Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Rapper’s latest not ‘Extraordinary’

When used properly, thug posturing and the threat of
violence can enhance an emcee, turning him into a mythical street desperado.
Discussion of drug use can humanize these uber-gangsters, reminding us that no
man is a fortress. The "can" in the past two sentences should be emphasized
because Styles P decided to keep it extra absurd with his third solo album, the
intriguingly titled Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman).

Styles would like you to think he's a conflicted man. His
first album, the relatively successful A
Gangster and a Gentleman
, explored a man torn between tender positivity and
trigger-happy paranoia to a moderate degree of success. Super Gangster fills the role of a sequel, returning a nearly
identical cast of beatmakers (Swizz "Flava Flav 2" Beatz, the Alchemist, Dame
Grease, etc.) to fulfill P's sonic vision. The majority of the tracks are incredibly
moody, sounding as ominous as a late-night walk through a rough neighborhood — with
no iPod, to boot.

Super Gangster is
at its most listenable, however, when this motif is absent. "Da 80s" is simple,
concise and effective in the same way Alchemist and Prodigy made retro hard-edged
earlier this year with Return of the Mac.
Hi-Tek's "Let's Go" bounces and claps fairly irresistibly, and Soul Brother
#1 Pete Rock at
least takes risks with "Gangster, Gangster," when D-Block brags and boasts over
dexterous keys and distant horns.


Instrumentals are but half the game, and, unfortunately for
Styles, there's not much that's endearing about relentless death threats and
assertions of gat-clapping machismo. It's not so much that Styles glorifies
criminal violence (although one has to wonder with lyrics like "Kinda hard to
not go on a murder spree/ Paint niggas burgundy/ Put 'em to surgery), it's that
he's incredibly boring in doing so. His rhymes are consistently obvious ("If I
don't blow Mary Jane/ I'm going insane"), his metaphors are almost always shallow
(various homicide similes), and his punchlines fail to either amuse or resonate
("Before I had a car I was in the fast lane"). People sick of perceived
overindulgent materialism in hip-hop will be pleased with the lyrical content
of Super Gangster until they realize
Styles only kicks two subjects, bodying invisible enemies and smoking tons of
pot, within his range of believability.

The first single, "Blow Ya Mind," is an ode to smoking weed,
and for all intents and purposes, it's the exact same song as his 2002 hit
"Good Times," but with Swizz Beatz doing the chorus. So, of course, it's
infinitely superior. In fact, P employs a number of expensive hook-masters,
including "Dear Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of the Universe"
Akon, who does that thing with his voice that folks like so much on "Got My
Eyes on You." Useless Dipset crooner Max B and documented well-endowed brother
of Brandy, Ray J, get some shine as well. Even guest spots that seem effective
on paper (Ghostface, Beanie Sigel and The Roots' Black Thought) come off
contrived or flat. Even the conceptually compelling "Because I'm Black"
featuring Black Thought, theoretically a racial-political departure from the
rest of Super Gangster's cartoon
menace, is overproduced into annoying unlistenability.

One has to wonder where Styles P gets the Extraordinary Gentleman part from. Super Gangster is 58 minutes of tongue-out-of-cheek
death threats and nothing-new lyricism. Music chronicling a life of crime
obviously has its place, but the execution on this album is forgettable. With a
wealth of more remarkable grimy hip-hop releases coming out in December alone, Super Gangster is simply not worth
recommending, classic title or not.

1 out of 5 stars

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