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Thank You, Sean Price

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Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

Before I ever spit a bar as a rapper, or got paid to write about rap, I was a rap fan. Just a lanky high school kid who liked to play ball and listen to hip-hop. Certain rappers made me laugh, others made me think, some made me a little nervous, and some just made me say, “Damn, that was ill” and reach for the rewind button. Sean Price made me do all of the above.

For me, the summer of 1996 was about three albums. Reasonable Doubt, It Was Written, and Nocturnal. I didn’t know much about Sean Price, who at the time was more commonly known as Ruck, ½ of Heltah Skeltah. But off the strength of their debut album Nocturnal, he quickly became my favorite Boot Camp Clik member. He had the dope voice, crazy mic presence, and his witty wordplay was next level. I was obsessed with his brief freestyle on “Who Dat?” and I used to play “Sean Price” in my whip for everyone as an attempt to prove that he was one of the most underrated rappers in the game. And everything else on that album knocked, from favorites like “Letha Brainz Blo” to “Understand” to “Place To Be” to “Da Wiggy.” He ripped all his verses, and quiet as kept became one of my biggest influences as an aspiring MC.

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One reason I was able to relate to Ruck’s style of rapping is because he kept it cool and calm, and though he made his fair share of violent threats, they were always delivered on some MC shit. His alliteration game was bananas, and he would rhyme mad words in one bar together which showed that he always put extra care into his craft. It was fun, but at the same time, completely no joke. Straight hard body confidence without the need to scream—that’s how I wanted my shit to be.

By 2005, I had begun to take my rapping seriously, and my budding semi-pro career was on a slight upswing. I was doing lots of shows at small clubs in Manhattan, and my OG from White Plains DruHa recognized my hustle and invited me to open up for Smif-N-Wessun at the Knitting Factory. I had a decent setlist, and I managed to hold my own for twenty minutes in front of a homegrown, NYC backpacker crowd that was known to take no mercy. Translation—I didn’t get booed, and I got a couple pounds when it was over, so I deemed it a W.

But one thing I distinctly remember about that performance is seeing Sean Price at the side of the stage as I was finishing up my final song. “Holy shit, Ruck,” I thought, as I attempted to wrap up my set without being completely intimidated. He had disappeared into the back room before the song was over, so there was no interaction or affirmation like I had hoped. But by the time I took my place in the back of the crowd to watch the show, there was Sean P, dipped in a Polo rugby and a fitted, gracing the stage with a presence like I had never felt.

I had seen Boot Camp perform years before, but the God P-Body had truly come into his own now. His off-mic hand gestures alone—which I would argue are the illest in the history of rap performance—commanded the crowd like he was holding a magician’s wand. And the power of his words shook the speakers. My shit felt so wack compared to him, but I had never been more inspired to go harder.

To keep it all the way real, I slept on a portion of Sean Price’s discography in the early to mid-2000s. I got wrapped up in the Roc-A-Fella, D-Block, Dipset, G-Unit wave, and though I always kept one ear to what Duck Down was putting out, I admittedly got sidetracked and missed a couple of his doper projects when they dropped. Coincidentally, it was “Figure Four,” the song that famously shouts out NahRight, that woke me back up.

Maybe it was the perfect Lootpack beat selection, or the vitality in P’s voice, but I banged “Figure Four” on repeat for what felt like a full year. Every mix CD or playlist I made had that shit damn near at the top of it. “Sean Carter is nice, but Sean Price is the best.” Fuck man, dude was spitting hard on that song, and taking no prisoners.

When I was brought on to start up the new NahRight features section here back in 2013, the first thing eskay, Nation and I did was open up an Excel spreadsheet and make a list of artists we wanted to interview. And of course P had a prominent placement on the list. Being a devout reader of the site for years, I knew he was not only one of The Blogfather’s favorites, but he was also worshipped by Nah-heads worldwide. It was a must-get interview.

After a couple months of wetting my feet with the features, I told eskay I thought it was time to reach out to P. We had just started up Heavy Rotation—a column where artists share songs they’re currently listening to—and we agreed Sean would be perfect for it. Like, wouldn’t you like to know the shit that inspires Sean Price to write those bars of thunder?

