‘Rapper Sean Price Passes Away This Morning’. So read the hoax-y headline by thesource.com that first caught my eye last Saturday. And I write “hoax-y” because that was literally the first thing that popped into my mind reading it: that it must be a hoax. You see, it wasn’t his time to go. Lyrically, Sean Price was at the top of hisgame, he had a number of exciting projects in the works, including a new Heltah Skeltah album and a new Random Axe album, not to mention his upcoming mixtape Songs in the Key of Price (of course a riff on Stevie Wonder’s seminal Songs in the Key of Life). And he was only 43 years old, with no known serious health issues.
Last week, I published my first opinion piece on Hip-Hop in ages here on Dope Magazine, pleading for Ghostface Killah to be included in G.O.A.T. discussions more, mostly based on his extensive and legendary body of work, in addition to his rhyming prowess. I wrote ‘…whenever I hear or read people making a case for why their favorite rapper should be on the throne, it’s very rare that a certain, sometimes masked, Staten Island MC gets mentioned.’ I myself would not make that case for Sean Price in the same way, but out of all veteran rappers still putting out quality albums, he’s in my small, select group of favorites with Ghostface. Becoming a father and head of a small family more than 6 years ago had forced me to be extra discriminating with my music buying habits, but buying a new Sean P involved project remained a priority for me and, with the first two Heltah Skeltah albums, Monkey Barz and Jesus Price Supastar already on my shelf, Heltah Skeltah’s D.I.R.T., Random Axe and Mic Tyson were all added to my record collection after their release. He was one of the rap artists I loved hearing the most and the thought of never hearing a newly recorded Sean Price verse again is damn near unbearable.
Someone in my social media circles responded to the news with ‘feel like I lost a family member over here’. Despite never meeting Sean Price. And I found that I experienced the news exactly the same way. I’ve been listening to the music of him and his crew since I first heard him kick off Smif N Wessun’s Cession at da Doghillee and when you enjoy someone’s music so much and listen to it so often, it’s inevitable they become a large part of your life. As a fan it’s also hard to see media that never promoted, played or recognized Sean Price’s music when he was still alive report on his death and honor him. But I would like to stress the positive here in that whole new audiences are suddenly exposed to his songs.
As a rapper, Sean Price combined the wittiest wordplay with brutal honesty, a brash, never absent sense of humor and a powerful vocal tone filled with confidence. He embodied consistency and a stick-to-your-guns ethos, making only the type of music him (and his fans) loved, while actively staying away from music industry politics. He had personality for days as displayed in his music videos, interviews and many viral video antics and we’ve probably witnessed only a fraction of it. As such, it’s not hard to imagine the loss his loved ones and his friends are experiencing right now. My thoughts and condolences go out to them. I know from experience that people with strong personalities never really die and that their presence continues to echo on in the lives of the ones they leave behind, long after their passing.
R.I.P. Sean Price. You’ll be missed.
Artwork by Michiel Kroder