Styles P is
about as gimmick-free as it gets. Though controversy has followed him
throughout his career–label disputes with Diddy,
prison time, beef with Roc-A-Fella,
and most recently, a beef with 50 Cent
and his G-Unit camp–he’s seemed
focused on one thing: making the music he wants. And while push-backs and label
drama have tried their best to keep him down, albums with his group The LOX, several mixtapes and his first
two solo LPS have seen him do just that. The Yonkers, NY emcee has built a
solid fan base from both his brutal, hard-hitting bars and genuine,
thought-provoking soliloquies. With his junior disc, Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman), Styles sticks to the same formula.

Much like its predecessor, Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) features P playing contrasting roles. Though Blow Ya Mind is a picture-perfect dance
floor filler with its Swizz Beatz
backdrop and hook, even Styles P‘s
apt lyrics can’t save other crossover attempts (Let’s Go, feat. Ray J
and Look At Her) from insipid
production and subpar hooks. P is
more at home showing his tougher side: In
It To Win It
and Shoot Niggas
rank right up there the previous hardcore posturing that has helped established
his reputation, with menacing lines and gritty beats to match. Still, the more
potent material doesn’t come when Styles
is befriending one of the album title’s two personas, but while he’s dwelling
somewhere in the middle. Alone In The
is a contemplative meditation on the isolation of a hustler, and the
Ghost uses All I Know Is Pain to vent about his struggles and his obligations
to help others.

Elsewhere, Styles
performs best on Super Gangster
when working alongside equivalent or higher talents. A solid Ghostface Killah cameo on Star of the State encourages Styles to up his game, and U Ain’t Ready sees Styles and Beanie Sigel
trading bars back and forth over dirty horns by Dame Grease. The seemingly rarely-unified LOXStyles P, Jadakiss
and Sheek Louch–all wreck over the
soulful bump of Pete Rock on Gangster, Gangster, showing chemistry
that’s sure to wet the appetites for another group LP. The closing Cause I’m Black is the album’s shining
moment, though. In a sequel to I’m Black
from Time Is Money, Styles surprisingly collaborates with The Roots’ Black Thought to spit
commentary about the struggles of the race, with the latter turning in a late
candidate for verse of the year.

While Super
Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman)
is another solid addition to Styles‘ catalog, some may be
disappointed in its lack of growth. Last year’s Time Is Money was older when it hit stores, and Styles could have used the time off to
have stretch his legs and come back with a change of direction or a flawless
junior LP. Super Gangster doesn’t see
Styles exploring any new territory
whatsoever. But with Holiday, what you see is what you get–and for most D-Block
fans, that’s more than enough.