I have to admit, I’m not the biggest Sean Price scholar. I slept on the dude’s music for way too long. It’s not like I disliked what he was putting out, but I just never got around to listening to anything by Boot Camp Clik or Heltah Skeltah. But I did get a copy of Random Axe (the collaboration album he made with Guilty Simpson & Black Milk) and I knew I needed to start paying attention as soon as I heard him absolutely annihilate Black Milk’s spaced-out beat on “Chewbacca.”
So I’m excited to listen to hear Mic Tyson, the New York rapper’s third solo album. Looking at the tracklist, I’m looking forward to hearing him rap over beats by The Alchemist and 9thWonder. Let’s see if he comes through with more of that half-Wu, half-DOOM underground Brooklyn lyricism.
1. The Genesis of Omega Produced by The Alchemist
The Alchemist is almost unequaled in his ability to make weird/grimy/drugged-out beats that still go hard-as-hell (I don’t think anyone can quite top the RZA in this category though), and he cooks up the perfect beat to start Mic Tyson off right. Like MF DOOM or Raekwon, Sean Price has mastered the art of packing an impossible number of rhyming syllables into every verse. But in the same way that Alchemist’s production isn’t too weird to nod your head to, Price’s bars don’t get so lyrical that they become boring. Instead, he just edits out any verbal filler, and what’s left is great:
It goes, Hanna Barbara barbarian
Bars better than yours
And your entourage, pa, Sean bury ‘em
You know how the shit go
No disco, Sisquo, or calypso
Blow piff, four-fifth, smoke mixed with indo
East African beast battering Chief Kimbo
2. Bar-Barrian Produced by The Alchemist
Price goes off on one of his favorite topics: How much he hates wack rappers. Alchemist again provides the sonic backdrop and this time, the beat is built around a chopped-up and pitched-up vocal sample. In just over two minutes (no hook needed here) Price gets on his angry old man flow and talks about how he hates the dougie, tight pants, and jewelry. He doesn’t sound washed up or out of touch though, just pissed off.
3. Pyrex Produced by Amp
Another solid track but not a stand-out. “Pyrex” is just Price flexing over a boom-bap beat and I really can’t complain too much about that. This track doesn’t do anything to break up the flow of the album, it just keeps the vibe going.
4. Price & Shining Armor Featuring Ruste Juxx; Produced by Wool
On this track, Ruste Juxx seriously reminds me of Pusha T’s verse on “New God Flow“. Not that I think he’s stealing flows, it’s just the first thing that popped into my head. And just like Pusha on that Cruel Summer standout, Juxx sounds hungry and angry. Sean Price’s two verses are pretty mind-bending too.
5. Title Track Produced by Eric G
I’m not sure what’s going on with the production on this track, it’s a mix between a cheesy guitar loop, laser-gun sound effects, and a few dance-beat breakdowns. Price’s bars are way off here too, and he basically owns up to it, “This a dumb rap, but I can rap smarter”. So far, Mic Tyson has been somewhat inconsistent, but the tracks that are good have been amazing. Right now, I want to hear more Sean Price and Alchemist joints.
6. Straight Music Produced by 9th Wonder
And the vibe is back. 9th Wonder never disappoints and on “Straight Music”, he gets the job done by flipping an organ sample over a vintage-sounding beat. Earlier in the album, “Pyrex” followed the same formula (Price issuing threats over boom-bap), but this track just executes that concept better.
7. STFU, Pt. 2 Produced by The Alchemist
For the greater good of Hip-Hop, Sean Price & The Alchemist need to do an entire album together. It’s not just that Price’s verses sound great over Alchemist beats, what’s more important is that Price seems to lose his damn mind (this is a good thing) any time the former Mobb Deep associate is behind the boards. On this track, Price doesn’t stop until he’s threatened to destroy the planet Earth, compared himself to African dictators, and declared himself to be the greatest rapper alive.
