Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sean Price – Monkey Bars

A couple of months late on this review, but Sean Price’s Monkey Bars is well worth a look at as while initially unspectacular to this reviewer’s ears, it managed to somehow enter regular rotation only to make me realize it was one of the most honest and heartfelt albums released this year. Even better, it manages all this emotional content without ever bitching out like Slug, Cage or any of the other rappers that white punk fans fawn over: Sean P will straight smack you.

From the opening salvo to the bonus track, Monkey Bars is one hell of a downer. Sean Price aka Ruck from the iconic mid 90’s group Heltah Skeltah isn’t afraid to let you know that things didn’t exactly work out for him: he’s dead broke, an alcoholic pothead, got no job prospects, is in love with a total bitch, his dad left him, his mom’s a crackhead, his kids won’t get him nothing for father’s day and rap music won’t give him his due. In a way, he’s the ultimate mad rapper, the antithesis to every chain flashing, crystal sippin pretty-thug cosigned by the industry. There are no ghetto fabulous fantasies here, only a cold harsh New York reality and a pissed off Sean P who really needs to sell a couple of records if he’s going to keep doing this shit. Still, sunshine still occasionally creeps into the album: Heartburn is a heartfelt if hilarious dedication to everything Sean IS thankful for. Peep the lyrics:

I love selling nicks at night, go home, to my son
Roll a spliff and watch Nick at Nite
I love it when my bitch cook, come home
To a hot meal, it's not real, the bitch can't cook
I love them bullets I sent you
You know what's up, I'm broke as fuck, and nigga the rent due
I love my moms and her drug habit
I love a double jointed bitch up in my craft splattered
I love snatching niggaz jewels up on the mass transit
I love busting in ya mouth, I know you can't stand it
I love it
I love it when you bob ya head to this
At the same time, giving the God head in the whip
I love it when I'm wit wifey, you say nothing
Right under her nose, I'm right under your clothes
And I love it

It’s this kind of pathological worldview that makes Monkey Bars so enjoyable. No matter how terrible Sean Price’s life seems to get he just spits it back at the world in rhyme with a mix of defiance and sarcasm. He doesn’t seem to have much hope for change but he knows that no matter how bad things get, he’s a dope rapper. Things reach their apex on the single verse Brokest Rapper alive

(…)
It's father's day and I ain't get shit from none of my kids
Listen, liquor store, let me get a fifth
Weed spots, let me get a spliff
Mad as hell, plus I'm frustrated
Last album came out, you motherfuckers hate it
Rock solo, Ruck broke
Here's a hundred dollars, what a fucking joke
Eviction notice, yo, I gotta go
Album been out two months, ain't did a fucking show
Ruck, you ruined, I put the barrel to my dome
But what the fuck are you doing? Chill
Found a new way to build
Fuck rap, started selling 2-ways and pills
When the stomach growls, and the fridge there
And you starving, and ya kid's there
It's.... motherfuckin' critical pa
My pursuit of this rap, knew this straight trivial, pa
Niggaz all pray loyal, til yet, they all jet
When they fuckin' with a four dollar royalty check
And if you feel me, act like you know
Sincerly yours, the brokest rapper you know, Sean P

Dude just can’t catch a break. You don’t even want me to start quoting his “love song”. Suffice to say it’s one of the most honest, painful and fucked up dedications to one’s life partner put down to wax in recent years. The album isn’t all sorrow and happiness though; there’s a fair amount of anger on tracks ranging from the excellent Buckshot assisted Bye Bye, the Emerson Lake and Palmer sampling Madman, to collabos with Rustee Jux and Ruck’s old partner Rock. While perhaps less flat out surprising as the cries for help on wax, no one’s going to complain when Bootcamp emcees get to spit over hot beats and that’s what we get here: 9th Wonder, Ayatolah, Agallah, a bunch of unknowns and the album’s MVP Khrysis all contribute top shelf beats and on a whole, the beats here put recent releases by Smif-N-Wessun and Buckshot to shame.

People who search this site for indie rock reviews won’t find anything worthwhile in Monkey Bars. It’s a hardcore NY rap album for hardcore rap fans and its uncompromising break beats, thug rapping and all out pathological worldview will scare new jacks and casual fans away halfway through. After all, where are the nice cars? The champagne? The club tracks? The closest thing Monkey Bars offers to any of those are bus tickets, empty beer bottles and a Fake Neptunes beat. While there’s a little filler that keeps the album from reaching it’s full potential, it’s still one of the most darkly enjoyable records you’re likely to hear this year. Buy it before this guy jumps off the Brooklyn bridge. SEEAANNN PEEEEEEEEEE!

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