Styles P is the walking definition of a veteran who stays consistent with every new release. In 2013, SP teamed up with New York mainstay Scram Jones for Float that had him stepping out of his comfort zone and exploring a less gritty sound. Even as a known staple in hip-hop, Styles thrives on switching the style up to progress himself as an rapper. On his seventh solo release Phantom And The Ghost, he taps into the spirit of weed smokers, street hustlers and gang bangers, who are seemingly the perfect trio of listeners for his hard-hitting bars.
Piano, violins and the occasional horns with a rigid beat and plenty of bass dominate the album’s tracks to give its dark supernatural feel. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. The production complements the paranormal theme of the LP well, but it would be better to change the aura of the beats a little more to break some of the monotony. These concerns are evident in cuts like “Deeper Self” and “Never Trust,” where they follow the same pattern of bland, bass-heavy use with little variation.
Besides falling into that trap a bit, the Yonkers MC does an exceptional job rapping the joys of smoking marijuana on tracks like “Smoke All Day” and “Never Safe,” but he also explains how the drug is one of the few ways brothers from the hood have to deal with day-to-day street life. On the aforementioned “Deeper Self,” he spits, “I’m from the hood where everybody need the help / Smoking reefer helped me to get into my deeper self.”
P switches up the vibe on “World Tour” featuring Vado, which flips A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour,” using the same tools in his arsenal found on “Rude Boy Hip-Hop” to make a lighter sound. On the track, the LOX member states his contentment with being a New York star instead of a worldwide crossover success.
Elsewhere, the Yonkers native pays his respects to the most important hook flick of all time. On “Never Trust,” the opening is taken from John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood, where the main character Tre decides not to roll with Dough Boy to kill the dudes who murdered Ricky. In the world of Styles, the song gives warning to cats who think they’re ready to go to war on the streets, but who don’t have the heart for it. On “Creepy City” featuring fellow D Block member Sheek Louch, Styles P realizes lack of money isn’t his biggest problem. “I rather be a have than a have not / But there’s a lot of shit I would rather not have, drama,” he spits.
Phantom And The Ghost spends less time bragging or detailing street life, and more time pondering how things came to be and if it’ll ever end. The album is another great addition to Styles P’s growing discography that once again gives consciousness to what’s going on in the pavement. – Barry Ward