album, marinate with that Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) and hold ya boy down.