"I don't think they're going to expect what I'm coming with," says Styles Peniro (David Styles) about his upcoming sophomore album, Time Is Money. A member of the storied Yonkers, NY descended trio The LOX, it was a matter of time before each member would pursue their own solo projects. But where Styles, Jadakiss and Sheek differ from the status quo is that their impeccable solo projects match the standards set by their group efforts. As Styles P readies to drop his follow up 2002's critically acclaimed A Gangster & A Gentleman, he's confident in his abilities to not only continue his cliques' reputation for banging Hip-Hop, but also cement his rep as one of the rap game's illest lyricists.
Styles met Sheek in junior high but it would be until they began attending Gordon High School that the trio would form The LOX. Though he didn't graduate from Gordon-he did get his degree while in county jail-his mother, an educator, instilled him with an appreciation of knowledge. "My mom's a reader. She'd bring me to the library and I'd be down in the kids section," he remembers. "[To this day] I enjoy a good book." The reformed drug dealer cites Kool G. Rap and KRS 1 as his main rap influences with heavy dosages of everyone from Big Daddy Kane and Ultramagnetic MCs to Lord Finesse and the Jungle Brothers. "I grew up a rap head. I was the cop every tape kid," he says.
His story after leaving the life of crime for a life of rhyme has now been told infinite times. The glossy sheen of The LOX's days at Bad Boy Records (their 1998 album Money, Power, Respect went Gold) conflicted with their grimier rap aesthetic and ended with them demanding their freedom to slide over to Ruff Ryders Records. After another LOX album, We Are The Streets (2000), Jadakiss was the first to release a solo in 2001 (Kiss Tha Game Goodbye) and Styles followed with his own in 2002.
"The first album did a lot better than I thought it would," admits the MC also known as The Ghost about his Gold selling debut. "I had expectations of just making a good album. A Gangster & A Gentleman is definitely a classic in the hood."
Whether as part of the triple threat that is The LOX or as a solo artist, Styles' razor sharp slick talk has enamored him to countless heads that like their Hip-Hop hard to the core. "I always looked at myself as one of the hardest, street spittin' MCs," he says.
Braggadocious claims are inherently Hip-Hop but Styles has the skills to back his claims. But he does retain a level of humility and astuteness that will help further his career. "I can't honestly say that I feel I'm the all around best as far as making good radio songs," he rationalizes. "I wasn't looking at the game on a business level, like I should have been. I was looking at it as an artist. This album I went in as a business person slash on my extra artist s**t. Anybody that knows me or works with me will tell you that I put in a lot of work. That's part of my reputation, good hard work all around."
That busy business schedule includes sharing Co-CEO of D-Block Records duties with Jadakiss and Sheek. He's also raising his two kids-daughter Tai (10) and son Noah (6)-and is engaged to his girlfriend. On the artistic side of things he's been just as busy with his guest appearance on Akon's "Lock'd Up" and Jadakiss' "Why Remix" keeping him on the mainstream radar. However, along with his own hit songs, including "Good Times" and "The Life" as well as burners with The LOX ("Money, Power, Respect", and "Ryde or Die Chick"), the aforementioned songs didn't take Styles to that next level of rap superstardom. This go around he's prepping to do just that, but without forsaking his rap principles.
"Last album I stood to my format, what I do," he reasons. "This album I tried to get in everybody else's lane but in a natural transition. It wasn't forced. Nobody could ever force me