So far, Fresh Pair‘s star-studded first-season guest list has included Redman, El-P, T.I.., The Game, and Jadakiss. This week, that last guest’s partner-in-rhyme, Styles P, comes through to collect his Katty Customs kicks and talk The Lox, being a rapper-turned-businessman, and his health-focused lifestyle. Since we already covered a lot of his best songs with The Lox in our Jadakiss list, we’ll focus on his solo career here. Also, for what it’s worth, these are my favorite kicks of the season so far. Look at those things and look at Styles’ reaction. It’s great.
10. “Araab Styles”
In 2012, when Styles dropped The World’s Most Hardest MC Project, he wasn’t quite as evolved as he is now. “Araab Styles” exemplifies the “old” Styles, who was more gangster than gentleman. This was also the height of the popularity of Providence producer AraabMuzik, whose Halloween keys offer the perfect complement to Styles’ serial killer bars.
9. “Ghost Vibe” feat. Dyce Payne
A standout from 2020’s Ghost Your Enthusiasm (what a title) that captures the essence of Styles’ precise, unhurried flow. His detached outlook on the chilling content is both awe-inspiring and heartbreaking.
Another Ghost Your Enthusiasm release, “Time” is a reflective, super lyrical freestyle-esque track that finds The Ghost dropping references to MF DOOM (RIP) and playing the wisened OG. As he drops knowledge and admonishes the youngbloods on the block, he sounds more like a tough youth coach than a grumpy old man — which is exactly what we mean by “aging gracefully.”
7. “Nightmares 2 Dreams” feat. Havoc
I’m a sucker for organs in hip-hop beats. Havoc is (still!) one of the best beatmakers hip-hop has ever seen and deserves more attention. Fortunately, Styles and Havoc’s project Wreckage Manner dropped last year to highlight both of these underrated hip-hop elder statesmen, while also unnearthing the truly unexpected and jaw-dropping chemistry between them.
6. “Friends” with Jadakiss and Nino Man
Technically, Jada and Styles are just features here, but the throwback beat (shout-out Whodini!) and timeless subject matter warrant mention. Also, these verses are liable to get your face stuck from the helter-skelter wordplay — “Violate my friend and get a kiloid” is an all-timer.
5. “Never Fight An African”
Styles doesn’t experiment sonically very often but when he does? Bruh. Part of the reason this Dime Bag cut stands out so much is because it’s so different from his usual but the reason it holds up is because it displays a versatility to Styles’ flow that longtime fans might not have recognized before but that shows how seriously he takes the craft.
4. “Hit Different”
A little more upbeat than we might be used to from The Ghost, but with a haunting horn loop that fits oh-so-perfectly with his gritty, smoke-laden voice. A prime example of his latter-day output (it appears on 2021’s Ghosting), which has only gotten more polished with time.
3. “We Gonna Make It” with Jadakiss
Okay, I know, this song is already in the Jadakiss list. Look… It’s just that good. We bend rules for greatness (like how LeBron never gets called for a travel), so I’m letting this one fly. It really is the best example of the pass-the-mic flow that these two were the very best rappers in the game at. Also, a best Styles list with no Jada is like a pizza with no cheese.
2. “Good Times (I Get High)”
So what if it’s an obvious pick? Styles’ debut solo single is still his best-known and deserves all the appreciation it gets. What other song had dyed-in-the-wool gangsters reaching for the hook’s high notes despite being pitched beyond human vocal range? Also, relatable content.
1. “The Life” with Pharoahe Monch
Uproxx publisher Jarret is gonna love this placement. One of the best songs ever from the Rawkus Soundbombing series, one of the most succinct summations of hip-hop at its rawest and most emotive, and one of my favorite songs. Look no further for proof of its impact than the fact that J. Cole basically remade it last year on The Off-Season and it still goes hard.