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A man on fire

Back in the day when New York radio actually carried some weight and before the payola scandals hit, the Lox got as much airtime as anyone. It was an event when the Lox dropped a record; Angie Martinez couldn't stop talking and Funkmaster Flex would drop the bomb like his hand was stuck on the trigger.

 

The trio consisting of Styles P, Jadakiss and Sheek Louch live by a simple motto: We are the streets. Although Jadakiss remains the most recognizable member of the group, it is Styles P who has dropped the best solo record, and with the long-delayed Time Is Money set for a December release, he may have one of the best hip-hop records of the year, as well. Whether that album was delayed due to the beef with 50 Cent, the lack of a marketable single or the rise of the South, Styles P's situation is living proof of industry rule 4,080: Record company people are shady.

 

Enough to make any grown man go crazy, Styles P is fully focused on making the industry feel his pain and give New York a reason to stand up. What separates Styles from the rest of the bunch? Not many artists can provoke knowledge of self without abandoning their street credentials.

 

[more:]

You and the Lox have gone through much drama, beef with other artists and industry politics. Have you ever thought about leaving rap behind?

Styles P: Yeah, a lot of times. A lot times I felt like that.

 

Over the years, the Lox have attracted lots of different problems with rappers. Why do you guys attract so much attention?

Styles P: We the streets. We always there.

 

Regarding the beef with 50 Cent, you're well-established in the streets, respected as artists in hip-hop among fans and fellow artists. The only way 50 really could get at you was in the wallets. Was it worth coming at him or should you have just let it go?

Styles P: Probably should have let it go. It definitely held some time up [with Time Is Money], I believe. I won't contribute the whole time to that, but I definitely think that it had a big part to do with that.

 

Time is Money has been delayed multiple times. There are a lot rumors as to why it's been delayed, but do you have any ideas?

Styles P: I wish I fucking knew. I really do. Industry politics, man: It's all I can think to say. 'Cause if I knew, I would have likely slipped the news and everybody would know why.

 

So you're a chalking it up to industry politics, you don't feel--

Styles P: Industry politics, sabotage, whatever you want to call it. Black-balled. I don't fucking know. I just know it's really incredible for me to go through it.

 

Your original single for the album was "I'm Black," and I think it would be funny to see the reaction of Interscope's executives when you dropped off the single. It reminds me of what Dave Chappelle talks about in Block Party, saying Dead Prez could never get their music on the radio. Did you find it defeating that your previous single "I Get High" got so much play and "I'm Black" wasn't getting any spins?

Styles P: Shit yeah. That got something to do with [the delay] I believe. I chalk it up to a lot of shit. I really don't know whoever or whatever was said to make the delay so long. That's why I wish I knew.

 

If the youth can't take a message from a song like "I'm Black," where do they go for knowledge? Back in the day, I could listen to Public Enemy, Wu-Tang -- they all had messages in their songs. It seems like now whenever an artist makes a statement, they want to take it off the radio. Where can the youth turn now?

Styles P: I don't have the slightest fucking idea. I'm thinking the same exact thing as you. Besides self knowledge, books and information. You got go get the artists' shit, got go out and find it: Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, the Roots. You got to go out and find it.

 

Is there any issue you feel that is being overlooked in the community and the streets?

Styles P: I don't really think they care about the streets. I think you hear the streets in hip-hop. The industry makes the dollar and hip-hop is the culture. They use the culture part to make the dollar, but don't really care about the culture part. I wouldn't know what to say, but it's fucked up. Let's just pray it gets back around.

 

In 2002 you did a little time, and afterward your music has taken a different direction. Is that age and wisdom coming in?

Styles P: I definitely mellowed out. You mature. You get wiser. And it comes from wanting to reach out more. I already solidified my spot in hip-hop as far as the hardest on the street, the most street cat and all of that. I want to give some other people lanes, do some other bigger things. But at the same time I still take a lot of time out to put out a lot of mixtape work, and that ain't mellow.

