The last time we heard from Styles P, he was dropping #The1st28, a free EP with Curren$y, and though that collaborative project was perfectly fine, it seems like a strange fit when listening to his latest solo record, The World’s Hardest MC Project. Curren$y has made a career out of being smooth and laid back, and there isn’t much evidence of either of these traits in P’s demeanor.
Of course, any affiliation the guy has with the New Orleans stoner is pretty minimal, their EP a mere footnote on career that extends all the way back to Bad Boy’s glory days through Ruff Ryder’s heyday to here. When you take its lineage into account, the sound of The World’s Most Hardest MC Project of course makes perfect sense. It’s raw, rugged and insular, just like any street rap record worth its salt, (and, of course, just like many that are not).
The album’s main achievement is its ability not to buckle under the weight of its own grittiness, like so many others of its type. That pitfall is avoided largely through lyrical skill and good musical choices. P knows what beats will suit him, and he doesn’t rely entirely on the bland, aggressive updates of boom-bap that tend to dominate a lot of modern grumpy gangsta rap records. “Like That” and “Monopolizing” are both lightly laced, wavy and mellow, “Murda Mommy” funky, downbeat and moody.
Of course, P makes an effort to come harder much of the rest of the time, but even then the results aren’t typical: the Jahlil Beats-produced “I Know” and the Sheek Louch-featuring “Empire State High” are both examples of forceful hardcore rap, but they are well-constructed and complex. “Empire”, in particular, possesses one of those great, cluttered beats built up out of disparate elements that seem at first to have little relation to each other, but which ultimately cohere into a hard, assured, and melodic result.
A great deal of the album’s success can be attributed to Styles himself, though: he may not stray that far from your standard street rap tropes, but he has a subtly inventive way with words, an ability to use mild indirectness to his advantage. When he says that he is “tired of this everyday ghetto shit, hoes, strippers that try get felons to get your melon split”, or informs your that he is “goin’ through some bullshit, weeded out, sittin’ on the couch mad high with my nina out”, not only do you believe him, but you also get a desire to skip back a couple of seconds, just to make sure you catch the slight attentions to detail and the internal rhyme schemes.
The album also benefits from its brevity: despite its overall quality, it’s not an album that dazzles or surprises, which means that its skimpy running time of just under half an hour works to its advantage. It could definitely start to drag even if extended by a mere ten or fifteen minutes. As it stands though, it functions fine as a refreshing and slight shot of street rap not entirely bogged down in its genres oppressive tropes.