Styles P

Time Is Money

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    8
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While the title became more and more ironic with every pushed-back release date, Styles P's long-delayed Time Is Money feels immediate, like an excellent mixtape with extremely high production values, and certainly not what you'd expect from a "four years in the making" album. This vital slab of street music pops from the get-go with "G-Joint," a vicious stab at rival gangs -- G-Unit included -- with producer Huu Banga crunching a sample of Asia's "Only Time Will Tell" into an amazingly fresh loop. Old-school soul -- with Talib Kweli and Gerald LeVert stopping by for some worthwhile collaborations -- dominates the next three cuts, then Styles' old crew the LOX appear and the radio-friendly section of the album begins. T.I.'s favorite Crystal Waters loop is featured on "Favorite Drug" and Akon adds his usual hooks and swagger to "Can You Believe It," and while it's been a standard exercise in how to make a solid thug album up to this point, "I'm Black" is a different story altogether. As Time Is Money was seeing release, blogs were all over the track claiming radio wouldn't touch it, then radio claimed they weren't shipped it. It really was perfect blog-age marketing, since who would think a single with "Even tho' my skin is kinda light/That just means my ancestors were raped by somebody white" would be sandwiched into the drive-time playlist? The song's use of "Black" instead of "African American" was also at issue, but as James Brown gets name-checked and Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry lays the serious soul on the chorus, it becomes apparent that Styles is recalling an era where Panthers roamed America and "Sing it loud/I'm Black and I'm proud" was the slogan. Somehow, the track blends well into the album, and while there's a case to be made that G-Unit beefing and club tracks don't mean much from a rapper who has grown significantly and can now bring a revolution, when Styles paints a picture of partying, irresponsible gangster living, or hanging with your crew, it's just as vivid, just as exciting. Add solid production from Hi-Tek, the Alchemist, Scott Storch, and Lil Jon with a tight track list that has no tolerance for filler, and you've got a knockout full-length.

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