Sean Price

Jesus Price Supastar

(Duck Down Music; 2007)

By Kevin Yuen | 4 September 2007

Jesus Price 14:3
If the Boot Camp Clik is a broke-ass Wu-Tang, who gets the honor of being the bootleg Ghostface? Well, it’s not Sean Price, a.k.a. Ruck (although he gets one point for having an alias) from Heltah Skeltah (group within a group, another point). The closest he gets on Jesus Price Supastar is when he rhymes about tofu and soy milk, although the line specifies that he doesn’t consume either, which sounds very un-Ghostface-like. What does sound similar to Ghostface on his latest album, though, much like many other hip hop elder statesmen, is the embrace of hip hop’s up-and-comers, which enables Price to stay marginally relevant. Where Ghost activates MF Doom for beats, Price brings along some of North Carolina’s Justus League and Brooklyn Academy to produce and guest rap; it’s stunning how the relative skill and animation even parallels in who they work with. Maybe Price is more of a bootleg GZA. Or maybe he’s Cappadonna. He spits himself: “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with / Boot Camp Clik ain’t nothing to Wu-Tang.”

Jesus Price 2:1
I’ve read interviews with one of the Boot Camp about starting the formerly bandied but now shunned “backpacker movement.” I forget who it was with, but there is a point in the interview where the rapper gets kind of heated about being fingered as begetting Jurassic 5 and MC Paul Barman, and he goes off, saying that backpackers were “hard” and that the original reason they had backpacks in the first place was to “rack paint.” Sigh. Why couldn’t this guy be proud of putting money into independent rap’s hands? You guys started a movement! It’s this attitude that plagues much of Jesus Price, full of street-level braggadocio, gun clap raps, and hip hopier-than-thou lines aimed at vague, nameless targets (although, to be fair, at one point he does call out fictional character Omar from The Wire). While many of Price’s try-too-hard lyrics are eye-roll worthy (one of many: “All joking aside, all vocals aside / I will fuck your ass up, pa / Fuck I look like, huh? / Yeah, now back to the music, some niggas backpack to the music / When I rap, I smoke black and sell crack to the music”), he certainly knows how to pick serviceable beats. “Like You” is a stuttering chop of reggae guitar with rumbling drums, accented by a sampled sigh. The rest of the album falls into line as well, with chimes, keys, and light vocal samples littering sharply filtered snares and muted kicks. Justus League-forged or not, all the head nodding beats could be credited to 9th Wonder and nobody would think twice, for better or worse.

Jesus Price 16:1
There’s not really any indication that the title of the album is anything but a mildly clever play on words. The few references to Jesus (as Sean Price’s moniker) are ad-libs and there are nearly zero references to Jesus of Nazareth. There are multiple times the rappers on Jesus Price refer to “God,” not as the omnipotent all-seeing, but as the respectable term for an older male. It’s on the closing track of the album, though, where Price pours his heart out on cool, piano beat with a cooing vocal sample. He talks candidly and insightfully about his life as an aging rap star who has moderate success but still needs a day job to care for his kids: “My man said he heard me on Mister Cee / That’s cool but that don’t equal chips to P / The brokest rapper you know sell crack after the show / With a fo’ fo’ that’ll blow back half your fro / The drugs that I sold got fucked up, God / So it’s Carhartt suits and construction jobs / It ain’t rap dough, but the money is cool / Got to make sure Elijiah ain’t bummy at school.” For all his chest puffing, Sean Price knows his place in the world, and realizes he isn’t a “God” in a literal sense.

On the track “Stop” there may be a clue to an inadvertent point: “I love Allah but I act Christian.” In effect, Sean is admitting to having values of both Islam and Christianity (although “Allah” just means “God” in Arabic). He also mentions somewhere that he doesn’t “dine on swine.” Muslims believe that Jesus existed, but was not the son of God (Allah) and simply a prophet, a human. That gives Jesus Price a more grounded spin. The title of the album then isn’t as much the product of an inflated ego than it is an admittance that he’s not otherworldly. He’s not Jay-Z, he’s not Superman. He’s Sean Price. He’s, uh, Batman. And that makes me kind of feel bad for calling him a broke-ass Cappadonna.