Given that I just reviewed Heltah Skeltah's Nocturnal, I figured Sean Price's debut, Monkey Barz, would be an appropriate follow-up.
I'm not really going to bore you with too many details about Sean P, as I have already reviewed two albums where he was involved (Jesus Price Supastar, his second solo LP, and the aforementioned Nocturnal), and all you really need to know is that Monkey Barz was a long-awaited project from Sean Price, as he and his partner in crime, Rock, took a long hiatus after releasing their second record together, Magnum Force, in '98.
An interesting note about Monkey Barz, however, is that it does not feature one beat by Da Beatminerz. Instead, P enlists Justus Leaguers Khrysis and 9th Wonder, plus a plethora of other producers (most of them fairly unknown) to handle all 16 cuts on the project. Another notable is that there are no skits on Monkey Barz, and that is a fantastic thing, as I have always felt that skits were pretty pointless.
You all already know Sean Price's grimy, I-don't-give-a-crap lyrical style by now, so I won't get into that, either. Let's just jump right into that review, shall we?
1. Peep My Words
No album intro? Perfect. Kleph Dollaz (seemingly a play on words of the pastor Creflo Dollar) produces a brilliant laid-back, reflective beat for Sean Price, but that doesn't stop P from going notoriously hard: "Y'all niggaz is fake, straight perpetrating the fraud, give me the cake 'fore I insert the eight in your broad, scared to death, niggas going face to face with the Lord, dumb out, bang ya motherfuckin' face in this board." Great start.
2. One Two Yall
Moss lays down a sick piano-driven beat for P on this cut, and Sean rips it: "Trained by ya vet, aimin' to sket, bangin' ya chest, flamin' ya flesh, straight David Koresh." Did I mention that Sean P has some vicious punchlines?
3. Onion Head
The first of two Khrysis productions on Monkey Barz is an absolute banger. As a matter of fact, it's one of the best beats Khrysis has ever laid out (it actually samples the famous song "If Lovin' You Is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right," believe it or not). This is also one of Sean Price's greatest performances, as he opens up the cut spitting: "Bitch harm me, the swiss army knife in my hand, know this shit corny, but it can end the life of ya fam, niggas know Sean nice with the hands, watch me punch up your face, dig in your pockets, leave you right where you stand." Whewww. "Onion Head" makes for the perfect pump-up song. By the way, Tek of Smif-N-Wessun does the hook.
4. Fake Neptune
Well, Monkey Barz is batting 1.000, because "Fake Neptune," produced by Phat Babyz, is also ill. The beat is sick, and Sean Price's lyrics are hilarious. For example: "Her favorite song on Nocturnal was 'Brainz Blo,' put on my pants, if she can let the brains blow, heh, I had to find that funny, lost my wallet, gotta find my money, bitch, how you gon' shit on me, after I let you shit on me? Freaky deaky." Then later, P raps: "Yo, alotta niggas rhyme, some of y'all nice, some sound the same, but not Sean Price, the O.D.B. of the B.C.C, I'm David Ruffin, save it it's nothin', no, need for acceptance, no need for applause, all you need is the gauss, when you bleeding of course." Buckshot does the hook, and Steele of Smif-N-Wessun and Louieville Sluggah of Originoo Gunn Clappaz drop guest verses. Everything about this track is great.
This is the lone 9th Wonder track on the album, and it's terrific. As you can expect, the beat is very soulful, and the kicks and snares on this are crazy. Over 9th's production, P raps about all of the things he "loves." Sean opens up with: "I love selling nicks at night, go home to my son, roll a spliff and watch Nick at Nite." Thus far, Monkey Barz has no weak points.
6. Shake Down
"Shake Down" contains a strange (but good) beat co-produced by Star.com and Justice, and Sean Price makes note of that in his first verse: "Come walk with P, so you all can see, how I get dough, spit flows, to an awkward beat, betta look both ways before you cross the street, the Pirellis on the Porsche push you off your feet." Steele spits the hook and raps a verse, and Starang Wondah of O.G.C. drops a verse, as well.
7. Mad Mann
This is the first song on the album that I don't like. P.F. Cuttin's beat isn't hitting me at all, and P, for the first time, doesn't really rap anything memorable.
8. Brokest Rapper You Know
This cut is only a minute and thirty-five seconds long, but it's still nice. Ty Deals drops a pretty soulful beat for P, who raps about how poor he is: "Last album came out, you motherfucks 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." Sean was obviously referring to how Magnum Force flopped there. Good cut.
