Words of Wisdom
As he maintains his respect in the industry he calls home, Styles P continues to check off boxes on his career and personal to-do list.
Interview: Aleia Woods
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
With a love for rhyming spanning over 20 years, Styles P has only gotten more popular through time. As one-third of the power group The Lox, with a platinum and gold plaques, the Yonkers, N.Y. MC has made significant contributions to the music game. One of hip-hop’s biggest highlights last year was the Verzuz battle between The Lox and Dipset, in which Styles and the rest of his group shined.
In addition, Styles has been known to share his personal politics and value in living healthy to the public via his social networking accounts. This summer, the lyricist garnered unintentional virality after stepping in to protect a young woman who was being detained aggressively by Yonkers police. A moment that created quite a buzz online.
Styles has discerned his own balance of music and everyday life. The hip-hop virtuoso recently talked to XXL about his continued purpose, motivations and thoughts on current New York hip-hop.
XXL: This past July you defended a young woman who was being detained by officers from the Yonkers Police Department with excessive force. What was going on in your mind at that time?
Styles P: I get into a lot of those incidents, but most of the time it’s been males. But seeing a woman get mishandled kind of triggered me and made me upset to the point I wanted to fight. And that’s the part I was bothered over. You just have to watch how you weigh things out because the kids can’t do the same thing. I’m a person in the community, I’m a little older, so I can take risks that they can’t take. It’s a lot you have to go through at once. I gotta make sure the cop doesn’t feel violated. I gotta make sure he knows I’m firm on what I’m saying.
At what point did you feel like it was your responsibility to be a community leader and take on this advocate role?
I think I’ve evolved more as I’ve matured. I came into the game telling people I was a gangsta and a gentleman. People just always forget the gentleman side. As I evolved and made more money, I was able to see the differences in the supermarkets from when you live in a wealthy neighborhood to a poor, urban community. To the difference in if a child has a certain learning problem in the hood, it’s special ed. In wealthier neighborhoods, the child gets tutors, a different class. I am an artist. An MC. A rapper. It’s a verbal, braggadocious sport, but I felt over the past few years, it’s lost its touch of being community- based. It kind of woke me up. Let me just play my part in staying grounded and at least try to spread the message of being grounded.
What career changes did you see for yourself after The Lox’s Verzuz event against Dipset last year?
Shit got busier. I [saw] appreciation from the culture for what we do. Kids [were] coming up to us saying, “Yo, we gonna start rehearsing. We’re gonna start learning our shit.” The biggest shift was seeing that if you stay on the hamster wheel for long enough and stick to what you do, eventually…I already thought we were super lit before then and legendary, but I guess it cemented the legendary status.
How have you and The Lox maintained as a group over the years?
The most important thing is having your priorities straight. You can’t be jealous of somebody doing better than you. Whoever is doing good is doing good for everybody. Everybody’s not gonna be the savior. You have to have a goal in mind, a like-minded goal. Everything is for the group first. You’re gonna branch off solo, but as long as we stand here and we do this, it’s group first. It should work off [a] vote, too. With The Lox, two outweigh one. If two of us feel something, the other one doesn’t, it’s still going ’cause it’s for the group. But I think more so than that is having a brotherhood and a genuine friendship.
What are your thoughts on the New York City drill scene?
The movement’s rappers have been accused of infiltrating the city with crime although crime already exists. Yeah, I’m not gonna blame that. It goes back to us policing ourselves and rocking with our own neighborhood. If you look at violence as a whole, within the country, say that Black on Black violence is at 90 percent. White on White violence is probably 87 [percent], 84 [percent]. But the wealth to poverty gap is much, much bigger than that. We as Black people keep playing up to what media says about us as Black people. There’s school shooters. Are they portrayed as violent young men that are out of control in this country? No. There is violence. There are people getting hurt. It’s stupid. They’re getting themselves locked up and jailed. They’re getting indicted. [It’s] more than ourselves pointing at people and blaming them. Violence has been in music forever. We not gonna blame a bunch of young New York kids.
Read Styles P's interview in the 25th anniversary issue of XXL magazine, on newsstands now. Check out additional interviews in the magazine, including our cover story with Eminem, plus conversations with Bobby Shmurda, Yung Miami, JID, Yvngxchris, Sleazyworld Go, Jim Jones, Symba, Reason, GloRilla, singer Jessie Reyez, actor Trevante Rhodes and music executive Katina Bynum. The issue also includes a deep dive into a narrative piece on the U.S. court systems' battle against rap lyrics, rappers’ longstanding connection to anime, the renewed interest music supervisors have in placing 1990’s hip-hop in today’s lauded TV series and the 254 past covers in XXL history.