Sean Price was not an incredibly dope MC.
2005 was the year I was still transitioning from music lawyer Reggie Ossé to Internets personality Combat Jack. I had such disdain for the music industry that I completely turned away from the music it was churning out. I dived into underground rap then featured on early hip-hop blogs like Nah Right, organic raps that hadn’t been tainted by mainstream labels. MF DOOM was heavy in rotation. Them boys from North Carolina, Little Brother too. I also bumped this gem of an album titled Monkey Barz featuring Sean Price. I became a Sean Price fan instantly, not only because the music—the BARS were phenomenal—but also because of how Sean reinvented himself. Gone were the days of Ruckus from the Heltah Skeltah; Sean managed to reinvent himself using his government name. And it worked. And I became a fan. As someone who knows first hand the experience of reinvention, I’m a sucker for it when it’s perfectly executed.
Five years later, I started The Combat Jack Show with Dallas Penn and A-King. We taped a few episodes of us shooting the shit, then we got the idea to have guests on. Our very first guests were Sean Price, DJ Clark Kent, and Maffew Ragazino. I was nervous af. I never interviewed any entertainer, ever, but that episode flowed. When Sean and Maf went into freestyle rap mode, Sean shut it down with just one line: “Waste disposal, we remove brothers, embarrassing the family, Keyshia Cole mother.” The line was brilliant, funny, and was delivered effortlessly, and we all laughed like kids. Sean’s appearance set the course for what The Combat Jack Show would eventually become.
Sean would go on to be an extended member of our show. He’d come through whenever we asked, his only condition that we pick him up from and drop him off at his Brownsville home. Premium Pete became his designated chauffeur. During breaks, Sean would show me his prized digital aquarium on his iPad. He collected exotic virtual fish and cared for them as if said fish were real. I thought it odd that such an imposing figure in the tough guy rap world would care so much about his pixilated fish, but the more he shared, the more I learned about him being an avid reader of comic books—X-Men, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, you name it—and when I asked him why such a tough guy from Brownsville like Sean Price was into digital fish and comic books, Sean replied, “I’m not a tough guy, I’m a nerd, have always been a nerd, but I could fight, because I had to growing up.”
The nerd who became a tough guy made so much sense. Sean was a member of the 1980s street gang the Decepticons, once the largest gang in New York City. I learned that the Decepts were formed by students who attended Brooklyn Technical High School, incredibly smart students who grew tired of being picked on and harassed by other kids and decided once and for all to click up and fight back. And in doing so, they would eventually become the thing that they feared, the tough guys whom others feared. Sean developed the reputation as being the kind of guy who didn’t go out looking for trouble, but if you brought even an ounce of trouble his way, he felt obliged to give you them hands.
Sean Price was incredible as an artist, as a live performer. The way he would walk onstage, alone and not surrounded by 5,411 goons, the way he would do that weirdly amazing thing with his fingers, as if he were counting imaginary numbers to trigger remembering his lyrics. His presence commanded the stage, and I never got tired of seeing him perform. Or the way he’d go through phases and become different personas: Mic Tyson, Jesus Price Supastar. Sean had a knack for keeping his brand contemporary without going out of his way to compete with this generation’s rappers.
Sean also had a knack for not wanting to chase the fame and fortune that he deserved. He loved living low-key in Brownsville. He wasn’t about being all up in the clubs as much as he loved being at home with his wife, Bernadette, and his children. For all his music accomplishments, Sean was more of a blue collar man who preferred the simpler comforts of watching his daughter Shaun Price grow as opposed to popping bottles and dancing on couches.
Complicated but simple in his ways, Sean Price was not an incredibly dope MC. Sean Price was simply a nerd turned tough blue collar guy who happened to be blessed with amazingly superior MC skills. His last tweet dated Aug. 7, a day before his passing, lists his plans for the upcoming weekend: “I'm going fishing Sunday at Sheepshead Bay I did it last week it was relaxing.” It reflects exactly who he was. He is sorely missed, and I’m already seeing him catching big fish somewhere out there in the vast cosmos.