It takes either a certain sense of humor or a painful self-awareness to dub yourself “the brokest rapper you know.” There is a biting honesty that is required to admit that you aren’t exactly Smaug the Magnificent lording over vast sums of golden treasure as many of your peers often claim about their lives. These days that title doesn’t actively apply to Brownsville rapper Sean Price anymore, who, after reemerging in 2005 with his classic solo debut, Monkey Barz, has gone on to become a stalwart of hip-hop’s continually vibrant underground scene, carving out a comfortable existence for himself.
While nobody would mistake him for a grapefruit spritzer-sipping superstar, Price has managed to cultivate a cult following of devoted fans that has allowed him to persist with a rap career that is close to entering two full decades in the game. Emerging as one half of the seminal 1990s underground hip-hop group, Heltah Skeltah, the Brownsville native is one of hip-hop’s fiercest pure lyricists and his devastating and often hilarious punchlines has earned him respect and admiration from some of the game’s biggest stars. “If I go out and I see what people consider “big dogs” when they see me they give it up. They know,” Sean said. “ As long as they do that, I’m cool with that.”
A few weeks ago, Sean Price released his latest project, Land of the Crooks, a collaborative EP made with Aussie producer M-Phazes on Coalmine Records. I caught up with P to talk about the project along with his thoughts on his career, his new EP, why he identifies with hulking comic book characters, and which celebrities count themselves as fans.
Noisey: What have you been up to? How has the holiday season been treating you?
Sean Price:I’m great, man. I did nothing. [Laughs] I work so much that nothing is an accomplishment. [Laughs]
Nothing? You must really value your free time. What does Sean Price do to relax when he gets some time off?
Besides drugs? Video games. I’ve always been a video game kid since CalecoVision. I’m showing my age a little bit but yeah. [Laughs] I enjoy fighting and shooting games and basketball. I ain’t shit but I’m honest. [Laughs]
You have a new collaborative project with M-Phazes called “The Land Of The Crooks EP” on Coalmine Records. How did you connect up with him for this new project?
Matt Diamond [Coalmine Records CEO], that’s the homey, man. He’s a great guy. We’ve worked a lot. We did so much shit that “Yo, man! Let’s do something real quick! Let’s do it!” and we did it. And M-Phazes? I’m not sure if [Matt Diamond] manages [M-Phazes] but he works with him a lot so it was real simple to fuck with M-Phazes. I’m a fan of his music, too.
What’s different about this new EP?
“Bag Of Shit? The Shit With The Bag?” I don’t think I would have put that on Mic Tyson. There’s something about the beat. It’s more live. It sounded more refreshing. You know? I’m trying to do shit with other beats. I think my Sean Price series of albums are what they are. I think this and I’m working with something with Harry Fraud. You’re gonna hear me rhyming on different kinds of beats. That’s what I wanted to do. Those beats I wouldn’t have put those on Mic Tyson.That don’t mean I wouldn’t rhyme to them. It wouldn’t fit Mic Tyson but it fits Land Of The Crooks.
This new EP is on Coalmine Records but you’ve spent the majority of your career on Duck Down.
I’m still with Duck Down. That’s the team. You know, usually dudes do move on but a dude like me I’ve got trust issues. So if I trust you guys, I’m gonna just rock with y’all. You’ve never heard Sean Price runs into the office and beats a guy up because I trust these people. Dru-Has is great. He has a Ph’D in fake industry talk so I just let him do his thing. [Laughs] I don’t want to go nowhere else. Respectfully, if I did go somewhere else, I would want to bring Dru-Ha along for the ride because he knows how to work with me. You feel me? I’m not good with the industry fake shit so I have the greatest manager in the world to handle it. I’ll be with you all the time.
One of things that I find most consistently entertaining in your rhymes is that you seem to incorporate a ton of references to pop culture.
I’m a comic book nerd. I don’t know if people know that about me. I took on this persona of this big bruising guy but I used to be a skinny guy. I love the Chewbaccas, Solomon Grundys, Frankensteins, Hulks. I love big, old school, dumb doo-doo strength. In my mind, I’m one of them. I want to be the Hulk. I just want to be mad and hit hard. I want to be that. Who don’t love Solomon Grundy?
