Veteran rapper Styles P talks wellness, PETA and aging gracefully
Styles P, one-third of the legendary Bad Boy group The LOX, may be a hip-hop veteran, but he’s also an advocate for healthy eating, as well as animal and human rights. After the release of his latest album G-Host earlier this month, Claire Lobenfeld spoke to him about food deserts, PETA and aging gracefully.
It’s been more than 20 years since The LOX released their debut album, Money, Power, Respect, but member Styles P feels better than he ever has. If you follow him on Twitter — and you should — then you know he is one of rap’s elder statesmen who isn’t trying to keep up with the young generation, but because of his affinity for a plant-based lifestyle, he could if he wanted to.
Just days before he spoke to FACT, he tweeted that he hoped people would stop asking him questions about Kanye West or the possible beef between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, saying that he just wants people to do well. So when we got him on the phone, that’s what we talked about: wellness.
“You’ve gotta be dead to not get older, so I just age gracefully”
FACT: After 20 years in the game, what are you hoping people get out of listening to your music?
Styles P: I wanted them to get that it was really rough, but really full of jewels. Kinda you know, raw but mature.
It seems like fans don’t really know how to handle people growing up in rap and there are lot of different ways you can go. You look at someone like Ice Cube, he went the Hollywood route. You look at T.I., everyone’s got a different way of doing things, and I think it’s interesting to watch that all play out. Do you have any thoughts on how to get older in rap music? Or is it just something people are gonna have to figure out as they go along?
I don’t take it as I’m getting old, I’m just living in the now. I think that’s the best way to appreciate being an O.G. in rap music. I don’t look at it as I get old, I look at it as I age I get better. I think it’s a different outlook. Everyone who is alive is getting older, there’s no one who’s not getting older. You’ve gotta be dead to not get older, so I just age gracefully.
A lot of people start thinking about their health as they get older. I know that’s something you’ve pursued for awhile, particularly by eating a plant-based diet. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into that?
[Laughs] It’s why I’m not getting older! I feel damn good for my age, I still move good for my age even better than I did when I was younger. I’m lighter on my feet, more energetic. I still have a work ethic and lyrical drive of a very young man. But living near a juice bar, Juices For Life which I’m now part-owner of, I felt like I was getting younger as I started juicing up and eating better.
I got to lose the weight, my skin was brighter, I started feeling better, all of that so it was kinda what really pushed me on my path. And, after living the fast life in hip-hop and on the streets, and then being able to make money and see how it was different with people who live in better neighborhoods and better environments with better places to shop for food, all of that kind of played a part in my change.
Do you know the artist Moby? Are you familiar with him?
Yeah, I know who Moby is.
He recently wrote this op-ed in the Washington Post that basically said that people on SNAP should only be allowed to buy healthy foods. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on that kind of thing?
I don’t personally know Moby, but that’s kind of out of touch. Most people on food stamps doesn’t really have options. If you live on food stamps, most likely you live in a food desert, or you do live by a supermarket with not that many healthy options. People who have money don’t really understand what people who are poor go through. So I think Moby probably had good intentions most likely, but does he ever spend time in the ghetto? If you live in a neighborhood that’s a flowing and cashing, there’s a Whole Foods there. These places aren’t in the ghetto, so…
Is there any type of activism people should engage with to start making a difference in this area?
First, we have to get rid of racism and bigotry before you even get to telling people how to eat. We need to get people to care about each other. We can acknowledge what makes us different ’cause we’re different races. We can acknowledge what happened in the past between our races. We could say how we feel about each other and have open, honest communication. And that should be between every race, everything until we get to that point where all this other shit is a bunch of bullshit.
“It’s crazy that it’s 2018 and we have a racist president”
I totally agree with you. When they teach you slavery in school, the reality of it is excessively manipulated to make it seem like it wasn’t actually like what chattel slavery is like. and I think that if we start teaching children more honestly, it would help a lot of people understand race in the present.
