avid Styles is a self-proclaimed problem. He’s adamant about you knowing it, absorbing it, and passing the declaration on to the next man. More often than not, listeners are overrun with gangster tales and tough talk that varies from phony album rhetoric, fabricated industry imagery, and true-to-life hood legends and trap stars that fall way short of below average lyricism and quality effort. Fortunate enough for rap fans and authentic Hip-Hop heads alike, today is a Holiday.
Styles P not only knows “The Key” to life, but also, the foundation of what makes a man. Being raised in the ghetto, trapped in the revolving door of prison and the block, there’s no where to go but up. While only one person is sure of what Styles has witnessed, his vivid storytelling and relentless verbal savagery can make you feel like life is the biggest horror flick of all. But there’s the gangster, and then there is the gentleman. The anthem Im Black resurrects a Panther’s spirit and a King’s dream. How often does the community receive positive inspiration from Hip-Hop music without it being deemed as corny or too far left?
Sitting in Harlems Juice Bar, Styles P finds comfort in his surroundings and the conversation. The often quiet MC revisits the records, roles, and groups that hooked him into Hip-Hop before hooks were required. The artist isnt afraid to admit emotional connection to his lyrics or spiritual connection to the triumphant life hes led. But the man who calls himself The Ghost aspires to use 2006 and Time is Money to make his hardest out title more visible, and his presence much more problematic.
AllHipHop.com: We’re in the health food spot. Are you a health conscious dude?
AllHipHop.com: Have you always been that way?
Styles: A good five, maybe six years now.
Styles: Yeah, but I eat fish. I don’t do the dairy products, chicken, or beef.
AllHipHop.com: You feel a difference?
Styles: Definitely so. Plus, I got into it because I have kids. Nowadays, all the s**t that’s going on with the food, you’ve got to feed your kids right. You gotta lead by example. You can tell your kids to do the right thing, but if they don’t see you doing it. Basically, it’s just me being conscious of raising my kids.
AllHipHop.com: What makes you such a spiritual person?
Styles: I can say I’ve always been spiritual my whole life. My moms is a spiritual person. I grew up in a Christian household. When I was 12, I grew interested in Islam on my own and started reading books, pamphlets and going to the mosque. Religion’s not for everyone. I don’t knock people who are into religion no matter what they believe. That’s for them. Personally, I’m more so spiritual, and I keep my relationship with the Higher Power. He knows what I’m gonna do. I’m just living out the physical. Sometimes religion is real judgmental of one’s character. And only God can judge me. Other people can judge you, but it doesn’t count. But it counts when the judge in the court judges that ass and you going in.
AllHipHop.com: Does being a spiritual dude distinguish you more from the other L.OX. members?
Styles: Yes and no. You don’t know how spiritual they are; I just vocalize it the most. Everyone is spiritual, whether they know it or not.
AllHipHop.com: What was your upbringing like in Yonkers, New York?
Styles: That’s a difficult question. As far as family, my mother’s from South Africa and my pops is from Brooklyn. They separated probably when I was eight years old, and I stayed with my moms. To be real with you, I come from a trials and tribulations family; street backgrounds, alcoholic backgrounds, I’m a kid that was in a group home, so I come from a lot and had to maintain and be strong. I also come from not listening to my moms, running the street and doing what I want to do. I learned the game at an early age, knowing older hustlers and the street life. You got a foreign mom going to school… I wanted [to be like] Delta Force in sixth grade. I also worked mad jobs, different stock jobs, I did all kinds of s**t just trying to stay right. I moved out at 17.
AllHipHop.com: That work ethic was instilled early.
Styles: That was always in me. That comes from my moms, a family of hard workers. Being foreign, getting a green card and your own place isnt easy. If you want to get something, you keep going and working hard, pray to God and be thankful that you’re alive.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve seen New York go through significant changes. What’s the biggest difference from the ’80s to ’90s and now?
Styles: The MCs ain’t nice. That’s the biggest difference; there aren’t as many nice MCs. When I was coming up, I was listening to Afrika [and] Mike B [in the] Jungle Brothers, EPMD, KRS, Kool G, Rakim, Kane, Craig G, Stetsasonic, Ultramagnetic, Chill Rob G.. that was crazy! From the 90s era, it was Nas, B.I.G., Hova, Wu, the Lox, early Mase, Big L, the list goes on and on. Nowadays, if you don’t got no radio s**t or no hooky songs, you f**ked up. They don’t really care if you’re a nice lyricist.
AllHipHop.com: Is it that way because Hip-Hop has become more popular or because of an increase in competition?
Styles: To me, you got Hip-Hop and you got the Industry. Where I’m from, Hip-Hop is you getting the underground s**t first. That’s Hip-Hop. You ask someone else, it’s the latest song that’s on TV and radio 20 times a day. It’s different to everyone, but it’s all intertwined. Hip-Hop is knowing the earliest, hottest n***a before he’s even out.