9. Boom Bye Yeah
The Tone Mason-produced beat on this is nails (you have to play this in your ride). It is in sharp contrast to the rest of the album (save "Fake Neptune") as it is very fast-paced, and because of that, Sean P must change up his flow and adapt to the production, and he does that seamlessly. "I step in the ring weighing an even two hundred, lost twenty pounds in E-ville, fuckin' around with E pills, so I took a trip to Jacklin Lane, got my weight back like that when I snatched the chain," spits P. He later raps this gem: "Niggas be rhymin' 'bout nothing, I rhyme about nothin', it sound like somethin'." Definitely one of the best songs on Monkey Barz.
10. I Love You (Bitch)
This song is similar to "Heartburn," as Sean Price sticks to one concept throughout the entire track. This time, he raps about all of the cons of his girl and how he loves her anyway. The cut is just filled with backhanded compliments (if you can even call them that), making it extremely entertaining. The Dub Z beat seems kind of "off" at points, but it's still solid (I love those snares).
11. Bye Bye
Which brings us to the best song on Monkey Barz, and my favorite song of all-time, period. Khrysis produced what I think is the sickest beat in rap history, sampling a relatively unknown Aretha Franklin number ("No One Could Ever Love You More") and chopping it perfectly to form some incredible background vocals. There is no hook on this; just Sean Price and guest artist Buckshot each dropping two sick verses. In the first verse, Buckshot spits: "I know I coulda called you more, even though my niggas hustlin' in Baltimore, I call, you call, you call, I call but, I ain't callin no more, call a U-Haul, 'cause you off." P then raps: "Shorty rob all the stock outfit from pickin', I'll rip the fifth and, I ain't playin' witchya pa, leave ya shit split and take a quick trip to Wichita." I have listened to this track over and over again and I just can't get sick of it. Khrysis is a genius.
I figured "Bye Bye" would just be setting this track up for a letdown, but then the great Ayatollah comes through with a sick beat for Sean Price and Ruste Juxx, and Ruste rips it: "The criminal of the year, yeah I'm back to rob, so take ya shine off, when you see me on the job, due to the mac, I'm strapped, ready to clap, react, stop runnin' ya yap, and run ya stack." Nice, nice record.
13. Jail Shit
"If I die, yo I'm going out with knives in they grill, all my motherfuckin' life I've been real," spits P to end this Agallah-produced cut. Rock does the hook, but his performance on it is rather lackluster. The beat is decent, but overall, this track isn't anything spectacular, especially when compared to all of the songs prior.
14. Monkey Barz
Ty Deals puts together probably the most unorthodox beat I've ever heard here. Whenever I listen to the album's title track, I have to look around me to make sure I'm not in a zoo, because the production here literally consists of a bunch of jungle animals with some drums thrown over it. Somehow, though, P manages to make it work, spitting: "Aiyyo we Mighty Joe Youngin' it, thuggin' it, straight from the jungle my brother, my niggas Banana Republican, rang-a-tang slang, Chewbacca not proper, two socks full of rocks, plus the cops watch us." This will really grow on you after a couple of listens.
15. Slap Boxing
I didn't like this one at all. The beat, produced by Edward Maxmillion III (try saying that five times fast) is just terrible, and Sean Price sounds pretty uncomfortable on it. Rock and Ruste Juxx make guest appearances, but it doesn't matter; this track just isn't very good.
16. Rising To The Top
Unfortunately, Monkey Barz ended on a pretty poor note to me, as I didn't like this cut either. Agallah produces the beat (which isn't very good), does the hook, and drops a verse, and he manages to sound like a strange combination of DMX and Canibus in the process. "Rising To The Top" is also far too long for its own good, spanning five minutes and three seconds.
Although it didn't exactly end well, there is no denying that Monkey Barz is a spectacular effort by Sean Price. The good songs on the album are ridiculously good, possessing fantastic beats and some slick rhyming by P. Generally on an album that I like, I'll love one or two songs, like another four or so, and then the rest will just be so-so. On Monkey Barz, however, I love a good four or five songs and like every other track on the project save for "Mad Mann" and three of the final four records.
It's evident that Sean Price certainly does not need Rock to succeed, as one can argue that P's debut was actually a better all-around record than Heltah Skeltah's classic Nocturnal. Sean P obviously has a great ear for beats, as even the productions that were done by lesser producers sound good, for the most part. P's punchlines are also sharper than ever on this album, displaying considerable growth from the Heltah Skeltah days.
Monkey Barz is certainly one of the best hip-hop efforts that has been released thus far this century, as the production and Sean Price's otherworldly swagger is sure to keep the listener interested for all 16 cuts. P's choice of guest artists was also superb, as he, for the most part, limits it to fellow Boot Camp Clik members.
Of course, it would have been nice if the album ended better, but hey, the rest of the project is so phenomenal that I'm not going to gripe about that too much. Monkey Barz is one of my favorite records and will always receive consistent rotation in my music player.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
1. Bye Bye
2. Onion Head
3. Boom Bye Yeah
4. Fake Neptune