Life After Death: Sean Price's Posthumous Album Is a Living Legacy

'Imperius Rex' is a fitting capstone to one of New York rap's great careers.

imperius rex sean price

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imperius rex sean price

It’s been two years since Sean Price passed, but the legacy of the larger-than-life Brownsville MC lives on. There's his enormous catalog of music, available on every conceivable platform for new (and old) fans to dig into. There’s his Twitter account—verified, even—and Instagram account, both still run by his wife, Bernadette. And, of course, there's a new album, Imperius Rex (available on iTunes now), put together from his last recordings by Bernadette and Duck Down engineer Dan the Man, who’d worked on all of Price’s previous albums.

Imperius Rex is more wake than funeral, a celebration of the MC’s life featuring his words alongside those of some of his best friends—guest verses from the likes of Rock and Method Man, Raekwon and MF Doom, Styles P and Prodigy (also gone too soon just this summer). According to Duck Down’s Dru Ha, Price hadn’t gotten Imperius Rex to the point where he’d have turned it in to the label, but the finished product isn’t one of those awkward Duets-type releases filled with awkward pairings. Instead, it’s just another Sean Price record in the best sense of the term, a fitting coda to a two-decade career.

Longtime Sean Price fans and newcomers alike will want to revel in the Boot Camp Clik posse stylings of “Apartheid” (featuring Buckshot and General Steele) or the lead-off title track, which opens with his daughter, Shaun, spitting bars of her own before Price comes in with a hilarious false start. These tracks, these verses, wouldn’t have been out of place on solo efforts like Jesus Price Supastar or Mic Tyson. This is the sound of a mature MC in his prime, the album just happened to be released after his death.

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Posthumous albums are a genre unto themselves, one that really kicked off following Elvis Presley’s death in 1977. When John Coltrane died at 40 in July, 1967 his label, Impulse Records, released just one more album, Expression, two months later. When Presley died a decade later, his recorded output barely slowed. A quick scan of his discography page on Wikipedia shows that it’s still going, too—four new Presley albums were released in 2016 alone.

The rap equivalent to Elvis is, of course, Tupac Shakur. Shakur recorded prolifically in his 25 years, leaving behind enough material for untold posthumous albums—seven and counting, not including multiple compilations. Yet there hasn’t been a “new” Tupac album released in a decade, so there seems to be little chance of his ever catching the King. Which is probably for the best.

Again, Sean Price’s record is more celebration than morning, with more laughter than tears. Price fires off disses that will never get responses—”Who rap like rap is supposed to sound?/New cats type wack I won't disown you clown,” he rhymes on the Freeway-featured “Prisoner”—he’s getting that last word in literally from the grave. P!

Selfishly, I want more Sean Price records. I’ll miss his braggadocious lines—”I'm not just a rapper I'm a painter by trade/Abstract art, just throw a grenade to your brains”—delivered in his trademark gruff tones. I’ll miss the “P!” ad-lib, provided promptly as punctuation. I’ll miss his tracks with Rock and Buckshot and the rest of the Boot Camp Clik. A major piece of Brooklyn hip-hop was lost on August 8, 2015.

But, at the same time, I hope Price’s ultimate legacy is more ‘Trane than ‘Pac. Because as much as his wife and his daughter and his label did to ensure that Imperius Rex was a proper Sean Price album, the further we get from his passing, the more difficult that task will be. Sean Price bars from 2015 still sound new in 2017—and, had he lived, most of what’s on Imperius Rex would have dropped. It’s one to end on, even if that end came far too soon.

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