We often think of rappers as these self-indulgent multi-millionaires living in the lap of luxury. The Cribs typecast — a fleet of cars, half-naked groupies by the pool, an entourage littered around the mansion mean mugging for the cameras — may be true in some cases, but it’s mostly an image propagated by the media. Most emcees are starving artists doing it for the love of the culture. For Sean Price, a.k.a. Ruck of Heltah Skeltah, this is all too familiar. He went from crack to rap with the Boot Camp Clik in the mid-’90s, only to find himself in the new millennium broke, selling E-pills and two-way pagers. Monkey Barz is Sean P.’s attempt at a comeback. And if anything, he proves emcees can be resurrected twice.
Dropping two albums as half of Heltah Skeltah, Sean P. was the Phife Dawg of the duo, cast behind the shadow of Rock’s booming baritone. Monkey Barz, the first of three Boot Camp Clik albums scheduled to drop this summer (Buckshot & 9th Wonder’s Chemistry and a new Smif N Wesson album are on deck), Sean P. enlists his friends 9th Wonder and Khrysis of the Justus League for production. On “Heartburn,” 9th Wonder delivers his customary southern soul, and Khrysis drops “Onion Head,” a fitting banger for Sean P. to re-introduce himself.
Although 9th and Khyrsis are welcome contributors, the bulk of the production carries that characteristic grimy BCC sound. I’m not one to advocate violence, but the heat generated from “Boom Bye Yeah” will have you wanting to slap the nearest person in site. Much the same can be said for “Slap Boxing,” which is highlighted by a blistering appearance by ex-partner-in-rhyme Rock.
The self-proclaimed “brokest rapper you know,” Sean P. illustrates the trials and tribulations of a forgotten emcee in a “hot today, gone tomorrow” industry. It is Sean P.’s brutal honesty and realistic portrayal of the life as an emcee that is the definitive and most memorable quality of Monkey Barz. The BCC is quietly starting to make noise, and if Sean P.’s project is any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be a long, hot summer.