There are certain emcees who are forever etched in the annals of New York City rap. Of course, we will always revere those that laid the foundation: a Grandmaster Caz. A Melle Mel. A Busy Bee. A Kool Moe Dee. And the legends that pushed the game to new heights like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One. And then there's those that came to define NYC as Hip-Hop's mainstream visibility exploded in the 1990s. Both The LOX and Mobb Deep played major roles in that era; and rhymers Styles P and Havoc were forged in those groups. Both men would spend the 1990s, 2000s and beyond building their respective legacies and in 2021, they're closing out the year with their first collaborative album as the duo Wreckage Manner.
"How far back do we go?" Havoc muses. "We go all the way back to 'Last Day.'" That classic Notorious B.I.G. track was on Biggie's seminal 1997 album Life After Death; it's a track that was produced by Havoc himself and one of the first high profile features for a trio from Yonkers called The LOX. Havoc was red hot at the time via his work in Mobb Deep alongside the late, great Prodigy; with Styles P and his groupmates of Sheek Louch and Jadakiss about to blow up big. Styles was always impressed with what Havoc and Prodigy were creating.
"That's Mobb Deep, of course," says Styles when asked about his first impression of the duo from Queensbridge. "That's New York legacy right there. For me personally, [I was] totally inspired and influenced by their music. Followed their career even before they made it, they was on our radar. What they brought to the Apple; Havoc and, God bless the dead, Prodigy—[they] was something refreshing new and unseen. [I was] a big fuckin' fan."
The new duo's moniker is a play on their respective stage names: "wreckage" is synonymous with "havoc," and "style" is synonymous with "manner." With their newly-released self-titled album, Wreckage Manner is more than just mutual admiration; this is a chance for two of NYC's finest to really bring out the best in each other. At this point in their careers, with so many wins, in their groups and solo, under their respective belts, they've found that they're capable of pushing each other to new heights and into new spaces. And it was good for Havoc, in particular, who said that he was looking for a collaborative spark.
"One morning, I woke up and I realized that I hadn't done a project since Prodigy passed," Havoc explained. "And I was like 'who could I team up with to do a project with?' Styles P was at the top of the list."
Supergroups don't always automatically click, but these two work because they are both confident in what they do well. But working together in a long-form way for the first time can sometimes demand that artists take themselves out of their so-called comfort zones in order to find new inspirations. For Wreckage Manner, they didn't have to look far.
"I wasn't out of my comfort zone—but I feel like it was a tough challenge," Hav says. "I'm rhyming with one of the best in the business, hands-down. So to rap with him, it was definitely one of those things where you gotta stay sharp." And P shares the sentiment. "I wasn't out of my comfort zone on this. I was very at ease. It felt very good. What has to bring you out of your comfort zone is challenging yourself. For me, I was working with Havoc, so my challenge was to bring the best me to the table."
And once things clicked? "Off to the races," says Styles P.
The sound of Wreckage Manner, as P puts it, is "the legacy of the two groups. Pure. No bullshit." You know what Havoc and Styles P do best and they're doing it here. The LOX and Mobb Deep worked together on the Dame Grease-produced "It's Hard" back in 2016, for The LOX's third album Filthy America...It's Beautiful. But hearing P and Hav do their thing together makes it clear that these two have found a unique musical chemistry that feels familiar.
One morning, I woke up and realized I hadn't done a project since Prodigy passed..."
"Hav is a very quiet modest humble giant in this business," says P. "What he brings to the table as a producer and an emcee is always epic. It definitely signifies and highlights what Hip-Hop is about but also what New York is about. For me, it was a no-brainer. This is the grit of New York. That real authentic sound. It's special because we've ben able to maintain that all these years later. If it's for you, it's for you—if it's not, you're not cut from that cloth."
"From a sonic standpoint, I didn't think about it too much," says Havoc. "I just did what came naturally to me. That's the sound that you get that people kind of know me for, that New York kinda sound. I just let that flow."
In August, The LOX and Dipset faced off in one of the year's most talked about Verzuz battles. That popular battle series has featured no shortage of NYC greats: from Fat Joe and Ja Rule, KRS-One and Big Daddy Kane to Ghostface and Raekwon. But it was the LOX's showing that seemed to embody something that resonated with New York Hip-Hop fans, especially.
"I think the reaction from the public was justifying that [we] stood on the hamster wheel for a reason," Styles says. "Stick to the craft for a reason. And to see the youth pick up on that; to see the youth pick up on 'I gotta get crafty with my shit, I gotta start rhyming more, I gotta learn my shit, I gotta learn my show, I gotta breath when I'm performing.' It was certain shit I didn't think they would pick up on. It was good for the youth to get to see what dedication looks like. What craftsmanship looks like."
Havoc and Styles P are built for this rap shit. With the storied careers that these men have had, with the highs and lows that they've endured, it's understandable that they would click. It's understandable that they would create something special. And these two come together as Wreckage Manner at a time when NYC's new wave is gaining tremendous ground.
"I love a lot of it," says Styles of New York's rap scene. "Don't like a lot of it. I'm old school New York, so I like New York that sounds like New York. I like Fivio [Foreign] a lot. I like what Pop Smoke was bringing. The energy and the bars still resonate. I love Griselda. I love [Dave] East. I love the boom bap. I love the guy who is gonna attack the beat on boom bap. New York has always been filled with dope emcees. What it really boils down to is—who wants to stick to being New York and sounding like New York. We're definitely in a new day and age. They didn't come up when we came up. They shit expands. You've got the computer. So you know what Houston's slang is. You know what California's slang is. So they infusing it all. But I believe that as long as we got people who're maintaining that sound, you good. But I believe the media needs to push more of that kind of audience. Not just looking for that microwave, instant pop—dudes making that radio and club songs. I think it needs to be more well-rounded."