AllHipHop.com: What were some of the early trials and tribulations that the L.O.X. had to face before getting into the game?
Styles: Like everyone else, the streets. Getting out of high school, dealing with coming up as black youth. Just being a teenager trying to make it. With me, I had gun charges at like 19… just being caught up in the streets.
AllHipHop.com: So even before the deal, the L.O.X. music was felt?
Styles: Before we were the L.O.X., we were the Warlocks and before that, the Bomb Squad. It used to be Kiss and Sheek. They were The Jungle Brothers and I was Q-Tip, or they were EPMD and I was K-Solo. They’ve been real professional since we were young. I was always good in the streets, but they were good in the booth early. They were from one side of town and I was from the other side of town. I got up with them around Junior High/High School and they were polished.
In school we were always flowing. A bunch of young MCs just going hard in ciphers. We would go hard, make tapes and give them s**ts out. We’d be in the studio… we were on the indie route in high school. We started selling our tapes ten dollars a whop. You get you a good eight songs and we were hard, we were hot. I was on songs here and there and hooks.
AllHipHop.com: Those early tapes are probably worth a lot of money now.
Styles: That’s classic material.
AllHipHop.com: Your tenure in the game has been a minute and you get a lot of respect from the streets. How important is commercial appeal at this time?
Styles: Honestly, right now in my life it’s more important than ever. Without that, you don’t really get no money and you can fall in the dust. I could say my hardest verses, but people always acknowledge my simpler verses. “Get High” was simple to me. It was that s**t, but it was simple. “Locked Up” was simple “My Life” was simple. All that radio s**t is simple, not to knock it, but I didn’t go in my core for that.
I try to balance it out. Before, I used to block out the commercial s**t. I don’t really know how I got a little commercial success, to tell you the truth. I’ve just been honest, them joints hit home because it’s the truth. “Get High” is my life. Being “Locked Up,” I know about, so it was the truth but it was easy for me. I gotta be thankful and grateful because they’re still getting to know me. On the real tip, a couple of white kids came up to me the other day and said “They f**king jerked you on ‘I’m Black.'” I’m like, Wow, that s**t was crazy to me! They felt it was a real song. SP isn’t prejudice, but SP is pro-Black. There are plenty of white people in my life that have helped me out. SP is prejudice against those who are prejudice. I feel sorry for them. Before I was like, “F**k you.” Most people that are prejudiced against you are going to be your own people. That’s the double-edged sword. With “I’m Black,” there were plenty of black DJs who could have played it. But I know they couldn’t play it because they may have felt that they were stepping on their own dinner plate. I can’t expect that. I’ve been through the most s**t, and I’ve got the most street credibility in New York. I’m going to take my time out to say something to the youth because I’m concerned. I’ve been in jail, sat and stared at those four walls, saw thousands of homies that got jerked and to say, “Damn I feel sorry for that n***a, that’s my homey and he got 20.” I still got to say something.
AllHipHop.com: We’re in Harlem, 125th street. In a recent article, Hell Rell proclaimed to be the hardest in the streets, which is known to be your rep. He said he “respects SP, but as far as the hardest in the streets, he’s not f***ing with me.” I wanted your thoughts regarding that comment.
Styles: I like what he’s doing and what he’s saying. I like that hunger. It’s going to take him awhile to do what I’m doing. Jim Jones is my man, and I’m cool with Cam. Dude pays me my respect and I can’t knock him, that’s the attitude I came in the game with. I’ma earn my s**t and be the hardest in the street. Y’all n***as gotta earn it. You gotta go a long way to take that SP title. You got a long way to go, bro. You working on it, but you got a long way to go and I’m nowhere near rusty. I’m just warming up. I’m a problem. I do this off blunts. Anybody who’s ever been in the studio with me knows no pen and paper ever. I’m a problem! I got six albums right now. I like the boy’s ambition. But you gotta wake up early to f**k with me. Everybody, the best. Only n***a nicer than me is B.I.G. point blank, period! You might be slicker, more punch lines, but you better check my repertoire, everybody. It’ll take every rapper on the East Coast to start to break my exterior. That’s motivation for me. When he says he going for that title, who he says got the title? The Ghost.
AllHipHop.com: You said you have six albums. When can we expect Time is Money to drop?
Styles: It’s coming in August. They can’t stop me. Get the next Ghost mixtape, if you saying a n***a f**king with me. Tell him he gotta wake up early. I want AllHipHop to know what the kid’s about. The kid’s about making songs like “Favorite Drug,” “Can You Believe It,” [and] “I’m Black.” Then the kid’s about putting out five hard mixtapes a year. Hard! Beginning to end, you can’t deny it. Everybody’s beats rip! I been here, been with the best of ’em.