The Lox have been a staple in the New York Hip Hop scene for some time now. They were a part of Bad Boy in its heyday, and they were a major part of the Ruff Ryders movement. Since then, besides carrying their D-Block crew flag, each of the three members have been maintaining their own brands. Styles P has showcased a certain duality, continuing what he presented with his debut solo album A Gangster and a Gentleman back in 2002. That duality provided by Styles gives a perspective most other “gangster” rappers don’t provide. That duality is present on Phantom and the Ghost, as well as intricate lyrics and wordplay. However, lackluster production and often questionable hooks don’t do the verses on Phantom and the Ghost justice, and overall hold back the project.
“Used to pitch, the game didn’t cancel on rain day / Cy Young, I rather live old than die young / Then smile at death when my time come / Think deep, niggas even wonder where my mind from,” Styles spits on “Deeper Self”—one of the standout tracks. The beat is comprised of simplistic keys and drums for the most part. While the instrumental doesn’t necessarily shine, it doesn’t distract from the bars Styles lays over the track. Rarely is this the case. On “Never Safe,” P raps, “Serpents in my sleep, well as awake / I guess the angels got my back, or it could have been faith / ‘Cause my soul travel the Earth, out in the space / Think of my niggas on the highway, out of the state / Touching weight but a gym ain’t around / If you the king of the dead men, really do we get him a crown?” However, the instrumental sounds like a throw away Swizz Beatz track. “Rude Boy Hip Hop” finds Styles at his best; however, his verses don’t necessarily match the track title and Raheem Devaughn’s Reggae-inspired chorus. Those are some of the better moments
“Sour” featuring Jadakiss and Rocko, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The song features a surprisingly forgettable Jadakiss verse and a beat more suitable for an Electronic music festival than a Styles P album. “We Gettin” finds Styles on the hook rapping, “Homie we gettin’ money, homie we gettin’ high / Homie we gettin’ women, homie we gettin’ fly / Do this with no effort, homie we don’t try / Homie we gettin’ rich, homie we gettin’ by.” The “no effort” part is very apparent not only by Styles’ rhymes (“Said she was from Soho, I said so hoe / I just want to see you up and down like a yo-yo / Then bucket on your head no Polo / Did you come with a crew, or you solo”) but also the synth-driven beat provided by Trey On Da Beatz.
Phantom and the Ghost appears to try to go too many places it probably shouldn’t. Styles’ verses are normally on point, but the production is generally a miss. The hooks, provided by either Styles or featured guests miss far too often as well. There are several lyrical gems to be found throughout the project as fans of SP have come to expect, but as a total album, this one comes up short.