Exclusive: The L.O.X. veteran says he thinks we're due for new weed smoker's anthem. The emcee-turned-author also profiles some of his favorite book titles.
In his words, the title is “self-explanatory.” Released through D-Block/E1 Music, The World’s Most Hardest MC Project by Styles P, will be his fifth studio album since 2002, and will continue to showcase S.P. The Ghost’s streetwise and hard lyricism that he’s championed for close to 20 years.
So far in 2012, Styles P has recorded an EP with Curren$y, put the finishing touches on The World’s Most Hardest MC Project, and had a significantly helping hand in the formation of Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch’s upcoming Wu-Block LP, all while participating in numerous lives shows and devoting any remaining free time to his two fiction novels that are still works in progress. “I always lean towards music, and I think I’m [going to] always do that but I’m trying to make sure I find a way to finish these books ‘cause I love just being creative in other forms too,” explains Styles.
Being a well-known commodity in the rap game since 1994 has provided Styles P with a certain consistency. He’s known for his Gangsta Rap lyrical tendencies, but he also provides an introspective wisdom that has stood the test of time. During a recent phone interview with HipHopDX, Styles elaborated on just how natural the process is to make a record.
HipHopDX: 2012 has been a pretty busy year for you. What have you been up to since the Jet Life Tour and Rock the Bells?
Styles P: Making The World’s Most Hardest MC Project, [and I] got another [mixtape] with Scram Jones coming - just really, music. Right now I’m strictly working on a book though, since I got a few projects in already, I’m just taking my time to work on this next fiction novel.
DX: What’s the book about? If you can talk about that...
Styles P: Uh, I’ll give you that in like two more weeks. I don’t want to talk about it yet. I’m at like the halfway point, so I don’t want to... I like to be at least 75% done at that point.
DX: I hear you. You’re definitely making a statement the with the title The World’s Most Hardest MC Project. What is it that’s making you assert yourself as the world's most hardest emcee in 2012-2013?
Styles P: ‘Cause I always been that. [Ask] the people. I just go. All my titles are self-explanatory. All my projects, mixtapes, albums, I try to give them self-explanatory titles.
DX: And the hard lyricism has always been a theme of yours. Not to knock anyone or any style in particular, but do you feel like Rap music has maybe gone a little softer in recent years?
Styles P: Yeah. Yeah, but no. I mean, I wouldn’t put it in those exact words; I don’t think it’s softer, but I think the people that do come extremely hard don’t get as much light as they should, I would put it like that. Media-wise, yeah. Content-wise, no. Media-wise [as in the music that is] being played, yeah.
DX: But you still think there’s a market for it? It’s just a matter of getting it through media-wise to bigger markets, and outlets, stuff like that?
Styles P: If that’s what you want to do. I mean, I’m at the point in my career and just the type of artist [that I am], I’m just into doing what I really like to do. So I can’t really speak for everybody, I’m just saying if you’re that type of artist, you’ll find a way and create your lane. There’s always a fanbase and a loyalty that’s going to follow it.
DX: And going right along with that, do you feel like you’ve had to switch it up at all with previous albums, or do you just stick with the same formula?
Styles P: Nah, [the] only thing I switch is when I want to switch [it]. I mean, when you come to fuck with me, you know you coming to fuck with a certain kind of music, and a certain type of brand. So I’m not trying to really switch that up to fit with... do you mean switching it up like trying to fit in with everybody else, or do I find that I have to do that? No, but as an emcee and as a rapper, period, you try to make sure you reach the old and the young. So I switch it up, but I keep it me.
DX: These days, break-beats aren’t as popularly used as they used to be. Do you think that’s had an impact at all?
Styles P: I can’t really say, ‘cause it’s just a different type of music out there, and a different style of emceeing, and a whole new generation. So I think as time moves on- I don’t really think a lot of people have much knowledge of Hip Hop that deep, you know what I’m saying? Even though they in the game.
DX: You've always made music that’s streetwise and hard, but you’ve also done a good job of using your intelligence and getting abstract with your rhymes. My question is: does it ever get difficult to make a street record that can still be smart and emotionally deep?
Styles P: Not for me. Well, every job gets difficult sometimes, it just comes with the nature of life. As far as work is concerned, when it comes time for me to emcee, I just do it. I let it flow fluidly and I let it come naturally and just do what my heart feels. I never really have that kind of problem; it’s just if I’m ever at a serious point and [don’t] feel like working, that’s about it. But if I’m working I don’t really have that problem. I think I work so much that it’s natural.
DX: On your last effort, The Diamond Life Project EP, you had a lot of guest appearances, as well as the EP you did with Curren$y and the upcoming Wu-Block stuff. Did you feel like it was important at all to keep outside involvement limited on this album?
