If you take their word for it, every rapper who announces they’re retiring would be retired. Last year, Styles P announced a “semi-retirement,” if you will, from his solo career, which is currently at 15 albums and six collaborative projects. “I am stepping away from Juices For Life as a co-founder and owner,” he wrote, reassuring his customers they are in good hands. “I will be retiring late 2023 as far as my solo career is concerned. I have two more projects for y’all and I’m out!!!” Although the release dates aren’t announced yet, fans can expect another solo album after Penultimate: A Calm Wolf Is Still a Wolf, Beloved 2 with Dave East, and an upcoming LOX release.
As the LOX legend prepares to close the book on his solo run, he’s finally released A Calm Wolf Is Still a Wolf after postponing its December release due to the untimely death of his manager Hovain Hylton. Despite this sad loss, Styles P’s longevity and relevancy is stronger than ever, riding high off a victory in The LOX and Dipset Verzuz battle, appearing on Kanye West’s Donda, giving fans more 2J2BD episodes with The LOX and ItsTheReal, and continuing to promote healthy eating habits in Black and brown communities. Music, for Ghost, is him scratching that itch to get in the booth. A Calm Wolf Is Still a Wolf doesn’t feel like he’s bidding farewell just yet, but if you’re a Styles P fan you know what you’re in store for: SP getting in that mode and delivering lyrically and consistently, every time.
A Calm Wolf Is Still a Wolf spotlights one of Styles P’s oldest co-signs from the D-Block the Next Generation days: Raw Buck a.k.a. Bucky, a Philadelphia spitter who recently came home from serving a life sentence for a 2012 murder conviction. Bucky lives up to his name and makes up for lost time, letting Styles P handle hook duty on “Pressure” as he goes in about staying ten toes down while being locked up and finally seeing the light of day. “I did 240 days straight without a JPay/Stuck in a hole, picking over steak trays/You hear the echoes of the guilty verdict every day/It’s like the judge shot you down with an AK,” he raps. On “Blood Money,” Bucky raps straight for over three minutes, conveying raw emotions of getting burnt out from the street life, being separated from his family while doing time, and the setbacks of the legal system. If Jadakiss bringing Bucky to see Swizz Beatz is foreshadowing more music, the Mighty D-Block is in good hands.
As for Styles P, he comes through with more bulletproof bars. His mentality is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Death Before Dishonor” featuring Brady Watt flaunts a clever Michael Jordan reference (“I ain’t 23/but I aired the game”) that quite literally means SP leapt over his competition. But this time around, he feels overlooked as a veteran, possibly calling out Hip Hop personality and journalist Brian ‘B.Dot’ Miller’s top 10 rappers list on “I Ain’t Doing 2 Much”: “N***as keep coming with they lists/How can I relate if they wasn’t in the mix/Never had a gun and a spliff/and a pocket full of mix/gettin’ money and sleepin’ next to the pits.” More OG talk comes in on the eerie sounding “Haunted House” by his Ghost persona to double down on being a trendsetter: “I build the pedal for the pedestals/They set the bar, I made the bar/That’s what being ghetto do.” Overall, any mention of top 10 or top 5 rappers without Styles P in it seems to rub him the wrong way, calling out no one in particular on “Peaceful Crazy” with “Yeah I’m still peaceful but the vibe is/Still tell the top 5 rappers to suck five d*cks/I got five clips and one gun for all of you dum dums.”
However, no one likes someone from the past criticizing the present. Styles P doesn’t need to reduce himself to songs like “That’ll Be Enough” that have lines calling out all the rappers saying “trash shit.” It’s very old school hating on the new school, especially when it is known that J. Cole reached out to get his blessing to re-do his and Pharoahe Monch’s song “The Life” for “My Life” with 21 Savage and Morray.
Yelling at cloud moments aside, for Styles P to be this late in his career and still rapping at this level deserves all the respect. He can talk directly to the streets and back it up on “What You Want to Do” and “Good Morning Good Evening.” “New Strains” is a solid smoking song that’s in line with the current trend of mental health in Hip Hop, feeling strained and needing new packs to roll up for some personal time. If you wanted Styles P from the Bad Boy era, the Ty Feif production on “Cried on Sunday” gets close, reminding fans of his icon status once again. “I am the only rapper that is aging like wine,” he raps. Although the subject matter can be bittersweet considering many people relate to the daily cycle of death and having to keep pushing through the pain.
Styles P once told XXL, “I’m blue collar, man—I aim to please those who appreciate the underground. I don’t give a fuck when it comes to making music; I give a fuck about the people who give a fuck about the music. Nothing really matters to me about music except the ones who fuck with it. I go for those who love this—the culture of Hip Hop.” A Calm Wolf Is Still a Wolf isn’t for the TikTok generation or the mainstream. It’s for the Hip Hop heads that want Styles P’s signature sound, right there on the block, strapped up, ready for war.