“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a saying easily applied to the solo careers of the three members of the LOX: Jadakiss, Sheek Louch and Styles P. While Jada has achieved the most individual success of the trio, his solo albums have still paled in comparison to the group’s collaborative projects. The same goes for Sheek Louch, and, in this case, again for Styles P.
When Styles was in LOX, he always had difficulty captivating listeners for the span of an entire song. His solo albums tend to follow suit. But he keeps coming back, this time on his latest Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman). Though he’s unquestionably improved, his confident, often aggressive flow becomes tiring after 19 tracks. He’s not completely one-dimensional — he displays a contemplative side on “Alone in the Street” — but doesn’t have enough to fill an entire album.
All of Super Gangster’s shortcomings can’t be attributed to Styles, though. The production is wildly inconsistent and generally unoriginal. The work of Hi Tek – whose collaborations with Talib Kweli made him a hip-hop staple – on “Let’s Go” sounds like a rip-off of 50 Cent’s “21 Questions.” Simple, high-pitched pianos appear throughout and sometimes work. They’re a nice touch on the radio-friendly “Blow Ya Mind,” which features a catchy Swizz Beatz hook. But often, they don’t: the redundant “In It to Win It,” a prime example.
Super Gangster is far from a complete disaster, however. The aforementioned “Blow Ya Mind” is smooth, yet also club-worthy. Styles’s unlikely collaboration with Black Thought on “Cause I’m Black” is a success, while “Gangster, Gangster,” with the rest of the LOX crew, is unsurprisingly one of the album’s best songs. Styles’s delivery is extra hard and inspired when teamed with his Yonkers boys, as he spits lines like “You don’t get nothin’ but gun shells / I ain’t on the bar, Louch pass me the dumbbells / I’m in war mode, billion more mode / Body after body so the story was foretold.” Jadakiss and Sheek’s verses are equally enthralling, hinting that another group collaboration is long overdue – their last being 2000’s We Are the Streets.
“Gangster, Gangster” proves that delivering an inspired, original verse is well within Styles’s capabilities. Also, the track shows the strength of the D-Block boys when they’re all together. The uniqueness of each rapper, as well as their undeniable chemistry, makes for songs of higher quality than when each member tries to go it alone. But various label conflicts, and perhaps a determination to succeed individually have prevented the release of another group album. Judging by the quality of the solo discs, the trio would inevitably benefit from a reunion. It’s about time.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman)