We cover death fairly often in rap music. More often than I would like, but that is the nature of the beast. Sometimes it is medical like MC Trouble. Sometimes it is a haphazard accident as with Troy Dixon. Other times it is gunfire or the foolishness of youth. No matter the circumstance, mortality involving people so young is disconcerting. But you cover it because as a journalist it is what you do and you maintain a certain objective distance from the subject.
Yesterday, August 8th, 2015 another Hip-Hopper moved on to the next life. Brownsville native and Boot Camp Clik representer Sean Price, aka Mic Tyson, Decepticon Sean, Kimbo Price and an assortment of other colorful monikers, was reported dead at the young age of 43.
I knew Sean Price. My ears can attest to his veracity as an emcee of the highest caliber. My eyes bore witness to his grimy exterior which lent to his gruff Brooklyn aura. My mind is witness to the caliber of man he was. Husband. Father of three. Friend of many. Fam to the privileged. Gone in his sleep. I ain’t objectively distant. This one really hurts.
When Planet Ill first started back in 2009, Duck Down Music was in the midst of its second wave and they gave our family extraordinary access to theirs, from the head honchos and OG’s to the new wave. I got to know Sean Price and was enlightened by his warmth and humility. We talked about his Islamic faith and how it conflicted with his career; how he felt about rappers who put God in their rhymes but were living flagrant.
There was a point in his life when the hassle wasn’t worth it. The grind of rhyme and marketing took its toll and he considered walking away. He reordered his life and put God first, family second, and then Hip-Hop. He was right ever since.
I share these things with you because you will read many pieces that will focus on his music. They will talk about Heltah Skeltah and his many hard-hitting guest spots (we will get to his music in a few). But not many will testify to who Sean Price was as a person. I’m proud to say Planet Ill will not be numbered among those that only acknowledged him after he was gone. We marked his presence when he was here.
I mentioned Duck Down’s resurgence earlier and it is important to note the importance of Price to that new wave. 2005’s Monkey Barz marked the first salvo of Duck Down’s marketing campaign for the triple threat, along with releases from label stalwarts Buckshot and Duo Smiff N Wessun . It was the best album of the three releases and provided the spark that led to the rebirth of the company. I remember being surprised by the dopeness of the debut Heltah Skeltah album, which held its own in the midst of a creative era never before seen in Hip-Hop. It has aged better or as good as many of those more heralded classics. I’ll let those other sites tell it when they report this like it is news and not tragedy.
I’ll leave you with a short story. On one of my many late night solo missions to cover a Hip-Hop show with a hall monitor as door dude, I had a publicist/label person (long time memory fails) who forgot to put me on the guest list. I was outside the venue while they tried to figure it out. It was either a hot smelly New York night or a cold ass New York night but whatever it was, I had my fill and I was about to be out. I wasn’t there to see Sean, but he came outside for a second and he saw me. We gave the traditional pound and hug exchange and he asked why he fuck was I outside. He hollered at the door chump and brought me in with him.
That’s the kind of guy he was. Nuanced dude. Hardcore rapper, loving father, former gang member turned leader and teacher of men. He was Saul, struck from his horse by a beam of light, becoming Paul the Apostle. From the streets to the beats. From Ruck to Sean Price. From teammate of Rock to solo emcee. Internet comedian. The stone upon which Duck Down resurrected. Conflicted servant of Allah. I swear on my life last week I was driving around listening to Skyzoo’s Live From The Tape Deck and blasted “The Burn Notice” featuring Sean and Rock at least five times. And woke up Saturday to the worst news in the world.