Sean Price, Imperius Rex

Sean Price
Imperius Rex

(Duck Down)
Release Date: August 8, 2017

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The Realest
Written by Silas Valentino

“What do I love about rap?” asks Sean Price at the start of “Dead Or Alive”, the second song off his fifth and posthumously-released album Imperius Rex. With declarative hilarity, he inserts: “Me.”

Whether he was one of eight within the hip-hop collective Boot Camp Clik, one half the duo Heltah Skeltah or dominating the mic on his own (sometimes using the moniker Ruckus), Sean Price was a recognizable force who lived and died in Brooklyn. Released exactly two years after his unsuspecting death–Price died in his sleep in August 2015 and the cause was never released–his final LP leaves fans with a fleeting shadow of an underground luminary.

A jocular false start initiates this eulogy with Sean Price going on about “Big breasts, I’m erect, let’s have some sex” before stopping himself out of shame (subtly tossing shade to all the whack artists who rely on simplistic brags) to remind himself his guiding mantra: “Ape don’t kill ape.” The reference is straight plucked out of the Planet of the Apes series but Sean Price reimagines the expression as motor to center his focus. The simian imagery flows throughout Imperius Rex: in the album cover artwork, in lyrics (“I am truly an ape, Caesar the leader”) but, most importantly, in the characterization Sean Price spent his two-decade career defining for himself. He’s brutish and commanding, a veritable product of Brooklyn’s vicious Brownsville neighborhood, but his heart and humor are unmistakably present every time he clutched a microphone.

That leads to “Dead Or Alive” where after 20 years of experience, the street-side veteran scolds the latest crop of juvenile MCs who “say anything” and are without proper “schooling.” Alongside Bernadette Price, his wife who spitfires a pair of verses, Sean Price musters to rhyme “better rapper” with “Berretta clapper” and even tosses in a classic “word to your mother” for good measure. Keeping East Coast rap in check, where big beats bounce over clashing drum while the elegance of strings keep things classy, “Dead Or Alive” now serves as a final salute to Sean Price where his bravado remains strongly intact as he pounds his chest from beyond the beyond.

Humor was one of Sean Price’s strongest attributes and it’s properly represented across these 16 tracks. He’s always been readily available to clown around for good laugh (his 2007 sophomore album was titled Jesus Price Superstar) and he’d proudly proclaim himself to be the “brokest” rapper you know. Across Imperius Rex, nothing garners a solid chuckle quite like “Not97 Skit”, the minute-and-a-half skit that takes fun shots at New York City rap station Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex. He starts by stating: “Yo, I’ma keep it 100 tonight/Man, matter of fact, I’ma keep it 1000, I like that number” and then alters his voice to mimic the host. The kill shot comes when he proceeds to call out the DJ’s website, and most disparagingly, his Paypal account.

Comedy aside, the chops are displayed on the eerie cut “Negus” where producer Crummie Beats manipulates a screeching guitar lick from the metalcore band The Color Morale’s song “Living Breathing Something” to turn it into a doomsday serenade featuring the greatest rapper not named Kendrick Lamar: MF DOOM. After a pretty blasé verse from unknown MC Ike Eyez (where he acknowledges his unsung status when he cries: “‘Who the fuck is Ike Eyez?’ Nigga, fuck you likewise”), the rap game’s ultimate villain appears. DOOM clears his throat with a little Spanish: “Pa’l carajo, cantaso Vil’, you know the drill, mad drool then gargajo” and continues to defend his crown, or in DOOM’s case, his metal facemask.

Following his death, fans and celebrities alike joined together to honor Sean Price by donating over $95,000 to a fundraiser for his family. The Crowdwise funding page is still active and continues to gain donations. It’s been two years since he passed yet Sean Price’s influence echoes in perpetuity.

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