Time Is Money
Ruff Ryders / Interscope
lipse’s Hell Hath No Fury recently showcased the constructive effect that label politics and multi-year delays can have on artists. The Virginia duo channeled all of the rage and frustration of their situation and created a forebodingly sublime tour de force. Now, under similar circumstances, LOX member Styles P finally releases his sophomore album, Time Is Money, after roughly two years of postponement. But unlike Clipse—who scrapped much of their recorded material and started from scratch—Styles’ new LP is basically the same as the one that’s been sitting on the shelf for two years. If any sense can be made of the project keeping its now-ironic title at this point, here it is: time was money and bureaucracy fucked that up.
At worst, Time Is Money feels expired. Whatever buzz caused by its two singles has already been extinguished. Regardless of the real cause for the delay (blackballing, 50 Cent beef, etc.), one thing is clear: this is one of the most feebly promoted, major-label rap albums ever to see the light of a record store.
On the positive tip, Time Is Money is a solid collection of songs. Styles showcases both literal self-examination and realistic ghetto commentary easily on tracks like the gloomy “Fire and Pain” or the ominous “Real Shit.” The singles, “I’m Black” and “Can You Believe It?” even hold up quite adequately. (The former is a remarkable anthem of African esteem and the latter a lustrous, Bobby Brown interpolating ode to NYC summer culture featuring one of Akon’s better guest spots and perhaps the smoothest beat Lil’ Jon has ever laid synths to.) In another highlight, the hard lyrics of “How We Live” are contrasted by an uncharacteristically light, string and flute beat from Havoc (think of a slighter “Give up the Goods” from Mobb Deep’s The Infamous).
As with so many emcees, Styles’ primary flaw is pretension. He has the unfortunate habit of insulting listeners’ intelligence by telling them how great he considers himself. On “Testify,” the incendiary prose of questions like “Why Malcolm get killed by the NOI?” loses strength when he attempts to compare himself to Langston Hughes; it’s not an absurd juxtaposition, but it deserves to be met on the listeners’ terms, not thrown in their faces.
The only problem, in the end, is that nothing on Time Is Money surpasses what most of us first heard two years ago. Limping into record stores during the holiday season, sandwiched between higher profile and better publicized releases, Time Is Money will likely be forgotten—a footnote in a year that may be closer to a milestone for hip-hop than any since the mid ‘90s.
Reviewed by: A.J. Henriques
Reviewed on: 2007-01-04