"Fuck the middle, cause the middle do a lot, and a little. Stuck in between but y'all niggaz won't see the riddle" Styles on "Y'all Fucked Up Now"
Those were the words spoken by the self-proclaimed middleman of The Lox, Styles P. Ever since The Lox broke out onto the scene, Styles has always been the underrated and overlooked member. He was never as flashy or witty as Jadakiss or as bad as Sheek, leaving him the middle ground and the opportunity to quietly take over the streets, and that's exactly what he did. While Jada's huge debut failure "Kiss Tha Game Goodbye" tried to focus on Jada's mainstream appeal, Styles goes the exact opposite route with "A Gangster And A Gentleman" and sticks to what he knows best, the streets.
After the huge success of "The Life" featuring Pharoahe Monch, the hype quickly began to rise for Styles solo joint. However, it was the second single "Good Times" which blew the lid open for Styles P, allowing him to literally take the streets over, as S.P. could be heard everywhere. But many still questioned if Styles could do what Jada could not, release a solid album front to back. Fortunately for Hip Hop fans everywhere, Styles came through with not only a solid album, but an album that surpasses any material The Lox have put out to this day.
While Styles will unfortunately catch a lot of criticism for "A Gangster And A Gentleman's" repetitive nature, constant thug images and unoriginal concepts, "A Gangster And A Gentleman" is still better than what most fans expected. You have to take the album for what its worth and not make it something its not. "A Gangster And A Gentleman" is an album for the streets, no more, no less. While many will love Styles latest effort, there will be just as many that hate it, there seems to be no middle ground.
As noted, while Kiss tried to use the "industry blueprint" for "Kiss Tha Game Goodbye", Styles puts out an album that perfectly describes his image, gritty. Joints like the blazin P.Killer produced "Y'all Know We In Here", "Y'all Don't Wanna Fuck" featuring M.O.P., "Styles" featuring Jadakiss and "Lick Shots" featuring Kiss, Sheek & J-Hood are all typical Lox/Ruff Ryder efforts that engulf the NYC thug sound perfectly. Swizz Beatz surprisingly puts forth one of his grimiest production efforts in years with "Lick Shots", which definitely ends up as one of the albums highlights.
Most of "A Gangster And A Gentleman" is filled with similar thugged out efforts such as the gun totting tales of "Soul Clap", the rawness of "I'm A Ruffryder" featuring Kiss and the surprising production efforts of Clue & Duro on "We Thugs (My Niggas)" featuring Sheek & Kiss.
However, those quick to label Styles as nothing more than your average run of the mill emcee, "A Gangster And A Gentleman" proves that Styles, while he doesn't showcase it enough, is capable of putting out good songs. When S.P. dives into his inner soul and lets us into his world is when we truly get some memorable performances. The heartfelt dedication of "My Brother" is definitely a nice change of pace for Styles as is the more conscious side seen on "Listen". The true gem of the album is the title track "A Gangster And A Gentleman", where Styles vividly depicts his rough upbringings growing up over a superb Alchemist beat. The autobiographical track lets you get a grasp on exactly who Styles P is as a man, and not just the emcee.
And while, "A Gangster And A Gentleman" will either be hit or miss for many, there are a couple of unnecessary filler tracks that plague the album. The most noticeable of these is the lurid Swizz production on "And I Came To" featuring Eve & Sheek and the 5 year old concepts of "Get Paid" and "Nobody Believes Me". While "Nobody Believes Me" is a nice attempt for Styles at a concept track, its been done numerous times and with much more proficiency. There are only a few times when Styles gets off the right track and tries to force the issue with a big hit or stale concept, which is never more evident by these tracks and The Rockwilder/DJ Twinz produced "Daddy Get That Cash". Suffering from the lame hooks disease, "Daddy Get That Cash" is a prime example of what happens when Styles tries to go the Kiss route and appeal to a larger mainstream audience.
In the end "A Gangster And A Gentleman" will please Lox fans across the board, but won't offer anything new or innovative. Those looking for something different than the usual Lox sound will probably be disappointed with this latest effort. However, if your looking for something to bump in your ride or a prime example of thugged out NYC Hip Hop, than "A Gangster And A Gentleman" will more than satisfy your needs. Sometimes sticking to what you know is the best formula you can use, and Styles proves that you don't have to go far to find success