The L.O.X., consisting of Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch, are probably the most overlooked rap group in the history of the genre. Despite the fact that they have an extensive catalog of raw and impressive music, they still do not get their due. Not only did they put out two classic group efforts (Money, Power & Respect and We Are The Streets), but they have been featured on the tracks of many renowned artists (including The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z), usually outshining the primary rapper in the process, and have dropped consistently solid solo albums (although some may argue that the solo efforts of Jada, Styles, and Sheek are not indicative of their talent).
Make no mistake: The L.O.X. are ill. When you think of hardcore, street hip-hop, The L.O.X. should be the first thing that comes to your mind. They have the ability to take any beat and turn it into a street hit and take any ordinary track by any ordinary artist and make it a classic.
If you cannot already tell, I am probably the biggest L.O.X. fan in existence. Jadakiss and Styles P are my two favorite rappers, and Sheek Louch is not too far behind (he especially does not get the credit he deserves). A Gangster and a Gentleman, Styles P's first solo album, will be the first L.O.X. project I review.
1. Good Times (I Get High)
The album's leadoff track also happens to be its first single (you don't see that too often) and most popular song, as "Good Times (I Get High)" still gets plenty of airplay today. Containing a sample of Freda Payne's "I Get High (On Your Memory)," the beat, produced by Saint Denson and Swizz Beatz, is ridiculously hypnotizing and will make you zone out. Although this isn't exactly one of Styles' most memorable lyrical performances, the production and the mood of this cut is impossible not to dig.
2. Y'all Know We In Here
Man; the production on this is off the wall crazy. You would be hard-pressed to find a better pump-up song than this, as Styles P spits: "Turn niggas vegetable, salad ass niggas, never send a coward around violent ass niggas." Talk about direct. Also, it should be noted that, while Swizz Beatz does the hook, he did not produce this cut; P. Killer Trackz did, even though it sounds exactly like something Swizzy would make.
3. A Gangster and a Gentleman
The Alchemist drops his first beat on A Gangster and a Gentleman here, producing the title track which will give you chills, particularly the hook, where Styles raps: "I said, gangstas ride (ride with me), gentlemen live your life (live it up), 'cause gangstas die (we all gon' die), it's only a matter of time (the clock tickin')." Sick, sick cut.
4. Black Magic
At this point, it doesn't seem like Styles P is capable of making a poor, or even mediocre, song. "Black Magic," also produced by The Alchemist, consists of a laid-back, soulful beat, as Styles P spits some of that realness: "Ask God when he stoppin' the pain, a fiend got a shoelace on his arm and he poppin' his vein, and the needle look dirty but I'm close to reaching thirty, and the only thing I know it's a profit to gain." Female singer Angie Stone is featured and sings the hook.
5. Daddy Get That Cash
Well, this one is kind of lame, as the hook consists of female R&B singer Lil' Mo singing "daddy gotta get that cash" continuously. The beat, produced by Buckwild and DJ Twinz, is just meh.
6. Lick Shots
Styles' fellow L.O.X. members Jadakiss and Sheek Louch are featured here, as well as brief and former member J-Hood, who was ousted from the group recently (he was never a true L.O.X. member). Jada puts down a great verse to finish the track off, spitting: "Lick shots for the little babies in the projects, running around unsupervised with sharp objects." The Swizz Beatz production is pretty bland, though.
7. And I Came To...
Swizz Beatz is on the boards here, throwing down a solid pump-up beat. It sounds similar to "Y'all Know We In Here," but not nearly as good. Sheek is featured once again, and Eve makes her first appearance on the album. I love this line by Sheek: "I'm a gangster and a gentleman too, P, I'll lay a nigga down and send his moms a bouquet for free." Damn.
8. Get Paid
Sorry Styles, but this is terrible. The beat, produced by Mr. Devine, is simply throwaway, and having little kids do your hook is generally never a good look (and no; I did not rhyme that intentionally).
9. I'm a Ruff Ryder
Another P. Killer Trackz beat, another banger. Jada is featured here, but he only does the hook. No matter, though, because Styles rips this: "I'm just dealin' with the tension and stress, understand I'm from the School of Hard Knock and my suspension is death." Whew.
10. Soul Clap
DJ Shok puts down this beat for Styles, and it's a fairly good party joint, which is appropriate, because that is what the content of this track consists of. Still, it wouldn't be a Styles P track without the obligatory sick punchline: "I'm the gentleman to hold the door, I'm the gangsta that's lettin' off the three while loadin' the four."
11. We Thugs (My Niggas)
Jadakiss and Sheek Louch are back for this cut, which was produced by DJ Clue and DURO. What makes this track interesting is the style with which the three L.O.X. members rap, as they each trade lines back and forth throughout the song (this has really become a staple of The L.O.X. over the years). The beat is pretty blah, though.
P. Killer Beatz doesn't come as hard here as he did on the first two tracks he produced on A Gangster and a Gentleman, but this beat isn't bad. Jadakiss is featured again here, but he just does the hook. The best part of the record: "If your man get bodied, number one rule is, you body somethin' back then live with the pain, young guns of this shit, so when I get hit, I'ma yell, Sheek and Kiss, let's finish the game."
Now this is just odd. This track, produced by Tank, has a heavy country twang to it, and I don't like it.
14. Y'all Don't Wanna Fuck
This album is just full of songs that get your blood flowing. M.O.P. is featured here, so, obviously, you know this track is going to be ridiculously hard. Tuneheadz (yeah; I don't know either) produced this beat, and while it's simple, it gets you fired up in no time.
15. Nobody Believes Me
Sheek Louch, J-Hood, and Cross make guest appearances here, but it's Styles P who steals the show: "I keep the clothes on your back, food in your mouth, even paid for the birds when you moved niggas south." What an effing punchline. DJ Shok's beat is pretty flat, but Styles carries this.
16. My Brother
Styles dedicated this song to his younger brother whom was killed in a car accident. Definitely a real cut here.
17. The Life
What an extraordinary way to end A Gangster and a Gentleman. The beat here by Ayatollah is the best on the album, the hook by Pharoahe Monch is ill, and Styles P comes through with his most impressive lyrical effort on the project, spitting an endless amount of sick rhymes, including: "They say death is eternal sleep, but the only thing is you ain't really sure if you prepared for the bed," and "I play the part, and my heart seem colder than March, but on the flipside of things, it's still warmer than June, I have talks with the Lord and he'll be callin' me soon." Best song on the album; bar none.
While the production on A Gangster and a Gentleman becomes somewhat dull in certain parts, this is still a sick album. Styles P has ridiculous mic presence and swagger, and those qualities have helped make him one of the best rappers in the game. Styles has only improved lyrically since his debut album, too, as he is better than ever right now in 2010 (take a listen to The Green Ghost Project and you'll see what I mean).
Despite the fact that some of the beats are flat, Styles possesses the ability to carry a track by himself, using his charisma and aggressive persona to do so. This has been an attribute that all of The L.O.X. members have thankfully been endowed with, as the one negative generally tied to the group is that the production they work with is not always top-notch.
I think it certainly would have aided Styles to bring in some more big name producers or at least have Swizz Beatz and The Alchemist produce more than just two tracks apiece out of the 17 on this album, as I have never even heard of a sizeable amount of the beatmakers on A Gangster and a Gentleman.
All things considered, A Gangster and a Gentleman was a fantastic debut for Styles P. I would rank it second on his list of solo albums behind only The Green Ghost Project, which was released in February of this year.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
1. The Life
2. Good Times (I Get High)
3. A Gangster and a Gentleman
4. Y'all Know We In Here
5. Black Magic
Daddy Get That Cash