A Gangster And A Gentleman

Styles

Ruff Ryders, 2002

REVIEW BY: Ben Ehrenreich

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/09/2006

Hip-hop albums need more skits as much as America needs more reality TV. This album includes a whopping five skits, plus an intro and an outro, with the longest one lasting a very painful 3:42. A Gangster And A Gentleman would be vastly improved if none of the skits, with the exception of “Dedication” and ode to his dead brother, were on the album - or if Styles had named it correctly.

Styles, who is one third of the L.O.X., did not aptly title his first solo album because of the 16 traks, 12 refer to the "gangster" side and only four refer to the "gentleman" side. Sadly, those four are the highlights of the disc.

The production on this album is handled mostly by frequent Ruff Ryder producers Swizz Beatz and P Killer, with some highlights from Alchemist, and on the whole the production is very good. Alchemist’s tracks ("A Gangster And A Gentleman" and "Black Magic") are of course bangers, and the Tuneheads show up and provide possibly the best beat on this album on "Ya’ll Don’t Wanna Fuck." Styles’ first album is provided with an arsenal of head-banging beats and numerous cameos from his Ruff Ryders, but that happens to be a recipe for disaster.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The tracks that include the Ruff Ryder comrades often feel like a competition of who can be the hardest or make the most stereotypical gangsta references, as on "Lick Shots," which features Jadakiss, Sheek and J Hood; "And I Came To," featuring Eve and Sheek, and "We Thugs (My N-----)", featuring Jadakiss, who while usually clever and on point sounds unenthusiastic here, almost as if she was saying doesn't matter. As a matter of fact, most of the time it doesn’t.

The album opens up with an incredibly addictive hit single "Good Times," courtesy of Swizz Beatz, but one wonders but how much credit goes to Styles? Does it really matter what he’s saying, since, unfortunately, commercial hip-hop over the past few years is entirely credited to the producers? It's getting so that nobody really cares who or what they are saying, as long as the beat is banging.

That aside, this album is not a complete waste. Styles does succeed with "A Gangster And A Gentleman," where Alchemist provides an excellent melody while Styles gives a surprisingly introspective look at his life. "Black Magic" is also a gentleman song and Alchemist track and has a good heart, but only scratches the surface compared to its predecessor. Styles comes correct on his other two gentleman songs ("Listen" and "My Brother,") with the former sounding like a precursor to Jadakiss’ "Why?". Styles does deliver two gangster bangers worth hearing, the first being the P Killer-assisted "I’m A Ruffryder," where he sounds comfortable over an eerie piano loop in which his flow and delivery are at its best.

The second of these, "Ya’ll Don’t Wanna Fuck." is as rowdy as it gets. The hardcore kings M.O.P. help deliver one of the best songs on the album, though "Nobody Believes Me" is also worth mentioning, a story told over a mellow beat where Sheek, Cross and J-Hood play the parts of Styles' knife, gun, and weed. I know it sounds corny, but it's actually quite creative.

At 24 tracks, the disc is just too long and cluttered with too many skits and too much stereotypical gangsta filler. Styles is much better as a supporting character and should stick to the L.O.X. or helping out Jadakiss, his more talented L.O.X. member Jadakiss.

Rating: C-

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