Styles P: Yeah, and no. For the fact that I just did the things you named, I kind of wanted to [do], for this project, just me. As an artist you got to know you got fans that want to hear you with other artists, then you got fans who don’t want to hear you with other artists. So really, you just try to feed ‘em both, to be straight up frank with you.
DX: I feel like it’s also a little different ‘cause with your last few LPs, there’s always guest appearances there. Can you speak on that?
Styles P: I wouldn’t say my albums have had a lot of guest appearances; maybe Master of Ceremonies and A Gangster And A Gentleman definitely had a lot of appearances. Time Is Money didn’t have a lot of appearances, nor did Super Gangster, Extraordinary Gentleman; it had appearances, but not a lot. Just a couple.
I mean, like I just said, you got to feed both artists that want to hear you with other artists, and then you have your fans that just want to hear you by yourself. So me, I make it my business to make sure I fulfill both.
DX: Just a technical question: about a year ago, we were hearing about a World’s Most Hardest MC Mixtape, but we never saw that. What happened between then and now?
Styles P: I just made a whole bunch of projects, and it was just technical shit: paperwork, just, “when was I actually going to do it?” I do different projects in different places, so it was really exactly what I was going to do for the year. But The Diamond Life Project came up, so I didn’t want to stop other projects - [The World’s Most Hardest MC] - like that. So I just decided to put that first and then like you said, me and Curren$y had the joint.
So it was joints I had, and joints out circulating, so I didn’t want to overdo it, really.
DX: And you’ve spoken about using original production in order to avoid sample-clearance issues, but little is known about the production on this album. Can you speak on that?
Styles P: All the music I’ve been doing lately, I just been doing a lot of Soul music. I come in, listen to all the beats I got from all the producer I have from everywhere, and I just fuck with the ones I’m feeling at the moment, however I’m feeling that day. So to be honest with you, there’s no real strategic anything to it, but what I’m feeling and exactly how I’m feeling. I got to make music off of how I’m feeling and what I want to do. So whoever’s on [the beat], really, I’m just in the studio, smoking, and just...running through beats, and then when I feel a beat for the day that suits the feeling for that exact day, I just run with it.
I get in a bunch of zones: sometimes I just make a bunch of songs one way, sometimes I switch it up and make a different type of song everyday. Sometimes I just focus on my uptempo shit, sometimes downtempo shit. I switch up a lot, you know what I mean? It all depends on how I’m feeling that day.
DX: You don’t feel obligated to hook up a producer?
Styles P: Who, me? No. I mean, I think you should work with certain sounds, if a producer has a sound you like or a sound that suits you, I think you should work with them if you know that’s going to be good sounding music. You have an obligation to make good music if you think you can make good music with a certain producer, or [if] that sound usually fits your sound, I think you have an obligation to try to make that happen, if that’s how you feel.
But that doesn’t mean it has to be a known producer; it could be from a guy around the corner, but he might just fit your sound.
DX: And you’ve definitely got a catalog full of producers, you’ve worked with a lot of them. Just switching gears, “Good Times” is one of the most indisputable weed smoker jams. Today with all the young guns who love rapping about smoking weed- Curren$y, Smoke DZA, [Wiz Khalifa] - do you think we can expect another anthem like that, with that much airplay and familiarity?
Styles P: For sure. I think everything comes naturally. When I made [“Good Times”] without planning for it to be, “I Get High” I just made the song that suited me [laughs]. That was a powerful feeling, [Swizz Beatz] said, “You smoke a lot,” and that’s something I’m known for doing. That’s what I do when I’m working, so it was kind of natural.
I think there’s a lot of good joints, I think definitely there’ll be [another]. I’m not the first, nor the last, know what I’m saying? I’m just getting in it. [Redman & Method Man] got ["How High"], Cypress Hill got ["Insane In The Membrane"], [Snoop Dogg] got ‘em. A lot of people known for making weed anthems and great weed songs. I’m just lucky to be on the list and part of that shit.
So I think it’ll definitely come along. Stoners rule, you know that shit!
DX: [Laughs] Yeah, but at the same time it’s got to feel pretty good when you’re performing overseas and everyone knows that song too. Songs like that don’t come around very often.
Styles P: Definitely so. I’m not complaining, I’m very happy. I love it. It feels good to be a stoner and have a stoner’s anthem. [Laughs] I’m cool.
DX: You worked with Curren$y, are you going to try to work with any of those other guys at all?
Styles P: I let it happen, I work with a couple people. To tell you the truth, I’m not really much of a... the only thing I plan is to stay working. I don’t care how it’s done, I’m just glad it works all year round, really. That’s basically it, I just stay working and stay busy.
