For hip-hop heads around the world, Brownsville legend Sean Price was synonymous with underground rap, and his passing in 2015 saw the scene lose one of the rawest and most-respected artists in the game. Price Of Fame supplies yet more unreleased Sean Price bars, through a collaboration with Lil Fame (of M.O.P).
Price’s standing as a rap icon is well-founded. A member of supergroup Boot Camp Clik, his reputation grew in the mid-90s alongside rap-partner ‘Rock’ (Heltah Skeltah), Buckshot (of Black Moon), duo Smif-N-Wessun and the group O.G.C. In the new millennium Price placed his efforts into more solo ventures, releasing three studio albums much to the delight of the underground community.
Through these projects Price established a new sound, rich with realness and simplicity, that felt somewhat fresh at a time of flashy gangsta’ rap. His change in name from his Heltah Skeltah moniker ‘Ruck’, to his given name Sean Price, also marked a new maturity in his career.
Bars like “It’s Father’s Day and I ain’t get sh** from none of my kids” (“Brokest Rapper Ever”) jokily flaunted his new role as a regular family man and husband.
Price’s newfound rawness was mirrored in his voice, raucous and gravelly, and perfectly fitted the persona of a no-nonsense Brooklyn rapper. On Price Of Fame, nothing has changed, and it makes us wonder how much more unreleased Price is there to come?
The album is produced exclusively by Lil Fame, one half of M.O.P, who also hails from Brownsville, Brooklyn. Fame is no stranger to gritty rap, M.O.P are known for their aggressive, spit-coming-out-the-mouth performances, heard most notably on songs like “Ante Up” and “Cold As Ice”.
This posthumous collaboration, that has been in the pipeline for a while now, seems an appropriate one, with Fame’s tendency for tough-sounding beats suiting Price’s straight-talkin’ style.
The album starts with “A Few Words From Mrs Price“, that is the wife of Sean Price, Bernadette. She’s featured musically on her husband’s work before (“Price Family”), but here she just offers some words to describe the partnership and how it is wholly Brownsville.
We get the first taste of Price and Fames’ chemistry on “Big Gun vs Lil Gun“, which sees Billy Danze join Fame to complete the M.O.P feature. A catchy guitar riff, reminiscent of a smokey western, is looped and backed by some loud, jerky drums.
Price’s flow is jumpy too, the hostility heard in his voice perhaps responsible for the short punchy bars – “Sean is the s**t / The s**t Sean spit is legit, legitimate bars / Pal, you an ignorant b***h”.
Fame provides some hype-man style chanting in the chorus that any M.O.P fan will be familiar with. The beat is hard-hitting and as unsubtle as they come, which when coupled with the rappers’ bars oozes authority from the get-go.
“They Ain’t F***ing With Us” sees a Heltah Skeltah reunion, with Rockness Monsta and Price both bragging through grisly rhymes. The bars aren’t as sharp here, but it’s nice to see the duo together on the same track once again.
Rim and Teflon feature alongside Price on “Peter Pop Off“, a team-up welcomed by fans who have heard the rappers collaborate with Price and M.O.P before. The piano loop is gentle and floaty on this one, allowing each artist to calmly showcase their verbal skills.
“Aw, s**t / Dude, my YouTube views and my skits / Better than all your bulls**t” declares Price, in his usual gruff fashion, his voice sounding like he’s been smoking his beloved Newports since birth. One thing Price does well is lay down lyrics that you can laugh at, usually stubborn and blatant. Rim flows the nicest here though, his bars feel like cartwheels over the springy instrumental.
Old-school meets new on “Enemy Of The State“, which sees Price and Fame share the mic with current underground king Conway the Machine, and also Guilty Simpson, an artist favoured by the likes of Dilla and Madlib, so you know he must be good.
Fame demonstrates his proficiency as beat-maker here, making a smooth, sleek instrumental perfect for a chorus-less trading of verses. It feels like it should be behind a video montage in a movie, where all the characters are getting their s**t together.
This track is strictly for the bars, and there are no pauses between verses. As soon as Price ends his part with his signature adlib “P!”, Conway continues “I slide by spraying some big s**t / I’m ready to die get a feelin’ of playing some B.I.G s**t / And it’s a wig shot whenever the sig hit…”.
Conway enters coolly here, rhyming with the final bars from Price’s verse, making the track feel neatly stitched together. Guilty Simpson carries on with some distinctively blunt bars; “Got his family at the morgue with a Ouija board…Snatch a clown out his E-class / For thinkin’ life was a dreamcast”.
The energy rises as Fame brings the track home with the fourth and final verse, and in typical M.O.P fashion it sounds like he’s taunting us the way he cries his words.
Alike the majority of Sean Price’s work, Price Of Fame has a lot of replay value, that will keep underground heads happy going into the new year. There are some classic Price rhymes, and Fame further cements his position not only as a talented MC but also as an effective producer.
No face-tattooed, mumble rap was expected, and the album boasts an uncompromising rawness throughout which is hard to come by these days. Despite not having much commercial promotion, the album owes its fine ensemble of guest features to Price’s position in hip-hop, and the many lives he touched as an MC and friend.
Considering how long Price has been in the game, this collection of rhymes is likely just a slice of what could be a huge pie of unreleased gold.
Sean Price And Lil Fame’s Price Of Fame album is out now, purchase on iTunes here and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Kyle Roscoe