“You’s a hermaphrodite, go f*** yourself I’ll see you in the afterlife!”
I was shocked to hear of the news that Sean Price had passed away on the 8th August, 2015. He was genuinely one of my favorite emcees and I would argue the case for him being the best rapper in the game when he dropped “Jesus Price Superstar” in 2007. His trademark “P!!” or “Sean P!!” were part of his funny (often hilarious) presence that often dominated any track he supplied a verse for. As great a character as he will be remembered as, he was also one of the most genuine, dare I say it, normal guys to grace the Hip-Hop culture. Reverting to his real name despite achieving success as Ruck in Heltah Skeltah not only felt like a ‘F*** you’ to the industry where slick names were often the standard, but it gave Sean’s rhymes a new lease of life. His flow slowed, but the rhymes got better. He maintained the intricate rhyme schemes of his earlier work, yet made the lyrics more potent and memorable. Sean Price genuinely improved his craft as time went on and there aren’t as many emcees that have done that as there should be. There’s also no finer one-liner rhymer – every verse had one that would stick in the back of your mind long after the track ended.
Sean was highly regarded in Hip-Hop circles – both mainstream and underground. One of few artists to successfully reinvent himself, he’ll always be remembered for making hard, street Hip-Hop that was fun to listen to. I’m 28 years old, so it was his work in the 2000s that I remember most fondly, and I wanted to revisit some of my personal favourite verses and/or tracks from the man who once rhymed “what’s the matter with Sean? Nothing. Just trying to write a verse that will shatter the song”.
Many a song was shattered, and more fans’ hearts were this past weekend with the passing of the Boot Camp Clik member. R.I.P. Sean Price.
Blood Runs Cold (2000)
“Look in to my eyes and you can tell that something changed…”
There was a point in my life where I was heavily in to the work of Stoupe and Vinnie. They were influential during the early 2000s, particularly to impressionable teenage white boys. They also worked with some legendary emcees, in turn putting many younger listeners on to guys like Kool G. Rap, Tragedy Khadafi and of course, Sean Price. The multis in this verse were relentless and reminiscent of G. Rap himself, but also highlights a side of Sean’s transition from Ruck to ‘Sean P’. He was less intense, and the same could actually be said for Vinnie Paz, who experienced a similar transitional period around this time, by also gradually reducing the amount of words in his bars in favour of a stronger mic presence and more impactful 4-bar mini-verses if you will. This may not be Sean’s best work, but it was probably the first time I heard Sean’s rhymes on an album.
Rising to the Top (2001)
“Untouchable? Sean Connery got killed…”
Best remembered as part of Grand Theft Auto III’s radio station Game FM, this became a childhood favorite thanks to many an hour spent cruising around Liberty City to Lord Sear and New York’s finest underground emcees. I was 14 years old at the time and Ruck’s work as one half of Heltah Skeltah in the 90s wasn’t yet on my radar, but I’m thankful to have heard his style grow and progress since first hearing him on my PS2. Hell, along with the Royce Da 5’9” tracks, that was one of the only times I can remember recording from PS2 to Minidisc, even if it had the engine noise in the background. The track itself was infectious and actually relevant to the video game – about furthering yourself in life, in this case through remorseless violence. Sean’s performance was a gruff counterweight to Agallah’s ferocity, and he even put his son on the track. Grand Theft Auto’s blend of uber-violence and self-deprecative humour was the perfect match for some classic Sean Price, and this track is loved by countless others who played the game with no interest whatsoever in Hip-Hop music.
Onion Head (2005)
“Gangsta rappers can’t fight so they rap about guns”
That line alone is the one I constantly think of when listening to rappers boast about their guns on tracks. Of course, Sean Price spent many songs bragging about shooting people, but he spent just as much time putting rappers in their place with his fists. Kimbo Slice and Mike Tyson being obvious examples of Sean’s penchant for hard-hitting punches, but it was the endless threats laced with humor that encapsulate the Brownsville emcee at his very best. “Might smack off half your smile, go to court with a suit, smack the other half after trial” – the audacity of it was classic Sean Price. With the hook being a chant of “Sean P” (his famous catchphrase), “Onion Head” was a statement and certainly one of his best tracks.
