Presence (released November 15, 2019)
Remember how after 2pac’s death we learned that he had recorded countless songs and one-off verses in his lifetime, enough to fill up about a half dozen albums well after his death?
Well, the homie Styles P must have the same work ethic, and he’s not waiting until he transitions before y’all hear what he has to say.
Though the Ghost has been relatively quiet on mainstream airwaves in recent years, he hasn’t slowed down. The LOX luminary has been in grind mode since his first solo project way back in 2002. Presence, his 10th LP, is his second this calendar year, following S.P. the GOAT: Ghost of All Time and THREE projects in 2018 –Dime Bag, G-Host and Beloved with Dave East, the latter two winding up on our best albums of 2018 list.
To paraphrase his former employer, he won’t stop cuz he can’t stop.
For the unaware among us, P helpfully spells out the meaning of his new project on the album cover:
The state or fact of existing, occurring or being present in a place or thing.
And when it comes to hip-hop, his presence is a present. Presence is exactly what you’d expect a Styles P album to be. In this era of inconsistency, it’s great to know whom you can depend on.
“Bad Man” starts pretty much like you’d predict – Holiday Styles thuggin his way through Butta’s reggae-tinged hook. It’s a great appetizer for the project’s main course – “Blam Blam Blam,” featuring Conway and Benny the Butcher. The Griselda gang is cut from the LOX’s cloth, so they have instant chemistry on this East Coast banger. Styles’ imagery is as wild as ever as he threatens to stick up Santa and fry up Rudolph for Christmas dinner. Black Friday indeed.
My favorite Styles is introspective Styles, and as always, he has wisdom to spare. “The youth need an old head, I keep a G for them,” he says on “Blood Sweat and Tears,” content with embracing his elder statesman role. He encourages the downtrodden to keep their head up on the minimalistic “Golden” while motivating himself to maintain his paper chase on “Numbers Don’t Lie” – “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t/Men die, women die, numbers don’t/What you think I’m tryna hit my number for?”
As usual for a Ghost record, the atmosphere is appropriately moody and melancholy, with occasional quirks to keep things interesting. The gentle soul bounce of “Brand New” probably shouldn’t work, but it helps mellow out P’s rugged flows. The haunting hand claps on “Yes Lord!” have a nice knock and there’s something that sounds like a random harmonica that interrupts the menacing “Gotta Know.” Whatever it is, it adds a lot to the creepy atmosphere.
At just 10 tracks and barely 30 minutes, Presence is as seamless as you can get. It’s no-frills hip-hop that won’t appeal to all listeners, but P has made it clear that he’s not a people pleaser. He makes his music on his terms.
It’s yet another lesson from the immortal OG.
Best tracks: “Blam Blam Blam,” “Blood Sweat and Tears,” “Gotta Know”
4 stars out of 5