Styles P doesn’t like to talk—at least not in interviews.
The consummate “gangster and a gentleman” is polite and professional when dealing with intrusive media types, but firm in his persistence to push through nosey Q&As as quickly and vaguely as possible. (The Ghost would likely give even the savvy investigators seen on “The First 48” fits in an interrogation.)
So it came as more than just a little bit of a surprise when during his most recent conversation with HipHopDX the usually tight-lipped street scribe was talkative and revealing, tackling topics head-on with unflinching candor.
In one of the most forthcoming conversations of his 15-year career, Pinero revealed that the “politics” blocking the release of a new LOX album have still yet to be resolved (and that businessmen other than Bad Boy’s head honcho are really responsible for the 13-year delay in following up 2000’s We Are The Streets.) SP continued to let his normally guarded approach to interviews go and really opened up when his discussion with DX turned to addressing a bit of “Hater Love” being shown towards the author/juice-bar owner/emcee’s just-released project, the Scram Jones helmed Float. In maybe one of the more frank moments of real talk from any rapper in recent memory, Styles explained to his supporters (both old and new) why his approach to music has changed in recent years (and why he may never release another proper solo album.)
For fans of the rare artist these days who is actually unafraid to tell the truth, the interview below is must-read material.
Styles P Breaks Down Why “I’m Black” Was Banned
HipHopDX: I wanna start off this Q&A by asking you a sorta heavy question; a question I’ve been curious to know the answer to for eight years. Is it true that Clear Channel and Radio One banned their program directors from playing “I’m Black”?
Styles P: I’m not sure about Clear Channel and Radio One. I know it was banned on a lot of radio stations just period. I mean, you can tell by the amount of spins. You don’t hear it [during] Black History Month…too often. You might hear the [track] behind something or one or two people play it. I dunno, I feel it was banned.
DX: Why do you feel that? Did somebody say something to you specifically?
Styles P: From the record label’s position at the particular time, they wasn’t saying it [specifically], but they was giving a vibe like it wasn’t such a great song to put out…push. It just wasn’t getting what it should’ve. If you’re an artist who pays attention, and you watch how one thing gets pushed, played and how they push a button, and then something else—I blame society on the whole for that one though.
DX: Why do you say that?
Styles P: Because it was easier to put out “I Get High” and get a response than “I’m Black.” But that’s just how society really is. The reality of it is people like to pay attention more to negative shit than positive shit. And that’s just how it goes. So if you’re a person who wanna drop jewels, if you’re not straight conscious and straight backpack and known for that, it’s like you gotta sneak ‘em in and slip ‘em in.
Let’s take movies for instance, is the most violent movie gonna sell the most this week or the most peaceful movie? So I take it like that. I just took it as society wasn’t…ready.
Styles P Announces Collabo With Earl Sweatshirt
DX: Switching gears here to a totally different topic…Odd Future’s cerebral spitter, Earl Sweatshirt, told Peter Rosenberg during an on-camera interview at this year’s South by Southwest that Styles P is one of his favorite emcees of all time. Are you up on Odd Future’s music? And if so, are you a Sweatshirt supporter?
Styles P: Mmhmm, I know about Earl Sweatshirt. And yeah, I appreciate [the props.] I actually spoke to him.
DX: Oh, word?
Styles P: Yeah, we gonna get some music in. We’ll definitely be having some music in the future. You definitely can look forward to that.
I appreciate young people. I like working with ‘em. I like the fact that they like working with me.
DX: You gonna try to go into their chamber; you gonna do some music that sounds kinda like what they do, or are you gonna bring him into your chamber?
Styles P: I think I’m a well-rounded emcee, where I could pretty much rap along with anybody. So, I’m pretty comfortable with whichever way it goes. I’ve rapped with the likes of you can say backpack, Gangsta Rap, mainstream, stoner music.
DX: Yeah, Curren$y.
Styles P: Yeah, you name it. Curren$y, Talib [Kweli], [Rick] Ross, Pharoahe [Monch], M.O.P., N.O.R.E. I’m wide-range.
