Sean Strange hails from the Queens borough of New York City, but you won’t be mistaking him for MC Shan, 50 Cent or Nas any time soon. He falls into that curious nexus of hip-hop where he’s got a recognizable name among the hardcore heads, yet he’s not considered “notable” enough for a Wikipedia entry, who will only acknowledge that he was a one time member of Necro’s Psycho-Logical Records. Apparently he learned the DIY aesthetic during his tenure there, as he’s the founder and CEO of his own label Cousin Pat Records, which put out his “Street Urchin” CD. While his Facebook page says dedicated fans tattoo his name on their arms, I’ve yet to meet anybody rocking his logo. I’ve rocked his songs before though, having discovered “Walk the Line” on YouTube a while ago.

“I remember back in ninety-eight when I was a teen
Gettin high, makin paper like a copy machine
You wanna know my favorite colour then it gotta be green
You trying to get up in my head like a lobotomy team
You think I’m groggy and mean, lookin at me like I’m probably a fiend
I need to thank God that I’m clean
Too many people never made it out, and now they paid the Piper
Livin the life full of shit like a baby diaper
The ‘caine made me hyper and a little evil
Robbin neighborhood drug dealers like the shit was legal
Your whole team turned into different people
My daughter will be turnin three, what a shame I didn’t get to meet you
Never believed I’d be alive today, my mistake
The sky is grey, perfect time for me to fly away
I’ll never die until the mission complete
For my career been punished for what I did in the street”

The self-produced track struck me as a good mixture of hard rock metal guitar and hip-hop beats. Strange’s lyrics were an intriguing mix of punchlines and urban city dweller depression. I was immediately reminded of artists like Slaine and Vinnie Paz, and it’s not hard to imagine that he would have fit in well on the Psycho-Logical roster (which makes it all the more curious he ultimately wound up leaving). I had to know more, so I sought out the title track of his solo album, and found that “Walk the Line” was positively sunny and upbeat by comparison. The charisma of his gruff delivery is evident, but so is a dour disposition of disdain backed by a melancholic and menacing melody. Strange might hate his own life, but he hates his critics more:

“I put in work for hip-hop, you callin me fake?
Behind a keyboard, you really made an awful mistake
And joined the homo club, I don’t show no love
I leave you layin in the garbage like your promo dub
Shove my dick into your mom mouth, she really likin it
Pipin it, gave me deep throat for a Vicodin
Knife in the back, how many people the real?
I’m dead filthy, the type to put my feet in your grill
SHUT THE FUCK UP! I perfectly punish your clique in no time
with dope rhymes, you get no shine, but I’m a gold mine
Now eat a dick!! I heard your album and it wreak of shit
Plead the fifth on the altar wreck it like a needle tip
Been evil kid, incredible, Lou Ferrigno
I break into your crib and jump through the window”

These were ideal tracks to break into Sean Strange’s world on, and his 20 track “Street Urchin” album is more of the same in varying degrees. He pulls double duty as rapper and producer for the majority of the album and pulls it off quite well, even making old school “Slow Flow” legend PMD sound up-to-date and lyrically nimble on massive posse cut “The Sinister Sicks.” Other notable beats and cameos include (but aren’t limited to) “Bang Out” featuring Smoothe Da Hustler, “The New Blood” featuring No Good People (Sean’s clique) and the old school record static soul of “The Pain (Mary McDonnell)” featuring Stress. Even though he’s not the easiest of rappers to find information about online, there’s little doubt Strange is well connected in the New York scene and still maintains friendships from his limited time on Necro’s roster (both Q-Unique and Sabac Red are on “Sinister Sicks”). “Foul Child” may sum up his musical style and artistic temperament best, and the Big L samples in particular on the hook are a nice touch:

“Aiyyo I’m tired of all of you record labels pre-judgin me
Your weak company, could never come and eat lunch with me
[…] Mention my name I’ll choke your trachea and break your neck
[…] Torture your child with my album, found him layin in puke
Naked the truth is, that motherfucker gayer than fruit”

Whoops – GLAAD isn’t going to be happy about that one. I think we’re all well aware of hip-hop’s homophobic tendencies though, so it’s not exactly shocking, nor is Sean Strange’s disdain for humanity as a whole by the time you’re done with his album. Though he does an exceptional job given he has to hold down the fort almost all by himself, it’s those rare times when another producer gets in the mix that we see Strange could have liberated himself to concentrate on his menacing vocals and still have come correct. The C Lance banger on “Heat ‘Em Up” sounds like a classic Non Phixion track, Concept’s low-key bass and ivories on “Forever Live” bring out an intensity to Strange’s delivery (I love the line “I’ll make you eat a cock, dummy/Claim you got money like Dane Cook, you’re not funny”), the Snowgoons provide their usual excellence on “Diabolical Decibels” and Little Vic’s “Back At It Again” is smoooooth. “Street Urchin” proves Strange is worthy of a Wiki entry, but that he could also be so much more.

Sean Strange :: Street Urchin
7.5Overall Score