You is that you seem to have a very rich sense of humor.
I got jokes. Point a camera and see what happens. A lot of my friends been like “Yo, son! You should do stand-up” but I don’t think I’m the kind of guy to sit up in front of crowd and just start cracking jokes. Now if you are my friend and we are all around smoking weed and we start yapping? Yeah, I’ll have the whole circle laughing. I’m one of those kind of guys. But I’m not gonna get on stage and say “Cheez Doodles are crazy. Do you like Cheez Doodles, man?” I’m not gonna do that. [Laughs]
Take me back to the early days of Duck Down. The label seemed to produce classic record after classic record. What was the environment like that produced all that great music?
Before Nocturnal, Rock (the other half of Heltah Skeltah) used to mug people in the street and I used to take trips out of town selling drugs. That really was our life like at nighttime when we was living so that’s why we went with Nocturnal.When everybody is asleep, we out making moves. I would work all day hustling. Rock would be in the street, throwing something on the floor and digging in they pocket and that’s what we did all day. So at nighttime that’s when we was really like “What up!,” hang out, smoke weed, play music, play Sega Genesis, so we was really nocturnalfor real.
Have you ever met anybody that you were surprised was a fan of yours?
I trip out over some of it. Me and Ryan Phillippe are friends. I would not think that Ryan Phillippe would be a Sean Price fan. He knew a friend of mine and he was like “Dude! I’m a big fan! I’m going to take him out to eat!” We went out to restaurant in Manhattan called STK. We went there and we pigged out. We had like 5 dozen oysters, we ate, we cracked a shit load of jokes. He’s a real down-to-earth dude. I’m just surprised, you know?
They were filming Brookyn’s Finestin Brownsville and I met Don Cheadle. He was familiar with my music. I was bugging out. Wow! I’m just surprised by the fans I do have. “Oh, Don Cheadle? You know my shit?” Shit like that bugs me out, yo.
Michael K. Williams who played Omar on The Wire and Nucky White on Boardwalk Empire. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s actually in an old Boot Camp video called “Night Riders.” We used to live in the same hood. When he filmed Brooklyn’s Finest, he was like “Yo, man! I think I’m in your hood.” I’m like “Aight!” I walked over there and we went and fucking hung out in the trailer. Me, him and my wife, we took pictures. I got a lot of fans that are surprises.
On Twitter, you often change your name to a play off many different civil rights icons. Currently, it’s Talcum X but in the past, it’s been Sean Mandela.
You know my thing is? Italians have gangsters, right? They got these Al Capones and the Nittis and we name ourselves after these gangsters and these people even in the movies, they are like “You’re a nigger? We don’t like niggers.” I’m like “Yo! We got black gangsters, too!” We got African gangsters. You can’t tell me that Mandela ain’t a gangster. He did 27 years in a South African prison then came back and ran the town. It don’t get no more gangster than that. I’m just trying to let people know we got gangsters, too. Chaka Zulu is a gangster. Idi Amin is a gangster. Let it be known, man.
What can we expect on your upcoming new album, Niggletius?
I can put it out right now if I want to. I’ve got like 40 joints done. I’m just trying to figure out which ones I’m gonna put and what to add on and see if I’m gonna really do guest stars. I’m not really into that too much. People owe me a lot of verses. People I might push the button on them this time but I don’t know if I’m gonna do that. I’m in that process right now. It’ll come out when it’s time. I don’t rush nothing but when it feels right it’ll be out and it’s coming out on Duck Down. It will be on Duck Down. Even though I did [Land Of The Crooks]on Coalmine, I’m Duck Down for life. Sometimes you got go out and get this paper and do my thing but I’m still on the team.
How do you want to be remembered in the rap game?
I think people will go “Yo! That nigga can rhyme!” And I’m cool with that. It’s the rap game, man. I wish that they would go “he’s dope and had 8 platinum records” but I don’t and that’s cool. For those that don’t know. Sean P? That motherfucker can rhyme. I’m cool with that because motherfucker, I can rhyme!