Super Gangster, Extraordinary Gentleman
Styles P is about as gimmick-free as it gets. Though controversy has followed him throughout his career--label disputes with Diddy, prison time, beef with Roc-A-Fella, and most recently, a beef with 50 Cent and his G-Unit camp--he's seemed focused on one thing: making the music he wants. And while push-backs and label drama have tried their best to keep him down, albums with his group The LOX, several mixtapes and his first two solo LPS have seen him do just that. The Yonkers, NY emcee has built a solid fan base from both his brutal, hard-hitting bars and genuine, thought-provoking soliloquies. With his junior disc, Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman), Styles sticks to the same formula.
Much like its predecessor, Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) features P playing contrasting roles. Though Blow Ya Mind is a picture-perfect dance floor filler with its Swizz Beatz backdrop and hook, even Styles P's apt lyrics can't save other crossover attempts (Let's Go, feat. Ray J and Look At Her) from insipid production and subpar hooks. P is more at home showing his tougher side: In It To Win It and Shoot Niggas rank right up there the previous hardcore posturing that has helped established his reputation, with menacing lines and gritty beats to match. Still, the more potent material doesn't come when Styles is befriending one of the album title's two personas, but while he's dwelling somewhere in the middle. Alone In The Street is a contemplative meditation on the isolation of a hustler, and the Ghost uses All I Know Is Pain to vent about his struggles and his obligations to help others.
Elsewhere, Styles P performs best on Super Gangster when working alongside equivalent or higher talents. A solid Ghostface Killah cameo on Star of the State encourages Styles to up his game, and U Ain't Ready sees Styles and Beanie Sigel trading bars back and forth over dirty horns by Dame Grease. The seemingly rarely-unified LOX--Styles P, Jadakiss and Sheek Louch--all wreck over the soulful bump of Pete Rock on Gangster, Gangster, showing chemistry that's sure to wet the appetites for another group LP. The closing Cause I'm Black is the album's shining moment, though. In a sequel to I'm Black from Time Is Money, Styles surprisingly collaborates with The Roots' Black Thought to spit commentary about the struggles of the race, with the latter turning in a late candidate for verse of the year.
While Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) is another solid addition to Styles' catalog, some may be disappointed in its lack of growth. Last year's Time Is Money was older when it hit stores, and Styles could have used the time off to have stretch his legs and come back with a change of direction or a flawless junior LP. Super Gangster doesn't see Styles exploring any new territory whatsoever. But with Holiday, what you see is what you get--and for most D-Block fans, that's more than enough.