Actually, this is the first time... well, I’m working today, but see, even so I told myself I’m going to strictly work on the book, but I find myself in the studio once a week doing a couple of joints for somebody, or a feature here and there, or whatever. But this is actually the first time of the year that I’m just kinda chillin’. Even when chillin’ I’m working a lot, so it’s just natural, know what I mean?
[I’m] Just trying to focus on the book and just take my time, ‘cause I’m making music and keep putting the book to the side. I just keep moving project-to-project on music, so I just say, “I gotta take my time and knock this book out.” It’s important to me. [The] second novel’s important to me.
DX: I think Hip Hop fans everywhere are real excited for the Wu-Block album, you’re on four tracks. Can you give some background on your involvement?
Styles P: I’m on four joints, I feel good, I love the joints. [Sheek Louch and Ghostface Killah] spearheaded that, it’s a beautiful project, I love it. I love...rocking shows [with them]. I think it’s just something great for Hip Hop. Besides us being The L.O.X. and all that, it’s a good thing to do for me, ‘cause that’s people that I grew up a fan of also, as a Hip Hop fan and an emcee fan.
DX: And I love your D-Block/Wu-Tang collaborations, especially when you and Raekwon get on a track together. How do you two approach a track when you collaborate?
Styles P: Everything with me is natural, bro. I just try to make sure I’m sharp and pay my homage to emceeing and others who emceed before me, and those who’re going to emcee after me. I think I just try to focus on craft and respect the art of it, like anything you do; same way you’re a journalist and you probably check out other journalists and check out other artists - whether it be Hip Hop or anything else - but it’s your respect of the craft that keeps you ticking, that makes you wake up and do it. There has to be another journalist that you look at like, “Yo, he’s a fucking ill journalist, she’s an ill journalist, they did a dope interview,” or something. The same way you feel about that, I feel like that with emceeing. Besides me being an emcee and all that, I respect the craft of emceeing, the craft of wordplay, or even being able to say a rhyme over a beat that make[s] it ill, make people move to it and want to listen to it at the same time. So that’s pretty much how I go into everything: just respecting the craft and those who respect the craft with me, and trying to impress the listener and myself at the same time.
DX: Definitely, but you showed up on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II and he showed up on The Green Ghost Project. When you guys make those tracks, is it like you go to the studio and wait for the other to come in, and then do a track?
Styles P: That’s my G, it’s just natural. I think me and Rae work natural, it’s just a good combo. He’s on this other shit I got, I’m on some other shit of his. I think it’s just... I don’t know, I think we just click. It’s simple.
DX: And you’ve worked with Rae, Ghostface and Method Man, do you have any D-Block/Wu-Tang collaborations that you’re particularly proud of?
Styles P: All of them, really, to tell the truth. I have no particular favorite as of now, I’m a moody person: one day one of them will be my favorite, and the next day another will be my favorite.
So far though, I think my best/favorite Wu-Tang/D-Block collaboration is actually Ghostface and [Jadakiss], “Run." I love “Run” to death, but I love all the shit. I’m a fan, I’m a fan of all of them, I switch it up.
DX: Word, just a couple more questions. What’s next for you after this album and the Wu-Block album? Focusing on the book?
Styles P: Yeah I’m focusing on the book, The L.O.X. album, and that’s about it as for what I’m focusing on artwise right now. Trying to work on two books right now, so this year I’m trying to find balance. I always lean towards music, and I think I’m [going to] always do that but I’m trying to make sure I find a way to finish these books ‘cause I love just being creative in other forms too. Just trying to get poppin’.
DX: And that’s cool what you got going with the books, just a quick one, what are some of your favorite books?
Styles P: I got to always say Manchild In The Promised Land [by Claude Brown], all of Donald Goines’ books, I love Mario Puzo books, I love spiritual books like Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, The Prophet [by] Khalil Gibran. I’m like all over the place with books, and I think reading is kind of fundamental as an emcee. As an emcee you’ve got to kind of read - well for me, I do ‘cause that’s the weapons, the words are the weapons. So I try to make sure I read some good things here and there. I love Nikki Turner books, I love Dean Koontz Science Fiction books. I’m a little all over the place with books. Give me a good book and if it’s in the mood I’m in, them I’m cool.
DX: That’s what’s up. You’ve been in the game since about ‘94, and Meek Mill recently said he was thankful for The L.O.X. in his childhood when he was growing up, because with you guys he wouldn’t be where he is today. How does it feel to be considered an inspiration, as well as a guiding influence for one person?
Styles P: It feels great. When you give your soul to something, you hope that people receive what you feel in your soul. When you try to strive to do better and tell people where you’re from, like we’re from a certain place, or you lived a certain lifestyle, but you can strive to do better and try to get it in correct ways and they listen to you in a certain way, it’s a great feeling. ‘Cause it takes someone to do that for us, and so forth and so on. It’s Each one teach one.