Over the course of his nine-year rap career, Styles P has enjoyed getting a level of respect from fellow MCs and fans of hardcore rap alike that some rappers can only dream of. His solo debut, the gold-selling A Gangster & a Gentleman, is a certified hood classic, and as a member of the lyrically revered Lox, Styles has proven himself to be a force in hip-hop.
Yet major solo commercial success has somehow always eluded the Yonkers native, a fate not uncommon to artists who prioritize credibility above radio and club spins.
The past year has been an interesting one for Styles P. He had public beefs with artists such as 50 Cent and Diddy and struggled to drop his second album, Time Is Money. He parted ways with his label of five years, Interscope Records, and most recently was involved in a major road-rage incident where he suffered a broken leg. xxlmag.com recently got the lowdown from the Ghost about his run-in with an 18-wheeler, his current label situation and the game plan for his solo career.
How’s your leg holding up?
It’s coming along.
So what’s the story behind that whole situation?
An unfortunate incident. What happens in regular life. He almost killed me at an intersection. He cut me off and had me swerving and all that. I asked him what’s up through the window. He gave me the finger and shrugged. I got frustrated and got out and threw napkins at his grill, and he ran my Black ass over. Basically, don’t ever, ever get out of your car when you’re arguing with somebody.
You seem like you’ve mellowed out somewhat in recent years, so it was a surprise to hear about the incident.
Yeah, but if you get cut off by a tractor trailer and you ask the person what’s up and he starts shrugging and giving you the finger and all of that... I mean, I did have baseball bats and everything in the car, but I didn’t get out and try to do nothing crazy. I was frustrated, and I had a box of tissue in my hand, so you know, shit happens. I’ve definitely tried to remain cool the past couple of years, but it’s another lesson to live and learn from my brother. To all the people out there, do not get out of your car. Take a breather. Do something. To tell you the truth, I’m just happy to be able to walk again. I’m fortunate that I’m not dead, because a lot of people wouldn’t have came up out of that.
Word is that you’re no longer signed to Interscope. Is that true?
I’m a free agent. I’m no longer on Interscope, and I’m no longer on Ruff Ryders as a soloist. I’m still there with the Lox, though, on Interscope and Ruff Ryders.
How’d you get out of your deal?
They let me out of my deal. Basically, I went and spoke to Dee [of Ruff Ryders] and Jimmy [Iovine, Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records], and to cut a long story short, I explained to them the situation I was in. I put a lot of music out, and I understand how their machine works. It’s a big machine over there, and they have a lot of huge artists. I’ve been in the game a long time, and I just wanted to start making some money. I feel [like], the kind of artist I am, that I need to be able to spread my wings and do different kinds of things. I think they understood that I was frustrated, but it’s a business. So at the end of the day, we worked something out, and here I am.
Do you have any idea where you’d like to sign as a soloist?
Definitely independent. Whatever I do will be 110 percent independent. I’m not sure which one yet. We’re still having talks and waiting to see which one sounds the best. Whoever will be behind me the most and willing to work with me. That means a lot to me.
How many albums do the Lox owe Interscope?
Probably like three or four.
When can we expect to see that next one?
Definitely this year. We’ve already been in the studio working on it. I think they just did a song last night, and I just have to put my part on it. We have to handle the political part, like releases and all that, but definitely this year.
Most people seem to enjoy your new album, Time Is Money, but think it’s too short…
Definitely, and I’m sorry that happened. I apologize, but it’s short due to the fact that I knew what my situation was gonna be. Plus, a thing called song cap. I didn’t think the album was gonna sell a lot and be successful, so after 12 tracks, when songs have samples and stuff, that comes out of me. I have to pay for it, and I didn’t want to be too much in the hole, you feel me? Then as far as the dated songs, I’ve been trying to get this album out for three and half years. I had to put it out though, and I knew that was gonna be the response. Actually, I thought there were gonna be more complaints, but then people were supporting it and saying it’s an alright album.
I feel the same way, because you have to understand that I make music as a fan, too. I wasn’t even moved too much. I wanted more new, fresh stuff. But with the time I had to put it out, and then you have to clear songs and go back and do this and do that, I just couldn’t afford to push it back any further. But tell them the new one will be out around March or April.
A new solo?
Yeah, a new solo. I’m already back in the lab. So for those people that happened to, payback is coming. I work fast, man. I wouldn’t say it’s done, because after the release, I wanted to do all new music. I might put a song or two I had, but right now I have about eight songs done. So from the end of February, when I get out of this joint, to March, I’ll probably do around 30 songs and just choose from there and go.
Does this new project have a title yet?
I ain’t name it yet. Ask me in like two weeks. I’m sitting here busting my brain, smoking like a muthafucka, thinking of a name. I’m gonna be messing with Pete Rock, Preemo, Vinny Idol, Dame Grease. It’s gonna be a real East Coast Dungeon sound.
You recently said in a rhyme on "Testify" that, if you could vote for president, it would be for Al Sharpton. But you’ve also expressed distrust for the system. Do you really have any faith in any of our elected officials and the promises they make?
I feel like there’s a government, and then there’s a government that runs the government, and we don’t know nothing about that, so how much power can you ever really have? If they can jerk the votes and a presidency can be rigged, then how much power can you have? That’s just my personal opinion. But if a guy comes in office and never before have you had this problem with voting, then that should be a big problem in this country. Which it was. Then the towers went down, and everybody forgot about it. We went after Bin Laden, never caught Bin Laden, and then it was almost voting time again, and then we had beef with Saddam.
I expressed that about Sharpton because he’s one of the people I seen in the streets. When you see the kid in Queens shot 50 times and you see Sharpton showing up, he’s one of the people I see there, so I gotta respect him for that.
He catches a lot of flak, though, even in the Black community. Some people label him an ambulance chaser and a media whore.
Until I see other people on the scene, I’m not gonna knock him, because at least he’s on the scene. Maybe he is doing some of it to help himself politically, but how is that different from any other political person? At least he’s near the families, on the scene. To tell you the truth, sometimes I pay attention to politics and sometimes I don’t, because it’s so blatant, in your face, and then it’s like you don’t see what’s going on. They’re gonna do what they want to do, anyway. They’re still sentencing us the same. All the sentences for our people are wrong. The justice system isn’t even equal for us.
What’s your biggest regret in your career?
I don’t know, because your mistakes of your past are what makes you the man you are today. Musically, I wish I would’ve come into the music business knowing more about the business. I wish I would’ve come in bookwise, if anything. But you know what, if I would’ve spent all my time on that, I might not have been the MC I was. And then where I came from and where I live, that was kind of a difficult thing. You don’t even really see yourself making it. So you’re really trying to work on that before you think, “Let me go get some books and learn the ins and outs of publishing and marketing and album placement.” You don’t know that shit coming in as a teenager. And it’s not like I came from suburbia land either.