Styles P is a character actor. Which isn’t to say the man they call the Ghost is faking his guns-‘n’-drugs talk; his iron vacation at the Valhalla Correctional Facility ensures that no one has to check his résumé. Rather, he’s something of a throwback, the rap equivalent to film vets like Warren Oates or Robert Ryan — a weather-beaten dude who conveys a deeply troubled, overwhelmingly masculine experience through a minimum of gestures.
As the heavy for the Yonkers, New York gun club D-Block (a.k.a. LOX), Styles dropped in on songs like “Wild Out,” telling candy-ass rappers he was going to make coffins out of their plaques, then receding behind Jadakiss. But something happened to Styles on the way to being a second-tier MC: People noticed his first solo album, A Gangster and a Gentleman. Sure, it had Glock hymns that made the block hot, but it also featured two soul-survivor anthems — “Good Times” and “The Life” — that gave him a depth he’d lacked on songs like, say, “Y’All Fucked Up Now.”
So stakes is high for Styles on his delayed second album, Time Is Money. The record was probably benched for its lack of dance-floor fillers, with the exception of the Lil Jon-produced, Akon-hooked single, “Can You Believe It,” which finds Styles admiring a girl in…capri pants? (He didn’t get his name for staying hip to women’s fashion trends.)
Time falters when Styles tries to be the guy who’s “first in line at Bergdorf Goodman.” He’s better as a curbside pundit on “This Is for Real,” admitting that he’d make more money on the street: “I know rhyme ain’t crime, but I prefer this.” Styles faces the man in the mirror on “Testify” — which sounds like an extension of Jada’s breakout poli-sci hit “Why” — and on the elegiac “Message.” On the latter, he intones “a message to the jail”: “I don’t really write because it’s hard to say ‘Keep your head up’ through the mail.” Playing the conflicted villain, he’s found his best role yet.
See also: Sheek Louch, After Taxes (Koch, 2005)