Nothing made me feel more inadequate than the passing of Sean Price. The empty space on the page held all the imposing whiteness of a Simi Valley jury as I searched for words to pay homage. Especially to someone who was so effortlessly amazing at manipulating the english language. Peep his words. Heavenly words. He was among the last of a class of lyrical pugilists that the music industry didn’t know what to do with anymore. He hit hard with bad intentions. His Kimbo Price alias was well deserved. But the art of constructing words with corresponding sounds over a beat has changed so much. Finesse fighters proliferate now. But like Marv in Sin City Sean embraced his status as being pedantic with a pen and paper while everyone else just revels in how un-lyrical they are. He bled Brooklyn in every bar when New York was being pushed to the periphery of the gentrified rap world. And then he was gone.
I was overseas huddled in a hotel lobby getting my morning wi-fi fix when I got the news. We had been prepping for the release of Songs In The Key of Price aggregating some of our favorite Sean Price moments in both song and video, but we never imagined that we’d be doing another R.I.P. post just months after losing Pumpkinhead. I immediately thought of all the times I’d covered The Boot Camp Clik over the years and my first time meeting Sean. It was 2002 and they were shooting the album cover for The Chosen Few at a studio somewhere in the city. I made my way around the room getting quotes from everyone in the crew and Ruck was attentive but distracted at the same time. He answered all of my questions and posed dutifully for the pictures but you could tell he wanted out of there.
The next time I saw him he was yelling at me from the stage at SOBs during what I believe was the very first hip-hop baby shower ever. About two or three Caipirinhas in I thought it made all of the sense in the world to yell “Don’t say shit to Ruck!” at the top of my lungs from the crowd. Not only did Ruck hear me, he SAW me. The look he gave me said “You damn right. Now shut the fuck up so I can do this show, n*gga!”
So it only made sense that when he passed that S.O.B’s is where I’d get my chance to say good-bye along with hundreds of other fans and family. As his peers rocked the stage in his honor I stood next to Mr. Walt of Da Beatminerz clutching my coveted copy of Songs In The Key Of Price. It was the original pressing with the Stevie Wonder inspired artwork that you got if you paid for a deluxe ticket. I flipped it around in my hands reading the track list just imagining what I was going to hear. But I didn’t want to open it either. Walt seemed to notice and said, “Don’t open it. I’ll send it to you” allowing me to enjoy the music digitally but keep this souvenir unscathed.
For the next year we did whatever we could to pay our respect to Sean Price. Making note of his birthday in March we began collecting stories from anyone who came by that knew him. Obviously it still feels inadequate as hell. I only met his wife Bernadette for the first time earlier this year at Phife’s memorial of all places, but we’ve yet to really speak and get her most valued perspective on keeping his legacy alive. But all in due time.
In the meantime take a walk with us through the last 365 where we salute Mic Tyson, Jesus Price, Kimbo Price, Ruck…Sean P.
1. Recognizing that he was as funny as he was fierce on the mic, a few weeks before he passed we compiled some of his best episodes of the Sean Price show:
“I wanted to pawn my potato. It was thrown at Martin Luther King, during the race riots in the ’60s…my uncle was in the movement and passed and he left me the potato in his will…it has a lot of sentimental value.”
2. Then we combed through his myriad of guest verses and picked our 20 favorite for Spot Rusherz.
“A rose grow from the crack of the steps / I drop jewels, pick ’em up, put ’em back on my neck.”
“I met Ruck when I was a kid. Our mothers knew each other. Ruck has older memories of me than I have of him. But my oldest memory of him was his 11th birthday party. It was a surprise birthday party. It was his 11th so that mean I was 9. He came in the house and he had a job already. Came in the house looking like a building fell on him.”
4. Around Christmas time we had Dru Ha, producer Krhysis and animator Kimson Albert give us the story behind the making of the hilarious video, “How Sean Price Stole Christmas.”
“The inspiration was easy, he was the fuckin Grinch,” Dru confirms with a laugh. “I called him an ogre and we loved the cartoon as a kid. I told him be miserable, steal Christmas. Be YOU.”
5. Statik Selektah fought back tears as he told us about hearing that Sean passed and revealed that they he has a lot of unreleased music with P.
“We were literally about to put out an album. I have at least 10 songs in the stash.” – Statik Selektah
6. Smoke DZA told us about working with Sean on their Rugby Thompson project and producer Harry Fraud revealed that Sean Price was one of the first people in the industry to give him a shot.
“When I met him, it was exactly what I thought it would be. It was bizarre, it was jokes, it was a lot of love because he really respected my fresh.” – Smoke DZA
7. And Royce Da 5 9 told us about becoming close with Ruck when he joined Guilty Simpson and Black Milk to form Random Axe. He also said they were plotting an on-record battle between Random Axe and Slaughter House.
“I first met Sean with 8-Off Agallah. He introduced us. I remember him always being funny. He formed a group with Black Milk and Guilty Simpson called Random Axe. Once he got real cool with Hex I used to see him and talk to him all the time. We always had the competitive talk of Slaughterhouse vs Random Axe. He used to be like ‘We’ll body y’all!’ and I used to say “We’ll body y’all. All it takes is for all of us to get on a song. Let’s make it happen.”