Sean Price’s ‘Mic Tyson’ Cemented His Indie Rap Legend
The career of a rap artist is usually depicted as one of glamour and glitz, bringing to mind images of iced-out chains, exotic whips, stacks of cash and a harem of gorgeous women. While this may be a reality for a select handful of rappers, for the average blue collar spitter, the lifestyle is much more modest and less carefree. Brooklyn native Sean Price is one rapper who has found common ground with fans and peers alike by embracing the struggle of being a middling artist devoid of aspirations of blowing up, crossing over or appealing to the masses, making him a reluctant champ within the landscape of indie rap. Unfortunately, on August 8, 2015, Sean Price would be pronounced dead after passing away at his Brooklyn, cutting short one of the more improbable star turns that a veteran artist that rap has seen to date.
Immortality is the ultimate goal for any artist or musician, and death has a way of putting things in perspective, as was the case with Sean Price. His career may not have been littered with platinum plaques and chart-topping singles, but was filled with enough quality bodies of work and lasting impressions that led a number of fans and critics to celebrate him as one of the greatest rappers of his time and a Brooklyn legend. With a discography that includes his work alongside partner-in-rhyme Rock as one-half of Heltah Skeltah, and an album as part of indie-rap super-group Random Axe, when all is said and done, Sean Price will be remembered for his solo material, which came after reemerging out of obscurity during the middle of the 2000s.
Deciding between which of the three studio albums he released during his time on earth is his best is not for the faint of heart, but what cannot be debated is that Mic Tyson, the last long player the Brownsville bully would release prior to his death, is one that best embodies all there is to know and love about Sean Price. One contrast between Mic Tyson and Sean Price's previous two albums, 2005's Monkey Barz and 2007's Jesus Price Superstar, is the production line-up, as the Duck Down franchise player links up with new collaborators like Alchemist and Evidence, in addition to calling in usual suspects like 9th Wonder, Khryis, and Beat Butcha. Alchemist constructs a menacing backdrop for Mic Tyson's introductory track "Genesis of the Omega," which contains a sample from "Wheel of Time" by Ananta and finds Sean Price giving fair warning of the verbal brutality that is yet to come.
"It goes, Hanna Barbara barbarian/Bars better than yours and your entourage, pa, Sean bury 'em" the former Decepticon muses, before doing damage over another Alchemist production on "Bar-Barian," a dusty offering on which he pummels and chastises lesser rappers and their gimmicks—a constant theme and sentiment held throughout Mic Tyson. Acknowledging his standing as the premier member of Boot Camp Clik in between spilling off quotables like "I don't want to dougie, I just want money/Studied under the understudy the one-twenty/Young dummies can't spar/No life, my flow tight, like your pants are," Sean Price makes sure to distance himself from industry norms that have diluted the essence of hip-hop in the view of rap purists.
"STFU Part 2," another contribution to Mic Tyson, comes courtesy of The Alchemist and was released as the lead-single in anticipation of the album's release and contains some of Price's most focused penmanship. "Back when Milk was chilling/My man smoked a bag of dust and killed his children/No fucking around, no Wilt the stilting/Niggas that's off balance gets killed for tilting," the bearded pugilist spills over percussion and audio feedback, making for one of the album's more enticing inclusions. Lullabies get sung on the Khrysis-produced "Hush," with rare political commentary delivered on P's part, albeit jokingly, with the line "Obama turned the White House into White Castle," foreshadowing the first black President's election win in the 2012 Presidential race.
Mic Tyson captures Sean Price in his own splendor throughout, but also includes a handful of collaborations that help bolster the album as well, the first of them being Price's collaboration with fellow Duck Down member Ruste Juxx on the Wool-produced "Price & Shining Armor." "Street fighter, Juxx strike like Bison/The nigga ghostwriting for Price on Mic Tyson," Ruste Juxx barks, matching his co-conspirators knack for humorous zingers that reinforce their label's lassie faire attitude when it comes to rap glory. Another standout pairing from Sean Price's third solo LP comes in the form of "Solomon Grundy," a track featuring Ike Eyes & ILL BILL, on which Sean Mandela goes bonkers with a flurry of punchlines, rhyming "I bring in the shells, I beat up your squad/You singing in jail, you Chico DeBarge/Fucking nickel bag steamers/I sell coke that's whiter than milk of magnesia."
Additional costars on Mic Tyson include Buckshot ("Frankenberry"), Pharoahe Monch ("BBQ Sauce"), and Torae ("By The Way"), but the album's most notable appearance comes courtesy of fellow Brooklyn rapper Pumpkinhead on the Beat Butcha produced "Battering Bars." Pumpkinhead, a vaunted performer and lyricists in NYC's indie-rap scene, would pass away on June 9, 2015 while awaiting surgery to remove a gall stone, less than three years after the release of Mic Tyson, and nearly two months prior to the date of Sean Price's own passing. "Sean P, call me Kimbo/On drugs paranoid, who's lookin through my window," the artist formerly known as Ruck spits over the measured production, while Pumpkinhead swoops through with heady couplets of his own. "This is that trunk pop music, make you pull the ratchet out/Blood fire heat you up, then pull a casket out/I'm who you should ask about/I'll body any rapper, and get my paper back like Random House," Pumpkinhead delivers, navigating over a sample from "When We Pull The Shades" by Eugene Record as the two deceased emcees hold court for the last time together on wax.
Upon its release, Mic Tyson, which was Sean Price's first solo studio album in five years, arrived as the rapper's most anticipated project to date, debuting at 58 on the Billboard 200, his highest chart-position to date, proof of his increase in popularity and a product of his reputation as one of rap's most formidable lyricists. However, when Price spat "Literally, y'all niggas is bitch boys/The last LP -- I quit, boy," on the Mic Tyson highlight "Title Track," little was he - or anyone in the rap world, for that matter - aware that those words would prove to be true and that it would actually be his last album completed and released prior to his untimely death. In the time since his passing, two projects from Sean Price, 2015's Songs in the Key of Price and 2017's Imperius Rex, have been posthumously released, with the latter being received as one of the premier indie-rap releases of 2017 and one that carries on the legacy of Sean Price in an effective and respectful manner.
However, out of all of the projects he has put forth to date, Mic Tyson is one that captures him at the peak of his reincarnation as the brokest rapper we know, and helps ensure that he'll be one that we'll never forget
Watch Sean Price's Video for "Bar-Barian":
Watch Sean Price's Video for "Genesis of the Omega":