I’m a broad-ranged emcee. So, I think I fit in with a little bit of everything to tell you the truth. As long as I like the beat, you gonna get my style; you gonna get what I wanna say. You know me, I’m not a person that tampers with the sound. I don’t really stray off. If I do, it sounds newer. But I ain’t trying to rearrange my formula to fit in. Once my formula don’t work no more, curtains close. I will bow out gracefully and slide. But you ain’t gotta worry about me trying to switch the formula up to fit in with nobody. Either I fit in or it don’t work.
Styles P Reveals Ruff Ryders’ Role In The LOX’s Limbo
DX: Switching gears again, to the topic that comes up in every interview that you’ve done for like the last dozen years. A year-and-a-half ago you told me that y’all was “close” to resolving the “politics” behind the decade-plus delay in releasing a new LOX album.
Styles P: Yeah. Right now we just got music and people are sending us offers. But we do have a bunch of songs in. You’ll be hearing a LOX song any day this week—from the [Funkmaster] Flex mixtape I believe that drops pretty soon. So you’ll hear a fresh new LOX song over a Jhalil beat. We got a couple bangers in the hard drive with Swizz [Beatz.]
So, we working. People sending in they papers, but we working. [Jadakiss’] closing out his album. [Sheek] Louch working. I’m working. We all working towards getting where we gotta get.
DX: So are the politics resolved though; is the paperwork straightened out?
Styles P: Nah. The politics ain’t resolved, but it’ll be worked out I’m pretty sure. I’m keeping a positive light where it’ll just work out.
DX: You guys are staying op-ti-mistic. [Laughs]
Styles P: Yeah, you have to be optimistic. I mean, you know, it is what it is. And sometimes it’s hard to explain business to people who don’t get business. So, to explain the business to millions of fans that really won’t get it ‘cause it takes years to get. Or you have to actually be in it, that’s like…you gotta be in it to know it sometimes.
DX: Well can you give it to the HipHopDX readership straight; is it Ruff Ryders, Bad Boy or Interscope that are really the ones holding this shit up?
Styles P: We resolved our Bad Boy thing. However, we gotta work it out with Ruff Ryders and Interscope somehow. I don’t think it’s a big problem. I think it’s just we gotta work it out. That’s why I said I’m very optimistic that it can all be worked out.
DX: In you and Jadakiss’ interview with MTV around that time we last spoke in 2011, ‘Kiss shouted out “J Records, Geffen Records, Atlantic, Warner.” J Records doesn’t even exist anymore, but are any of those other deals still do-able, or have folks walked away from the table ‘cause y’all can’t move?
Styles P: We The LOX, so people [still] send the things in. Right now we don’t really care about that, to tell you the truth; we just working on the music. We got some shit in the hard drive, we got some joints coming out, so we just working on the music. The player’s in the game change every six months or every year, as far as the bigwigs and who’s winning. So, we always get [offers]; they always send it in; people always express their interest. And, besides just being artists we’re also businessmen, so we’re cool with a lot of businessmen in good places. So, you know, it’s just about when it works out all perfectly.
DX: One more question about them businessmen and then I’ll leave the topic alone. You were talking about fucking with Puff again at one point a few years ago. Are you saying that possibility is off the table?
Styles P: Nah, nothing’s off the table, and more is on the table. I’ll leave it like that: nothing went off the table, and more is on the table. So we just about work.
And to tell you the truth, I think I can speak for the whole group when I say this, we don’t give a fuck about the [business] right now. Everything else is…we’ll get to that when we all wrapped up with the music. We all trying to do a bunch of music and squeeze that in at the same time. And the difficulty comes sometimes that we all on the road separately as solo artists. And, when we make music we like to have it in sync. So you hear the in sync-ness when we rap [together.]
DX: Yeah. I mean, you guys always still rock together on each other’s solo shit. But the streets need at least one more trio album—and y’all need it too if you guys wanna solidify your legacy as one of the great groups in Hip Hop history.
Styles P: No doubt. We working on it.
DX: You told Montreality last year that y’all are “the realest Hip Hop group in history.” You know I gotta challenge you a little bit on that. Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan, LOX tops ‘em all?