Fair One (2005)
“Dead rappers get better promotion”
There used to be a website called Spine Magazine that would throw up free music to download in MP3 form about ten years ago, and I recall hearing “Fair One” on there for the first time. It was one of many great moments for Hip-Hop fans, combining two of the hottest emcees to drop albums in 2005. I couldn’t find this in the UK and actually picked it up on a visit to Tokyo alongside the obscure “2000 Fold” from Styles of Beyond, and it was shortly before underground Hip-Hop exploded in a fit of Snowgoon-produced mayhem. Sean went gung-ho on “Fair One”, with brutal gun talk and standard mother molesting, but then admits to being a nerd because he went to school. He was clearly more intelligent than some of his raps may have suggested, but his constantly pissed off, violent approach to writing remains refreshing thanks to the lashings of humor that were carefully placed. Not even this verse was devoid of light-hearted moments, as he states that dead rappers get better promotion and his victims will go diamond when he throws their head in the ocean. Not when the body is found or months after the day he kills said rapper, but as he’s throwing their head, the guy’s album sales are already going through the roof. That detail is the distinct difference between a hollow threat and some outlandish, ridiculous imagery. I love that.
No Matter (2006)
More than a standard collaboration from two 90s emcees who both found success on their own, this was the reason I picked up El Da Sensei’s “The Unusual”. It was the penultimate song on a solid, well-produced album that saw El and P grabbing the mic from each other. It was a natural fit, despite Sean dominating proceedings with his trademark ignorance – “mother fuck, literally I fuck mothers!”. It boasted blunt honesty where Sean says of his solo career that he preferred not splitting checks (with Rock), and that if he could shoot a n**** then he could shoot a cop. It’s not one of his funnier performances, but it actually is given how El Da Sensei delivers a harmless verse about being a dope rapper – you can almost envision his confused look at hearing the filth spewing forth from Sean.
Like You (2007)
“Boot Camp Clik ain’t nuttin’ to Wu-Tang”
With the Boot Camp Clik’s “The Last Stand” album dropping in 2006 alongside some stellar production credits, “Jesus Price Superstar” followed that winning formula and improved upon it with some perfectly bouncy beats that seemed to give his sophomore solo album an extra something that “Monkey Barz” unearthed. This was crisp and slicker than what came previous, and “Like You” was the perfect introduction to one of the best albums of 2007.
P Body (2007)
“R. Kelly your verse when I piss on your 16”
You had to feel sorry for the pop filter after P recorded this track. Packed with words beginning with ‘P’ (“partially parched, pass the tea”) and a great hook from partner-in-rhyme Rock, the 9th Wonder instrumental actually takes a backseat despite being a proper, cranium-pounding production. Hip-Hop is full of hypocritical rhymes, and once you accept that no emcee is a perfect role model, it makes the poignant statements all the more impactful. What is essentially a standard threat to gangsta rappers (“You ain’t no gangsta rap, how many f****** gangsters rap?”) becomes one of the realest lines ever written. If you rap about criminal activities you’ve undertaken, and claim to be real, then where do you draw the line between snitching and sharing stories to police potentially listening in. Sean had that innate ability to tear through singular artists AND whole sub-genres of Hip-Hop itself. Admitting how he loves to rap but hates the game was clearly true, as he later explained to Rosenberg that Hot 97 stopped playing his music following an incident with a security guard who was disrespectful to him. Keeping certain people happy and playing the politics game wasn’t part of Sean, and he wasn’t afraid to tell it how he saw it.
Triple Homicide (2010)
“Kick over the kid’s stroller while I take your necklace”
Three of the best get busy over a vicious Frank Dukes instrumental and Sean Price smashes it with a typical anti-blog, anti-Worldstar verse many of us can associate with. Hell, he probably hated RapReviews too! While he starts the verse with “I’m a grown man, f*** your kiddy rap”, he ends it with the kid’s stroller line – highlighting both the ludicrous nature of his verse, but also the family man irritated at what his children are being told is Hip-Hop. Diddy, Thisis50… he names names and it’s why we loved his music. Pure, “I don’t give a f***” rap music.