The legacy of Sean Price is one of perseverance and reinvention.
A member of Heltah Skeltah, The Boot Camp Clik, The Fab 5 and Random Axe; Sean P went by many names. He was Ruckus (Ruck for short), Mic Tyson, Jesus Price and Kimbo Price; an emcee whose trademark was his witty wordplay, full of humor and punchlines delivered in a voice that was as coarse and rugged as the Brooklyn streets that he came from.
Ruck came across most rap fans' radars during a time that many describe as the "second golden era" of rap – the mid 1990’s. The momentum of Black Moon’s 1993 album Enta Da Stage was the perfect set up and introduction for the Boot Camp Clik collective (which includes Heltah Skeltah, OGC and Smif-N-Wessun.) Ruck knew Tek and Steel of Smif-N-Wessun from high school—and from street affiliations.
He told VIBE in 2012: “I started at Graphic Arts (Manhattan's High School of Graphic Communication Arts) and I joined [street gang] the Decepticons. That was when I met Steel and Tek. We was just wildin’ back then.”
The music was gritty East Coast boom bap courtesy of production crew The Beatminerz, and it was the defining sound of New York underground Hip Hop at the time.
It was Smif-N-Wessun’s 1995 full length release Dah Shinin’ where we first heard the Brownsville wordsmith on “Cession At da Doghille” – a posse cut which features Buck Shot of Black Moon, Originooo Gun Clappaz (OGC) and Heltah Skeltah. It was Heltah Skeltah’s 1996 debut album Nocturnal where Sean truly got a chance to shine with his partner Rockness Monsta aka Rock. There’s a song on the album titled “Sean Price” which was a clear precursor of what was to come. Rock’s gravely and throaty vocal tone was the perfect contrast to Rucks more mellow (at the time) flow and cadence.
I be God Cipher Divine/and niggas can’t test me and mine/some say Sean Price is nicest on mic devices/pack power that make me more mightier than Isis/Sean sparks like John Starks in the 4th quarter/oughta meet my peeps-deep like the Torah."
- "Sean Price" by Heltah Skeltah
Sean’s delivery and energy was a lot more subdued than what he would ultimately become known for, but the listeners knew that Sean Price was something special. “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka," the 1995 posse cut credited to The Fab 5 highlighted Ruck’s gritty vocal tone and slick wordplay, but we still hadn’t witnessed the best of Sean P. Although Nocturnal garnered critical acclaim in Hip Hop, it failed to create a historical footprint as big as Black Moon’s Enta Da’ Stage or Smif-N-Wessun’s Da Shinin’.
1998’s Magnum Force and 2008’s D.I.R.T. (Da Incredible Rap Team) continued in the tradition of Nocturnal while “Sean Wigginz” from Magnum Force and “Ruck n Roll” from D.I.R.T. were clear vocal and lyrical examples of the solo Sean P that we would soon see and hear. There are rhymes that are clear indications of where Ruck would go.
Listen, Hallelujah, holla back /hollow points leave ya head just like that sleepy hollow cat/I will Amadu, in armored starter cap/ P! the ambiance of a homicidal maniac, P!”
- "Ruck N Roll" by Heltah Skeltah
The incremental progression and transformation from Nocturnal to D.I.R.T. is clear on a few songs, but the previously mentioned exemplify where Sean was heading.
Released in 2005, Monkey Barz marks Sean Price’s first official solo release. The comedic side of Ruck was always there, but he didn’t fully unleash it until his solo offerings. P sets the expectation on the introduction of “Peep My Words” from Monkey Barz:
“What you’re about to witness here, my brother, is ignorance at his finest.”
“Brokest Rapper You Know”, “Heartburn” and “I Love You (Bitch)” exemplify the humorous side of Sean P. Ruck honestly comes off as a serious cat, who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
I'm better with mine/Sean Price remember this time/ I'm all that, jaw tap ya, Gregory Hines /strapped for the war, I got a package of raw/ In the ass crack of this whore in the passenger door/y'all niggas is wack and should be slapped with the four/ Shit like that be attracting the law.”
- "Peep My Words"
With production from 9th Wonder, P.F. Cuttin, Agallah, Khrysis and Kleph Dollaz Monkey Barz was not only a perfect solo debut, it represents the best of 2000’s underground Hip Hop.
Standouts on P’s sophomore album Jesus Price Superstar include the 9th Wonder-produced “P.Body”, “King Kong” featuring Rock, “Cardiac” with Buck Shot, Ruste Juxx & Flood and “Let It Be Known” with Phonte of Little Brother. Sean’s multisyllabic wordplay and punchlines throughout the project solidify him as one of the genres greatest. Songs In the Key Of Price, Mic Tyson, and the posthumous Imperius Rex from 2017 all comprise the discography of one of the most consistent MCs in the game (his many mixtapes and posthumous releases number in the dozens.)
Duck Down Records CEO Dru Ha spoke with Fader about the last project that Ruck worked on.
“Sean just liked to rap. Before he finished a song, he would go and do another verse. He didn’t care much about the hooks, so there were tons of verses to go through and lots to figure out. It was like putting a puzzle together. He left drives of music in the different studios that he worked out of. With me personally Sean wouldn’t bring us into the recording process until he had what he thought was the skeleton of an album. That hadn’t happened yet with Imperius Rex. That’s how Imperius started. It took over a year and a half to really put together.” Dru spoke further: “It [Imperius Rex] was definitely in the works prior to his passing. He had just turned in Songs In The Key Of Price, and the plan was that we were going to follow it up with this album.”
Sean Price passed in his sleep on August 8th, 2015.
He left a plethora of unreleased music and a legacy that, honestly, should be discussed more when speaking of the great wordsmiths of the genre. When Sean passed a crowd fund was established and accrued more than $70,000 in it’s first days with Jay-Z, Eminem and others making donations.