Styles P: I still say we’re the realest. I mean, we never broke up. But I also have to tip my hat on that same note to M.O.P. and De La Soul—if they broke up, I never knew about it. So, when I say “realest” I’m not talking about music being made or none of that, I’m talking about real to each other. Like, we’re being real to ourselves and real to each other. You never heard of money coming in between us. You never heard us airing our business out about each other nowhere to nobody. So our legacy stands as the most loyal street group that ever lived.
DX: You guys never had like a brotherly scrap…?
Styles P: Nah. We argue; we don’t be scrapping.
Styles P Challenges Criticism Of Recent Projects
DX: Now, I gotta turn this conversation towards the topic that a longtime Styles P supporter like myself really doesn’t wanna have to address. I listened to Float, and it’s cool. But it’s more or less in the same sonic and lyrical vein as your last album, The World’s Most Hardest MC Project. So, not to be belittling, but just genuinely curious, I have to ask if at this point you still have the same passion for making music as the guy who made personal and powerful classics like “All I Know Is Pain,” “I’m Black,” “My Brother,” etc?
Styles P: Of course! This is what I do.
Float and Hardest MC, I was just emceeing. And that’s what I do. I do projects. They switched the mixtape game up, so I do projects, I do albums, I do whatever. Master Of Ceremonies: very lyrical album. I don’t think you can find a bunch of albums that even have that feel. But, Hardest MC and Float to me are like projects. I don’t know what people call what no more, so I don’t even get caught up in it, or worried about it.
But to me, when I make something of a straight topic or a straight feeling, that’s what I’m trying to give you. When you know I’m trying to give you a body of work—if you know me as an artist you know I’m very broad-ranged—you know you gonna hear something real insightful, I’m gonna give you something soulful, I’ma give you something painful about myself.
I was just being a lyricist [on Float.] And at a time of [limited] lyricism, I believe that that’s always important: is to have bars. And, I ain’t in as much pain as before. I’m in a better place in life. I’m an author now; I own a juice bar; I’m pretty much happy every day. I have my down moments, but …
A lot of my music came from real life experiences. All my music comes from real life experience. All my music comes from a sense of feeling. I throw the beat on and I get a feeling. I give back what the beat is giving me ….
World’s Hardest MC and Float are like album-mixtapes. So I’m not here to give you what I gave you on Master Of Ceremonies, ‘cause it’s not that. I can’t switch the way things are labeled and marketed…all mixtapes are albums now if you ask me. On mixtapes years ago you could do something over somebody else’s beat. I can’t do that no more. You do that now, you get sued, Feds run up on you, all kind of shit could happen. The mixtape game has switched. So, I’m just trying to switch with it.
I may never make [another studio album]. I may; I may not. I don’t know. When I’m making an album and I tell you this is my album, you know how it is. When I say what it is, the producer’s I’m going to—this is one producer, Scram Jones. Me and him made an ill project. I wouldn’t particularly call that an album myself, because an album is a body of work [with multiple collaborators.] But “album,” “mixtape,” “project”—that’s why I call everything a “project,” me personally.
To be honest with you, and actually truthful, you’re not gonna hear another Styles album from me until after The LOX, or after the In and Out [duo album with Jadakiss.] I’m not even trying to give no more of that ‘till after I do that. So I’m not even in that realm, because that takes a lot out of your life. You have to get in a certain mindstate, a certain zone. And, right now I’m not on the “I” mode. We need The LOX to work.
Music is so different now, from fans, people, how things go, attention spans, appreciation of the bodies of work. So it’s like, for my older fan, I would address it like this and tell ‘em it’s a new day and age. And, for me to stay relevant is to stay current. To stay current is to put out a lot of work. Could I be passionate about every [project] like it’s an album? No, ‘cause I’m not feeling like that. World’s Hardest MC, it was exactly what it was. I didn’t try to round nothing out. I didn’t try to make no [broader songs.] I think Float is a lot lighter than World’s Hardest MC. I think it’s just uptempo music.