 

Back in the days when New York radio meant something, you and the Lox were always on with Funkmaster Flex or Angie Martinez. To this day, people still want a Lox record. How do you explain that staying power?

Styles P: Being true to your art. I think people respect people who really put a lot of shit into their work. You like other shit, but at the same time you need real shit to. I think that is what gives us that edge.

 

About six months ago I talked with Ghostface about the changing landscape in New York City hip-hop. He basically felt New York got soft. Do you think he is overstating the problem?

Styles P: Hell no: It fucking sucks. Niggas suck. Shit is trash now; it's real weak. I think the youth is not being educated enough and not being steered in the right direction. The influence of the how much you sell and who got the biggest diamond and cars, who has the Phantom -- hip-hop kind of fucked it up. When you got all of that shit, that kind of shoots out a message, and it takes a lot out of the game.

 

With hip-hop being so big and you being able to make so much money in it, I think that became the point for most of the industry and artists: making sure my chain is bigger, my car bigger or I am selling more than you. Back in the days of KRS, Public Energy, Rakim, Kool G Rap, EPMD and Jungle Brothers you couldn't even say, "I am fucking selling more than you." That wasn't even a thought. Nobody gave a fuck what you were selling. Niggas gave a fuck if you were nice. Did you have something special? Was you going to leave a mark? I don't think that is the point anymore. I think the point now is to get the dough, the spins.

 

The Dogg Pound recently released a video for "Cali Is Active," and everybody from the West was in it: Xzibit, Ice Cube, DJ Quik. That seems like that could not happen in New York right now. In the past artists seemed more willing to collaborate.

Styles P: I hear what you saying on that one, but I got disagree with you to certain point. The only time I ever seen all the rappers I wanted to see together would have been "Self Destruction." Couple of weeks ago I seen KRS and Rakim on the stage together, and that was the first time in history. That was history, you know what I am saying? You never got to hear Rakim and KRS or a song with Rakim and Kane. You heard Kane and Kool G together on "the Symphony" 'cause they was in the Juice Crew. But you never heard a Kane and Kool G song besides that. Or Kool G and Rakim. Or Kool G and KRS.

 

I think New York has always been competitive to a point. I think during the Puff era and the Wu era, you just started to do features. Like people getting together from other crews. Back in the days, they used to do it here and there, but very seldom. New York is a real competitive spot. Everybody really wants to be the best. We can never really get together that much, especially nowadays.

 

I read you are trying to do a few mixtapes before the album comes out. In particular, you plan on working with DJ Drama. How important is it for you to reach out to the South?

Styles P: It's real important. They got it popping the most right now. You got to get yourself heard in that market.

 

Since Time is Money has been delayed, have you changed anything up?

Styles P: Just a couple of songs. It's basically the same.

 

Are you that high on this project that feel you don't have to make any changes? It's been three years since its completion. Are you confident that it still can rock as hard today?

Styles P: Yeah and no. Good music is timeless, but then also it is a good time to put out good music. A good song is going to be a good song forever. But then there is a point where you could put out a good song at the right time and get a bigger bang or a bigger impact.

 

Do you find it hard to balance your street records with your more conscious records? Are those things mutually exclusive? Is it the same Styles P making those records, or is it you trying to hit different markets?

Styles P: Nah, I'm me. I am who I am. I don't think anybody in the world feels one way all the time. I just give you my emotions. One day I feel like making "I'm Black," one day I feel like making mixtape shit, one day I felt like making "Can You Believe It." It's reaching out and just wanting to do new stuff. It's just me being me.

 

Looking forward is there going to be another Lox album?

Styles P: Definitely so

 

There has also been talk about another D-Block compilation. Is that in the works?

Styles P: Yeah, we just try to get this paper work for the Lox shit right first.

 

I guess now that you are free from Puffy, the Lox project can go forward.

Styles P: Yeah. We working everything out.   

 

***

Styles P: http://www.stylesp.net/

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/stylesp

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