Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Phlip
To be honest, I am surprised to be writing this review AFTER the album came out. It is commendable to whoever was on the artist’s team in plugging leaks of this one, as my Google technique is normally infallible when it comes to locating literally anything that can be found on the internets.The plan all along was to go to FYE in my local shopping mall and plunk down $9.99 or less for single-disc albums (since I hate iTunes with a burning passion) for this one as I had with the previous ones in his catalog. The only difference between this one and the other 4 CDs I have purchased this year is that I actually had to OPEN this one.
Most of you should know who Sean Price (@SeanMandela) is, if not, a perfunctory Google search will provide you with the information you might need to find on him. He has been a favorite of mine since his reemergence with the 2005 release of his solo debut Monkey Barz. One of the things I like about him is that his mixtapes ACTUALLY foreshadow his albums, thematically speaking. The titles of them have always been a nod to the forthcoming album and I have always thought that to be rather original, which is more than refreshing.
Enough about me, let’s talk about some music…
This beat is a lot of what I have come to expect of the Bootcamp Involvement with Justus League/9th Wonder. Crazy, as this is an Alchemist beat. I am getting the ignorant violent rap that I EXPECT when I listen to a Sean Price presentation, and nothing about this has me angered. He rides this beat on another too-short-for-my-tastes song VERY well. Totally honest, I LOVED this song for the punchlines used and how the beat was used. My only real gripe is that I wanted MORE of it. As a writer, I know that leaving a reader with that is a mark of success. Win.
Whoever this “Amp” cat is, his beat sounds like Premier. If I was still making beats and had achieved this, I would consider it a win. Sean is punching lines, and doing it well. He may or may not have WRITTEN this, but it matters not to the enjoyability of the song itself, except for the fact that he is dropping random punchlines that may or may not be making a point. More violence and the like, just that the artist is further from the point – any point – than I am used to. The beat sells this track more than the entire presentation. Not bad, but I know we can do better.
4. Price & Shining Armor (feat. Ruste Juxx)
I saw this coming. Ruste Juxx is on EVERY Sean Price release and I would have been honestly surprised had he been absent to the party. What I was NOT expecting was what might be the most lyrically enjoyable verse or Ruste Juxx’ career as far as my opinion goes. Our gracious host opens the song with redemption for the previous track, as he is more of what we are used to getting out of him lyrically himself. Perfect warm-up for letting his guest close off the song nicely. Both have done the beat much justice.
5. Title Track
No, the official name of this song IS “Title Track,” which I thought was kinda clever myself when I typed this sentence a week ago. The beat is an odd 80s-sampled mash-up that took me a minute to get acclimated to. I had to hit “back” to start the song over to even type that sentence. I get more of what I have come to expect of Sean Price on this song. Sharp one-liners are present, and the beat grows on you except for in the “hook” portions. I am pretty sure that this song might be better with a different producer, but that is MY opinion.
6. Straight Music
Organs, bells,chords… not a word spoken yet. I love this song already. I get the cadence that I am USED to from Sean Price on this song, and I TOTALLY mean that positively. This is the rhyme pattern that he is best at as far as tempos goes, and he has employed it on the best of his work. His punchlines are here, the ad libs are low and he is properly using an otherwise uncomplicated beat from 9th Wonder.
7. STFU, Pt. 2
I heard the artist-sponsored leak of this song weeks ago and my having posted it on Facebook sold at least three copies of this album including my own. Marinate on that for a minute, because the song is like 3 minutes long and only about half of that is actual “song” contained in two verses. Yes, it is THAT good. It starts with a voice of KRS-One speaking something we might not expect of him. Then an AMAZING Alchemist beat starts. Sean rides the beat BEAUTIFULLY, employing a portion of the cadence I named on the last song as well as some of one other and his signature disrespectful language. If you need my real opinion of this song, see the first sentence of this section, and take note of them.
This beat reminds me of Dubstep.
I do not like Dubstep… I will listen now. I get the use of the “hush little baby” nursery rhyme cadence. I am coming to like the beat. This might be the most violent nursery rhyme I have heard in my life. I get a mention of Ace Ventura, as well as a rather impressive use of lining at the end of that verse. I am just not a fan of this hook, but again the in-verse lining of this track are enjoyable. I was worried that I might not like this song coming in, but I am actually pleased with it on this side of it.
9. Solomon Grundy (feat. Ike Eyes & Ill Bill)
I didn’t know whether to expect a reference to the nursery rhyme or the DC Comics character, then I remembered the cover art for this and the prior albums and properly set my expectations to be to the comic book. No intro bars, bang twice and start rhyming, I love this approach to rapping. A mention of Ivan Drago helped greatly too. At the end of a verse, I still had no reference to answer whether my initial expectations were accurate or not.
On the other side of the first verse, I get a verse from someone I have never heard of and don’t exactly ENJOY. The only mention of the title character has been at the end of the verses, then a third unrecognized verse appears. He raps well, but I still haven’t ever heard of him. I never got my answer to my “which Solomon Grundy?” question, but the track was overall enjoyable.