Thanks to DruHa and NoHa, I was able to get a hold of Sean’s home phone number and lock in a time to speak to him. We talked for about a half hour, and he took me on a roller coaster ride back through his Brownsville upbringing with stories about some of his favorite songs ever, all of which he still played regularly. It was an intimate look inside the soul of a man who was deeply in love with music. And of course, there were plenty of moments where he had me cracking up ridiculously, especially during a story about him dancing with an older woman at a house party when he was barely a teen: “My dick was so hard!” His laugh was infectious, and his spirit and enthusiasm was warm and genuine. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the outcome.

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Fast-forward less than a year, and I had an idea to do a feature for Father’s Day on Rap Dads, a term my boy Ev Boogie from UpNorthTrips liked to use that I proudly took ownership of. It was a chance to highlight the industry’s dopest dads, and talk to them about their experiences being a father and a rap fan, and how the two intersected. I immediately thought of Sean P for the piece, and knew that if I could get him on the phone his contribution would be priceless—pun intended.

I cold-called him that night, and though he wasn’t home, his wife was kind enough to tell me when he was expected back and graciously invited me to try again then. Whattaya know, I called a couple hours later and he was home and happy to talk.

We spoke about everything from his daughter’s favorite song (“Gangnam Style”) to his favorite cartoon to watch with her (Max & Ruby), and once again, I was on the floor laughing as he broke down how she would attempt to rap one of his more complex bars back to him: “She likes to go, ‘Chocolate doctor that doctored the document,’ I said it.'” It was clear that Sean Price was a dedicated family man who loved his kids more than anything in the world. And I imagine they loved him just the same.

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I’m pretty sure thinking about that interview while I was listening to my friend Peter Rosenberg’s Hot 97 Sean Price tribute on my drive to work Monday morning is what moved me to tears. I had just spent the weekend with my family celebrating my youngest son’s 1st birthday, and enjoying how incredible it was to be a father of three little boys. It made me sad to think that Sean’s family would now be without him during their own moments like this, and that he too would no longer be able to experience the same joys of being a Rap Dad that we had just bonded over only a year ago. And then Peter dropped “Figure Four” to start his set off and I lost it, choking up as I rapped along to P’s heavenly words bar-for-bar. Then he said, “Sean is a Don, I don’t wear Sean John,” and I smiled.

A friend of mine once told me after I gave him a copy of one of my CDs, “You’re immortal now.” I had never thought of it that way, but yeah, when you make any sort of music that is recorded, it now exists in this permanent space that’s infinitely longer than a human’s life span. Thankfully for us rap fans, Sean’s been immortalized on what feels like an unlimited number of songs that we can forever enjoy and celebrate. I hope his family can find even the smallest sense of comfort in that fact as I know this loss is absolutely devastating for them.

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We’re gonna miss you, P. You touched so many people’s lives with your music and humor, and for those of us who were fortunate enough to interact with you on a personal level, just know that you made a never-ending impression, and our days were that much more fun and memorable every time we were lucky enough to cross your path. Thank you for everything, you have truly blessed us all.

My deepest and sincerest condolences to Sean Price’s family. Please show your support here.

The New Sean Price Mural in Brooklyn
Come Out For the Sean Price Memorial Show
Rosenberg’s Tribute to Sean Price
RIP Sean Price
Father’s Day Feature: Rap Dads
Heavy Rotation with Sean Price
Sean Price x NahRight Archives

Photos via UpNorthTrips, Alexander Richter, and the NahRight/Westcheddar archives.


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3 Responses to “Thank You, Sean Price”

  1. Talibani Says:

    This was dope, a good read. Sad that the god had to go like this.. riP!

  2. Combat Jack Says:

    Great piece but “a term my boy Ev Boogie from UpNorthTrips had coined”. You sure about that?

  3. ip Says:

    Thanks Combat that’s love. Ev’s the first guy I ever heard/saw use it (well before the Father’s Day feature we did together), but yeah maybe “coined” was too strong a word choice because I’m not sure I can 100% prove he was the first ever to use it. Appreciate the comment

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