On David Styles’, commonly known by the emcee name Styles P, eighth solo album, the redundantly titled A Wise Guy for A Wise Guy (which was released two months earlier than its anticipated October release, on August 14th of 2015, after being heavily leaked early on the Internet), The Lox and D-Block group member has crafted an eighteen track collection of songs, largely concerning getting smoked out and random acts of violence, with infectious, simple, hooks meant to make you sing. The one time novelist, who penned the novel Invincible, which was published through Random House in 2010, refuses to change the listenable, but unchallenging and one-dimensional, style he first illustrated on The Lox’s 1998 LP Money, Power, Respect. It is what can be called the “Easy Listening” version of grimy Hip-Hop as the production is smooth and enjoyable throughout, most of the beats are stripped down and basic (which is why it works so well with Styles P’s rhymes), and it goes through the usual clichés (womanizing, partying, aggression, drug selling and just a touch of contemplation near the finale: as in the powerful and smarmy sixteenth, and the LPs best track, “White … (You are Too)” and the solid concluding bit, “Money Change You”) with finesse but, it never delivers anything that makes you sit upright, take notice and be fully moved (or anything particularly memorable as a matter of fact). Styles P’s latest is a lot like sonic comfort food in that it delivers exactly what you expect and you can appreciate it for what it is, but it leaves you rather empty when its sixty-three minute length has passed.
Opening with the dark, piano thudding menace of “Other”, one of the few times the melodies herein almost approach completely captivating, Styles P sets an eerie tone of promise that sets the tone of materialism and moments of genuine reflection that pop-up throughout with the album’s first two lines: “We be dippin’ in Maseratis/ Used to slang in them pi*sy lobbies”. It’s an intriguing contradiction of images that give a unique sense of vague depth, despite how exhausted such ideas in these initial lines are, and though these themes and juggling act of genuine thought through symbols of financial gain appear in the laid-back and beautifully produced third track, “Fly” (which features an impressive verse from Sofi Green and vocals which compliment the cool nature of the track from Tyler Woods on the hook) and the time tested correlation of drinking equating a reflection on pain in the funky chirp found in the beat of “Telly Port” (with a showcase of sheer talent from Snype Life in a guest verse) it carries on the attitude found in the aforementioned lines which start the LP without ever feeling repetitive, but never adding anything we haven’t heard far too many times before.
Fellow Lox member Jadakiss, who remains on par with Styles P lyrically and adds to the overall consistency present in this LP, with his featured verse on the generic single, with the usually well-done but artificially cheery song fabrication present on “My Party” (which also seems to occur again in the grating hook by Whispers on the otherwise enjoyable drug-selling narrative, “Get Your Weight Up”, the sixth track) . The duo sound tremendous together, even though the hook on this second track has a decidedly dim refrain with Styles P childishly proclaiming, “This is my party/ I’m going to do the most here/ This is my party/ I’m acting like the host here”. The same can be said for other the constant Styles P record gust here: D-Block representative Sheek Louch, who helps provide an appropriately rowdy anthem on the fifth track, “Beast”, which is exactly what you would expect it to be and sound like from a tune with such a track title.
Further carrying on the familiar formula is the four album interludes, “Convo with Shawty”(which leads to the surprisingly vigorous lyricism and production present in the Chris Rivers featured play on the story behind Bonnie and Clyde, the eighth track, “Together”) “Satisfaction Jackson”, “I Gotta Tell You” and “Rawwww”. Predictably, these are essentially people talking, whether in friendly circles or over the phone, and though they do directly add to the subject matter of the songs after them they still come off as un-replayable space filler. They aren’t completely dull, but in their brief run time (all under two minutes) we can’t help but wonder if there was more engaging ways to communicate the information held in this album pieces.
Much of the LPs best work is held over for the second half of A Wise Guy and a Wise Guy. When Tyler Woods returns for the tenth track, “If I Should Fly Away” the effects are far more introspective, heartfelt and cerebral than Styles P and Woods’ prior album pairing, “Fly”. Styles P recycles the idea of self-medicating to fight the misery which courses throughout “If I Should Fly” again in the fourteenth track, “Hate it or Love It”, but the R&B sensation evident in this tune, and Dyce Pane’s beautifully sung hook, give the record a haunting quality that alleviates its sentimental impact.
The second to the last song, “Welcome to NY”, is Styles P’s most successful marriage of booming bass, ferocious bark of inflection and delivery and wild, witty wordplay that features equally gripping verses with genuine bite from Snype Life, Dave East and Nino Man. Though much of the energy seems to deflate entirely on track fifteen, “Bring it in”, featuring dull vocals from Styles P and Fortes, which is mirrored to banal effect in its production it still contains the infectious and catchy “Life Time”. This twelfth track seems to burrow in your head with its unsettlingly smooth tone and, though its not a lyrical knockout like “Welcome to NY”, it has much the same effect.
Styles P’s flow is often slow, almost lazy, and his inflection barely rises above a mumble (even on songs like “Welcome to NY”). His lyricism is satisfactory, but never deft, with several genuinely quotable bars arriving here and there throughout A Wise Guy and a Wise Guy, but he has little to no personality and the content is always garden variety and never personal enough to set him apart from the crowd. Nearly every track is formulaic, but still moderately entertaining, as he goes through the genre motions.
In a world of artists who are largely indecipherable, Styles P and the appealing product found herein sets a gritty tone well enough, and if you have been able to appreciate his work before this will give you exactly what you expect and you should feel the same as his past work as you do here, but A Wise Guy for a Wise Guy gets old quick after a few spins, it leaves a been to the well too many times taste in your mouth and, overall, can be seen as no more of a semi-pleasant distraction.