Float (to be released April 16, 2012)
Jay-Z. Nas. Eminem. Even the mighty Rakim.
At various points in their stellar careers, all of those greats have been accused of inconsistency.
That term never has – and likely never will be – applied to Styles P.
As one third of The LOX, P might not be known for the razor wit possessed by Jadakiss or the energy and charisma of Sheek Louch. Instead, he’s an amalgamation of both, which results in intense lyricism with an adamantium-hard edge. On his sixth studio album, Float, Holiday Styles links with producer Scram Jones and once again proves he’s hip-hop’s best clutch player.
Scram Jones has been a longtime collaborator of Styles P, so listeners will enjoy an instant chemistry between the two. Scram whips up tracks that sound like the score of a horror movie. They’re perfect for the hip-hop Phantom’s lyrical rampage.
“Rap spelled backward is par, you ain’t up to that,” P spits on “Manson Murder.” That track, along with “Bodies in the Basement” are tailor-made for Styles, which set a dreary mood while providing just enough breathing room for P to cut loose. It’s pretty amazing that after nearly two decades in the game, Styles sounds hungrier now than he did during his rookie season. Even guest star N.O.R.E. brings his A-game, bringing that “Jeffrey Dahmer drama” on “Manson Murder.” N.O.R.E. hasn’t sounded this good in years.
Speaking of guests, D-Block shows up in fine form here. Sheek provides is usual manic energy to the first single “Hater Love” while Jadakiss sprinkles punchlines across “Red Eye.” There’s even a brief Wu-Bock reunion with Raekwon on “Reckless.”
As always, Styles takes time out to adore his favorite lady, Mary Jane, on “I Need Weed.” It’s not bad but not nearly as memorable as earlier anthems like “Good Times” and “Blow Ya Mind.”
Where Pinero really excels is when Scram Jones takes his soulful production to the streets. “Shoot You Down” and “Take It Back” are the essence of Styles’ character – equally upscale and grimy. In case you’ve forgotten, he’s still a gangster and a gentleman. Both tracks are pavement-pounders but the soul samples and wit give them character. “Get a candle to circle the whole crew around/find a nice little spot to boo-hoo around.” Not too many artists can threaten their enemies while dropping wisecracks.
The set wraps up with “Screw Y’all” – take it as a message of nonconformity. Many of his peers have spent their entire careers chasing the latest trends for cheap radio spins. Not Styles. Float is exactly like the five albums that proceeded it: A glimpse at life on the streets narrated by one of the game’s foremost storytellers.
As he says on “Shoot You Down,” “I just keep it real, they just care about swagger.”
No surprise there. He’s been keeping it real for years. Consistently.
Best tracks: “Hater Love,” “Shoot You Down,” “Manson Murder”
4 stars out of 5