Having dropped a long list of solo LPs, group albums and mixtapes since debuting with The L.O.X. in 1998, Styles P has firmly established himself as a top-tier lyricist. While he may not show up on as many “Top 5 Dead or Alive” lists as he may like, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would deny his skills. Of course, Hip Hop History is full of great rappers who couldn’t convert those skills into a complete album; so even after all this time, Styles can’t rest on pedigree alone.
Master of Ceremonies starts off a little slow with “How I Fly” but doesn’t take too long to ramp up. The Sheek Louch assisted “Street Shit” raises the energy level with a hard break and dark pianos, paving the way for “It’s Okay” with Jadakiss, where the two go back and forth in classic fashion, this time over a loud club track. Styles also reunites with Rick Ross on “Harsh,” (with Busta Rhymes) contrasting the explosive “B.M.F.” with a more relaxed backdrop for their stunts.
Pharrell helps provide an eighties Miami vibe on “Don’t Turn Away,” and while Styles doesn’t go full on “coke rap,” a little Scarface still makes it through. In addition to those already mentioned, Lloyd Banks, Pharoahe Monch, and Sheek (again) also show up, making the 12-track LP a little crowded, even without counting a handful of R&B singers. Each guest handles his duties appropriately, but as a group, they take a lot of time away from the star.
Styles does a good job being introspective on “Keep the Faith” and expressing his thoughts on the state of our youth on “Children,” so it might have been nice if a few more tracks were dedicated to definitive concepts instead of directionless collaborations. Added to production that’s a little flat in spots, the emphasis on guests reduces the longevity of what might have been a much stronger album.
While there’s no telling how much closer this brings us to a new L.O.X. album, Styles is doing his best to represent the collective properly with his latest solo. While it feels like Master of Ceremonies could have been more, it’s a solid effort worth checking out both for fans of Styles specifically and New York rap in general. Admittedly, Styles still hasn’t quite hit the height of his potential, but he’s far from falling off while he continues the pursuit.