There’s a big elephant in the room that none of us are really saying: We have a racist president. People can say he’s not racist, but it’s crazy that it’s 2018 and we have a racist president. So clearly, what we have in the country, even if there’s not … I don’t know how people can put percentages to racism, like 100%, 100% racist or whatever. Think about the fact that we have a president people spoke about one, he’s crazy, people of different races crazy, politicians of the same race crazy. It’s just where we’re at as a world and what we accept and where we’re moving. It’s like either we’re gonna move backwards or be enlightened, you know what I mean?
You’re white, I’m brown, I yawn, you’re gonna yawn. We share some sort of energy field, whether we like it or not. We have to squash our differences for the sake of those people alone, to where the world is moving in the future, but be realistic about how we deal with each other and what’s going on with one another, you know what I mean?
My crew is made up of every race. White, Italian, Arab, Indian, every Latin, African, Trini, Jamaican, regular African American, so you kind of get the. If you’re from Westchester or New York City, you grow up around many races and different people, but the whole world doesn’t like that. When we’re not honest about racism or how we think and feel, all of the other things we need to get done won’t happen. All the other shit we’re talking about it’s never gonna happen in this country because we allowed a racist president to come in. He’s not even just racist. He’s a bigot, he’s a male chauvinist, he’s everything. That’s gonna keep the country divided instead of pushing it into light.
Do you think that if people get involved in local politics more, that would help with those barriers?
I think if people get involved, that just dealing with people more on a regular basis. Screw politics. That may help, but really all you’re taking your time off to think of is just how people feel on a regular basis. Even if it’s not a racial issue, it’s just doesn’t … they don’t give a fuck about how your coworkers feel. You know what I mean? He really gave us a favor? Not saying that should happen, that he should, but just think about how you deal with and act with people on a day-to-day basis. As a human being, are you really trying to help society and learn? ‘Cause we all do bullshit and we all get into shit. We know it’s not negative, none of us bullshit and none of us live in a glass house. You know what I mean? But I think it’s us human beings kind of all trying to find a way to pretty much push it forward.
“It seems like animals get more protection than a young black child, and to me, that’s fucking crazy”
What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to start eating more of a plant-based diet?
I would tell them it’s fucking awesome. It brings you a little clear head, a little balance, so that you can end your life on a different note.
I saw on Twitter you had mentioned you were trying to reach out to PETA and talk to them and try to help them get a different perspective. Can you tell me a little about more about that?
I think PETA has a beautiful message that needs to be spread, but I think that they would be even better if they spread their message thinking about humans a little more. I gotta worry about my son and my daughter being harassed by police or getting killed by police. Imagine if PETA worried about that? I wish black people had a fucking PETA or somebody like PETA that went fucking that hard for us. I’m not saying it has to be PETA, I just love what they do. But as a brown man, even being as a plant-based person, how can I push PETA’s message more than I pushing a message in my community to fucking watch how you speak, to make sure to tell your kids how to engage with the police.
Pardon my French, but it’s kind of bullshit. I give a fuck about the dolphins and the whales and the bears and the koalas and the pandas and the fish and the animals that are going extinct, but we’re going extinct, too. And nobody gives a fuck about what the law’s doing to us. It seems like animals get more protection than a young black child, and to me, that’s fucking crazy.
So what would you want to do if you could start working with PETA or an organization like it?
They gotta get with poor people, you know what I’m saying, and just share the experience that we feel. And then they can spread the knowledge of what the animals have gone through. People would begin to understand, “Oh shit, these animals are basically going through some fucking fuckshit.” They feel like slaves, the cat’s ripped from its mother, took it apart. I think a lot of young brown children would get the story if they knew somebody gave a fuck about their story. Being able to see both fights helps us build more bridges and close more gaps.
That goes back to our conversation earlier. How can we get to the point where we’ll all be thinking about all beings and respect life in general. We may be different colors, or you may be a woman working in a male environment, or you may be too slim, or you may be too hefty, or you may be too tall, or maybe too dark, maybe too pale, you maybe have too much hair, you may have too little hair. Until we get beyond that, how the fuck do we get to anything else?
Claire Lobenfeld is FACT’s Managing Editor. The first time she saw The LOX in concert was at the No Way Out Tour in 1997.