Friday, 14 October 2011

Styles P - Master Of Ceremonies

As a member of The LOX, Styles P had already enjoyed much success before the first of his solo albums, 2002's A Gangster and a Gentleman. Two more albums followed in 2006 and 2007 respectively, before the New York MC's output slowed dramatically. Five years after his last LP, Styles has released Master of Ceremonies, a short, guest laden 12 track album.

The project kicks off with 'How I Fly', the hook provided by forgotten singer Avery Storm. The track serves as a laid back introduction, but fails to fit with the rest of the album. Things move into more comfortable territory with the gritty 'We Don't Play', featuring both a chorus and verse from an invigorated Lloyd Banks. P and Banks feel liberated on the track, the burden of big label expectation being removed from their shoulders as they swap aggressive street tales.

'Ryde on the Regular' is one of only two solo offerings on the LP, the other being 'Feelings Gone'. Both tracks are moody, reflective narratives, providing the listener with a disquieting insight into street culture. The theme is continued on 'Keep the Faith', supported by a soulful hook from newcomer Aja.
The abundance of guest appearances suggest that Styles is at his best when he feels challenged. Fellow LOX alumni Sheek Louch and Jadakiss appear on separate tracks 'Street Shit' and 'It's OK' respectively. Sheek is ferocious over the piano driven beat, but the outstanding chemistry is reserved for the latter song. Jada and Styles trade bars in the now familiar fashion over a schizophrenic beat: "Styles: Tryna' renovate the West wing of the mansion/ Jada: I aint thinking recession, I'm thinking expansion/ S: I be in the malls, I aint be in the Hamptons/ J: And I'm playing the wall, but my chain is dancing..."

The highlight of the LP is the Busta Rhymes and Rick Ross assisted 'Harsh'. The star billing lives up to expectation as Busta provides snarling, violent bars, the rapper seemingly enjoying being freed from the shackles of a label.  

Not all tracks are this successful, however.The pairing of Styles and Pharrell seems unnatural on 'Don't Turn Away', while the second Sheek Louch appearance closing out the album on 'Uh-Ohh' seems an unnecessary rehash of the earlier collaboration.

Track by Track:

1. How I Fly (Feat. Avery Storm) 6/10
2. We Don’t Play (Feat. Lloyd Banks) 8/10
3. I’m A Gee (Feat. Rell) 5/10
4. Ryde On Da Regular 7/10
5. Keep The Faith (Feat. Aja) 8/10
6. Children (Feat. Pharoahe Monch) 7/10
7. Street Sh*t (Feat. Sheek Louch) 7/10
8. Feelings Gone 6/10
9. Harsh (Feat. Rick Ross & Busta Rhymes) 8/10
10. It’s OK (Feat. Jadakiss) 8/10
11. Don’t Turn Away (Feat. Pharrell) 5/10
12. Uh-Ohh (Feat. Sheek Louch) 6/10

The Verdict:

Styles P does not stray very far out of his comfort zone on his fourth solo album, but for the most part this does not matter. The vast array of guests often enhances the quality of the work rather than detracting from it, and the chemistry with members of the LOX will surely whet appetites for their rumoured third outing. The Ghost is still on form.


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