Right now, LOX is the focus. So I don’t even know if y’all will get another album from me till after The LOX. Will you get more projects from me? Yes, you will. I got one ready right now for y’all. And this one’s a little more— it’s not an album feel, but it’s a little more [broad] because a lot of it was real soulful. I took a time out to go lyrical but real, real soulful. But, we ain’t in the age of dropping jewels right now. I’m dropping jewels a lot, and I’m glad people still appreciate ‘em [though.]
DX: Let’s jump back to Float real quick. I don’t wanna make it seem like that last question was just shittin’ on Float.
Styles P: Oh, nah! I don’t take nothing personal, bro. That’s your opinion. That’s [what] music is made for. I don’t take it personal. If that’s how you felt about it, then—I’m cool with constructive criticism. I’m Hip Hop. As long as my lyrics is good, it don’t really bother me. Now, if you woulda said to me I don’t feel the lyrics, that mighta touched me. [Laughs]
Styles P Says The Notorious B.I.G. Still Had Love For Tupac
DX: There were some things on Float that did touch me. And one of the joints was “Take It Back.” On that track you take a sort of sonic stroll down memory lane, reminiscing on bumpin’ Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage “headed to a fuck-ass stock job.” [Laughs] And maybe surprising to some, you recall bangin’ Tupac’s “If I Die 2 Nite” during your money-in-the-shoe-box days. Just out of curiosity, were you bumpin’ Me Against The World and ‘Pac’s other then new shit during the whole East/West nonsense?
Styles P: Yes sir! I bumped ‘Pac before I met [The Notorious B.I.G.], before I even thought about getting on.
DX: It makes sense. There’s definitely a ‘Pac influence in your music. But, you didn’t have to conceal your ‘Pac appreciation from the folks around you at that time?
Styles P: Me? You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me. I say what I want how I wanna say it when I wanna say it the way I wanna say it. I’m an emcee; if I ain’t saying nothing to disrespect nobody or hurt no one’s feelings, I don’t focus on whether they gonna like what I [like]. I listened to [Tupac.] Fuck, Big listened to him. Everybody who knew Big listened to him.
DX: You said Big was listening to him?
Styles P: Who didn’t listen to ‘Pac? You think Big didn’t listen to ‘Pac?
DX: [Laughs] I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.
Styles P: Yeah, he did. Everybody listened to ‘Pac.
I could have a personal problem with somebody [but] if they got good bars, I’m listening. I appreciate my craft; I appreciate my art, bro.
And you might feel that way [about my new stuff], ‘cause Float I made—I don’t even know how fast I made that, to tell you the truth. I’m a fast working emcee. I work at a fast pace. So that was going to Scram’s crib, smoking. I think we banged out 11 songs probably in like a week and some change or some shit like that. Even like #The1st28 with [Curren$y], that was 12 hours. Twelve hours of work, bro. Not days, not none of that shit, 12 hours, in and out.
DX: I just want you to put in 12 hours of work with Alchemist to give me some more “All I Know Is Pain.”
Styles P: What I do plan on doing in the near future, since you mentioned that, I definitely plan on making a project with Vinny Idol, a project with Al – of course, Statik [Selektah], and then I think I’ma add 9th Wonder to that.
So, you might not get no album, but you gonna get some work from me though.
DX: I wanna go back real quick. I just have to ask, ‘cause I’m an old head. You said that Big was listening to ‘Pac. Did you ever personally witness him bumpin’ some ‘Pac shit during the time you were around Big?
Styles P: Yeah. Big listened to ‘Pac. He said he still loved ‘Pac. Big said, “I ain’t even mad at that nigga; I love that nigga.” He had showed him a lot. He said that in an interview before.
DX: Again, just out of old head curiosity, when The LOX was around did he ever really get into the beef with Tupac, talk about it with you guys?
Styles P: Nah, Big was on his [business.] He said he ain’t even trying to focus on that shit. He was on his money shit. And, [he was] glad he made it out and he knew he was responsible for a lot of people. Plus, he knew how the media was, and how big it was, so he said he didn’t wanna feed it. And then certain shit, when it’s street shit it’s handled on the streets. Street shit ain’t meant to be handled publicly.