Less than two weeks after the untimely passing of forty-three year old Brownsville, New York wordsmith Sean Price, in his home and while sleeping, on August 8th of 2015, a sense of mourning is ushered in today, August 21st of 2015, as he unleashes his eight track mixtape (though some sources call it an ‘EP’) Songs in the Key of Price. Originally imagined as a mammoth thirty track endeavor, which was preparation for an unnamed full-length album he was also working fervently on immediately before his demise (and the original, alternate cover on the physical copy to the one seen above has been reported to have ceased production after Price’s death and has already become a collector’s item), there are traces of the raw, truth spitting and verbally vehement emcee who caught the attention of the lyrically minded with his tremendously crafted debut mixtape Donkey Sean Jr. in 2004. This appeal gradually spread to a wider audience with his three albums: 2005’s Monkey Bars, 2007’s Jesus Price Superstarand 2012’s Mic Tyson. His sixty-one collective guest experiences in the short frame of his existence and his famous pairing with his duo with Rock, whose real name is Jamal Bush, under the moniker which they released three albums from 1996 to 2008, Heltah Skeltah, and the Hip Hop super group: Boot Camp Clik.
There is also an obvious and understandable sense of incompletion to many of these tracks, a reminder of how swiftly Price’s life was taken from us as all. The mixtape highlight, “Go Rambo” (which features Illa Ghee and Head i.c.e. in turns which are worthy of Price’s spotlight) overall feels like the only genuinely complete song at a robust three minutes and forty one seconds.
Besides this, the one minute and twenty one second length present in the furious sonic burst that is the second track, “Fei Long”, the sixth track, and the concluding bit, “…..ific” to the second longest tracks, “Metal Beard” (the fifth track with a vigorously grimy melody, and a solid guest spot from Vic Spencer that only makes the aforementioned comparative words more viable) and “Soul’s Perfect” (with a gospel/ R&B refrain which makes the song sound all the more epic and grimy, despite its length, when paired with Price’s take no prisoners assault of violent, stereotypically macho imagery of guns and destruction) running a mere two minutes and forty-one seconds respectively.
This could’ve come off as too little but, instead, it only heightens the gangster, straight rhyme spitting energy throughout and makes this seventeen minute endeavor all the more break-neck paced, rapid-fire and vigorous because every song goes in, delivers lyrically, though it is all too comfortable with the usual chronicles of violence and little else of any genuine depth, and gets out before it overstays its welcome. Such becomes an example of the occasions where the “less is more” approach works to startling effect.
The thumping beat of the two minute and sixteen second opener, “Bobby MC Bars” (featuring a frantic, verbose verse from Ike Eyes) captures the freestyling, ‘doing this for the love of Hip Hop’ essence prevalent as soon as you hit ‘Play’. Designed to sound like someone beatboxing, with a touch of a Redman for added funk to some of the notes and delivery of the intriguing chorus, the sound is pure emcee wizardry with lines that could’ve come off as generic, like “Clean your ear with a Q-tip and check the rhyme”, resonating with a palpable cool that burns its way effortlessly throughout the totality of the tunes found herein.
“Planet Apes”, the fourth track, is an extended flow with a rhyme scheme, such as the one he sports in “Metal Beard”, which is enough to make even the most hardened Hip Hop devotee envious. An example of amazing production from PF Cuttin (who fabricated the soundtrack Price rhymes over for all tunes found within Songs in the Key of Price), and brilliant use of sampling, the song is a tongue twisting dazzler that is all the more intriguing because of all the punch it packs into its meager one minute and forty six second length. It leaves us astonished and wondering how few emcees could do so much in such a brief span of period of music.
“No Reason”, which exhibits one of the most energetic melodies on the whole mixtape, is another highlight. Price’s combative style and approach is made all the more of a knockout by PF Cuttin’s equally defiant work on the song’s sounds. This scant cry of rage, along with the bulk of Songs in the Key of People, is given all the more of a funereal sense since his voice, tone and delivery are too identical to another fallen legend Big Punisher (and, more often than not, The Notorious B.I.G. in style, complexity of rhyme and approach), who passed away on February 7th of 2000, and when Price seems to go into the lyrical zone, summoning a poetic fury comparable to the fellow New York resident and rhymer, there is an uplifting and mournful power to it all and gives the proceedings even more of a sense of unfiltered Rap in its glory days.
For those looking for a short explosion of rugged poetic prowess, Songs in the Key of Price works exceptionally well. Those looking for introspection, original thought outside of another catalogue of the forcefulness of the street will be disappointed (though Price does give these tried and true topics his own charismatic flare and perspective).
How much more unreleased material we will hear from Price remains to be seen but as one final sonic testament to his worth as an emcee, and the quality of his bars and often witty banter, is a delight well worth seeking out. Price had the necessary inflection, quick flows, wordplay, enough combative ego to give him personality without becoming overbearing, as is the case rappers like 50 Cent and Kanye West, and the warrior spirit to match the underground persona he desperately wanted to achieve with his music and the evidence pulsates with life throughout this hefty knockout, this brutal swan song of a mixtape.