10. Frankenberry (feat. Buckshot)
This had better be a reference to cereal. Nah, I’m playing. This beat is hard as hell, I had to start the song over to properly take the song in. Ruck does this beat MUCH justice in how he rides the beat. The hook is interestingly and seemingly purposely disjointed before cutting short and giving way to Buckshot’s verse. I am less than bothered by his verse. It is enjoyable, but nothing earth-shattering and also feels cut-short for the re-entry of the hook again, which then gives way to a quick few bars to end the song, then an abrupt ending for the next. I didn’t hate it, I think I expected more of it though.
11. BBQ Sauce (feat. Pharoahe Monch)
This beat starts off bigger than I expected. Pharoahe’s hook plays up to it, though. Ruck is calmer than the beat or hook (which STARTS the song) suggests that he should be, but it is an interesting contrast to the beat itself. Punchline of the album so far: “I’ll make your moms suck my dick with barbecue sauce,” and not because it was so great a line, it is just THAT disrespectful. Tyler Perry gets his share of the disrespect, and then that last punchline gets aped with the replacement of “barbecue sauce” with “with blue cheese on my balls.” I probably shouldn’t like this as much as I do, but I enjoyed it much.
12. Bully Rap (feat. Realm Reality)
I don’t know who this guest is, but I am not a fan of his voice. The song leads with the hook that showcases that voice, and continues into Sean’s angry-sounding voice. The beat, another Alchemist piece, is very much enjoyable. Okay, I get a mention of Kool Aid smashing through the wall, Ralph Kramden smashing Alice to the moon AND a shout to Dallas Penn within the first 3 lines of a verse? I could stop listening to this song now, I actually like it more than the guest on it has given me good reason to.
13. By the Way (feat. Torae)
Given that I have been listening to Torae for the past 3 weeks, I come into this song with VERY lofty expectations. Sean introduces himself as the “leader” of Duckdown and asserts this with his use of a old-school sounding big-drum beat employing the brand of bars we’re used to from him. Torae is on the hook of this song, and I was worried that he didn’t at least get a verse on. My fears were confirmed and that casts an unfortunate darkening on my overall opinion of the song. The beat was worth it, as were the hooks and verses, I just felt that Torae was owed a 16 on this one.
14. Battering Bars (feat. Pumpkin Head)
I don’t know who this “Beat Butcha” cat is, but he has cast an AMAZING piece of production into this song. In one verse, I have heard a mention of New Jack City, the Mixtape that came before this album AND the artist’s first solo album. Halfway through, this amazing beat is handed over to a guest who does it justice himself. I only hate that there was not one more verse on this one. With one more verse, perhaps two, this could have been my favorite piece on this album. I almost feel bad having to say that, as it suggests an absence of my enjoyment, when the issue is simply that I wanted MORE.
15. The Hardest Nigga Out
Last track on the album… More magic from the same cat that made the last beat. His use of sample is amazing. Shit, I am going to go back to the beginning of the song because this beat caused me to miss the fact that there were very few intro bars and that Ruck is rhyming his ass off on this. Now, he is back to doing the same thing that we have come to enjoy of him. I get a mention of Method Man in Belly that leads into a hook where the beat is the star of the show. Totally honest, this is quickly shaping up as one of my favorite pieces on the album. A re-occurring theme is that the moment I REALLY get into it, the beat has taken over again and the song is ending.
And with that – containing no album intro, no skits inside and no album outr – we’re done after only about 42 minutes.
I was not yet able to scare up the iTunes bonus tracks without the use of iTunes… If I locate them, I will submit for discussion.
16. Haraam (Bonus Track)
17. Remember (feat. Freddie Gibbs) [Bonus Track]
18. I See (Bonus Track)
It is being rumored that this will be Ruck’s final album. At my age, I have been listening since I bought Nocturnal on my 17th birthday. To date, there has only been one release that I just don’t listen to. When conversations between friends and I turn toward “what recent stuff does Phlip listen to?” for the past 7+ years now, this has been a name that comes up consistently. In other words, if this IS the last album of his career then you can consider me saddened by that fact. I say that to say that I enjoyed it and it was good enough to warrant me being left with the desire for more of it. Honestly, I was left wanting more of what I had in this album itself, as it were.
To date, it is an already-purchased item and I do not regret this fact one bit, in fact I would do it again given the chance. All I can say is that I am on the sideline hoping for more product, both from Sean Price AND Heltah Skeltah, I can’t see it ending like this.
Curious in his absence was Rockness, and I worry about the whereabouts of the remainder of the members of Boot Camp, but I say that as an outsider looking in and know that there may be other reasoning applied to the “why” of that and in such will not judge. Overall, I DO suggest a purchase of this album if only to keep the artist motivated to make more of this enjoyable music. I know he has done better, but he has also done worse and for $10 that I might have otherwise spent on beer for a Tuesday night, I am not unpleased with my purchase.