8. Hush Produced by Khrysis
Most great music is born out of desperation. Whether it’s a young artist desperate to get a deal, make money, or make a name for themselves; or the veteran desperate to stay relevant, meet expectations, or make an artistic statement. On “Hush”, and throughout Mic Tyson, Price is able to entirely ignore this precedent and still deliver great music. Price doesn’t sound lazy or complacent, he just sounds like a man who is totally confident in his ability to out-rap your favorite rapper.
9. Solomon Grundy Featuring Ike Eyes & Ill Bill; Produced by Eric G
A posse-cut named after a comic book zombie supervillain just sounds like it would be awesome, and like most of this album, this song gets better the more I listen to it. But despite a few great lines (“Nigga, I hate you, break you, Ivan Drago, I’m rushing to put pellets in your pecan pronto”) I think that Price actually was outshined by both Ike Eyes & Ill Bill on the track. Finishing last on a posse cut can be a bad look on your own album, but it doesn’t really matter much because ultimately, this is yet another quality song.
10. Frankenberry Featuring Buckshot; Produced by Stu Bangas
Sean Price is great at rapping about two things: 1. How awesome Sean Price is, 2. How much everyone else sucks. And when I say great, I mean it; he’s almost unbelievably good at bragging and insulting. But over the course of an album, his approach is getting repetitive. So on “Frankenberry”, he does his thing again (along with Buckshot), but a story song or something would be a nice change of pace.
11. BBQ Sauce Featuring Pharoahe Monch; Produced by Evidence & DJ Babu
Monch is one of the most lyrically gifted MC’s on earth, if you’re doing a song with him, why would you want him to only rap on the chorus? This song comes across as filler, but if you can look past a couple of disgusting lines where Sean Price talks about your mom, BBQ sauce, and blue cheese; you’ll notice that Evidence and DJ Babu deliver a nice beat.
12. Bully Rap Featuring Realm Reality; Produced by The Alchemist “Uhh, this that Brownsville bully rap, Hoodie rap, take a nigga chain, smoke the goodie trap”. This is how Realm Reality kicks in the door on “Bully Rap”. Meanwhile, Alchemist is flipping a Little Richard break alongside an Isreali pop sample and it somehow sounds great. And again, Alchemist brings out Price’s A-game.
Uhh, you cowards are bogus
Split head like Red Sea power of Moses
Due to my weight gain I had to double the dosage
of drugs that I do, a nigga stay toasted
13. By the Way Featuring Torae; Produced by Evidence
I think Price really hates writing choruses. This is the third track in a row with a guest rapper who spits nothing besides the hook. Price is still rapping about the same topics, but he’s doing it a lot more creatively on “By the Way” than he did on “Frankenberry” and “BBQ Sauce.”
14. Battering Bars Featuring Pumpkinhead; Produced by Beat Butcha
For some reason, thug-rap always sounds great over soul-beats, and Beat Butcha provides great 9th Wonder-esque soulful production on “Battering Bars”. And of course, right after I write about Price’s aversion to writing hooks, he raps the chorus on this song. After a couple of stand-out tracks, “Battering Bars” comes across as filler despite the great beat.
15. The Hardest Nigga Out Produced by Beat Butcha
Price bodies the final track on Mic Tyson. If you only read the lyrics to “The Hardest Nigga Out,” not too many lines will jump out as amazing. But when you actually hear the track and hear the way Price bounces words off of each other, you can appreciate how good these lyrics actually are.
Sean Price is one of the best pure rappers alive. He could successfully go head-to-head with just about anyone in the game and because of this talent; Mic Tyson is a really good album. However, his subject matter does get repetitive after 15 tracks, and there were some filler tracks. For the most part though, this is an entertaining album and almost all of the production is outstanding. Mic Tyson doesn’t revolutionize Hip-Hop or anything, but it doesn’t need to, it’s still one of my favorite rap albums of the year.