The first album I ever reviewed on this blog was Sean Price's second album, Jesus Price Supastar, so I figured it was about time I started completing the rest of his solo discography.
I already supplied you with some background information in the Jesus Price Supastar writeup, so I'll try to keep this introduction short and sweet.
After releasing two albums with Heltah Skeltah (a duo comprised of himself [where he is known as "Ruck"] and his partner-in-crime Rock), Sean P went seven years without putting out any solo material. He worked with his Boot Camp Clik crew on the 2002 album The Chosen Few and dropped a few guest verses on other projects, but for the most part, P was silent.
Then, in 2005, Sean Price released his debut album, Monkey Barz, to critical acclaim. It was named Independent Album of the Year by AllHipHop.com, and many other hip-hop aficionados and fans dubbed it one of the best projects of the 2000s.
Is Monkey Barz as good as everyone hypes it up to be?
There's only one way to find out, and that's by reviewing it.
1. Peep My Words
Well, Sean Price is already off to a good start, as he forgoes and album intro for an actual song. The late Kleph Dollaz of the group Ill Biskits laces a soulful beat for P to spit his boasts over, and he comes with some hilarious rhymes that have become so typical of himself right off the bat. Solid way to kick off Monkey Barz.
2. One Two Yall
This is pretty freaking good. Moss is on the boards here, putting together a grimy instrumental consisting of a piano riff and some dusty drums. In his second verse, Sean P says "plain lame, acting ignorant." That's a fairly accurate way to describe Sean Price's rhymes, which generally never make any sort of sense but still somehow sound great.
3. Onion Head
This is where things really start to get good. Khrysis crafts a banger for P, who threatens to "smack off half your smile" and then smack off the other half "after trial." Awesome. Tek from Smif-N-Wessun is here, as well, and he drops the hook. "Onion Head" is one of the best pump-up songs I've ever heard. It's pretty much guaranteed to get your blood boiling.
4. Fake Neptune
Sean Price isn't exactly enthralled with mainstream rap, and he lets you know that in the title of this track alone. Clearly, P is poking fun at The Neptunes and radio records of that ilk. And come on; you know you laughed when Sean P said "how you gon' shit on me after I let you shit on me, freaky deaky." Everything from the instrumental by Phat Babyz to P's raps to the guest verses by Steele (the other half of Smif-N-Wessun) and Louieville Sluggah (from Originoo Gunn Clappaz) is on point. Louieville's verse is especially dope. Oh, and Buckshot does the hook. Yeah; "Fake Neptune" is pretty much sick.
9th Wonder lays down the smooth production for Sean P on "Heartburn," where our host talks about everything he "loves," ranging from his wife to "fist fights with brass knuckles" and, um, wallabies. Yes; wallabies. Another winner for Sean Price on Monkey Barz.
6. Shake Down
Over a pretty hard beat by Star.com and Justice (who?), P, Starang Wondah (of Originoo Gunn Clappaz) and Steele rap generically about how they can't be messed with. I know that last sentence may have seemed like a subtle criticism, but it really wasn't. This is pretty good. It's not on the same level as the preceding three cuts, but it was still good, nonetheless.
7. Mad Mann
The first true misfire on Monkey Barz. P.F. Cuttin's drums are way too busy, and the sample just sounds messy. P definitely could have done without this one.
8. Brokest Rapper You Know
Even Sean Price himself would tell you this isn't true anymore, but back in 2005, I guess this was kind of appropriate (although still not really). Regardless, this song is obviously not to be taken literally. It's Sean Price, after all, and hey; this short record is still pretty solid, anyway.
9. Boom Bye Yeah
You know how I've said how sometimes rappers "rap like nothing and it sounds like something" on this blog before? Well, this is where it came from, as Sean P says that line in "Boom Bye Yeah," which is undoubtedly one of the best tracks on Monkey Barz. Tone Mason's fast-paced beat is crazy, and P obliges with a brilliant three-verse performance. This is another one of those good pump-up songs that seem to permeate this album.
10. I Love You (Bitch)
The title of this song is obviously in conflict with itself, but that's Sean Price for you. The Luther Vandross-sampling production by Dub Z is decent, and P drops some pretty damn misogynistic rhymes about how even though he can't stand certain things about his girl, he wants to stay with her. In his defense, though, he says "I ain't shit and you ain't shit, we belong together." So, at the very least, he was also self-deprecating.
11. Bye Bye
That leads us to the crown jewel of Monkey Barz. Khrysis laces the best beat he has ever done here, utilizing an Aretha Franklin sample and throwing on some banging drums. Buckshot is here to actually drop verses this time, and although Sean P clearly walks away the winner, Buck does very well. "Bye Bye" is actually a misogynistic record itself (maybe even moreso than the song prior), but Khrysis' instrumental is so damn good, and the performances by both Sean Price and Buckshot were more than impressive, objectionable lyrics aside. The record is basically about how P and Buck no longer want to deal with their girls' bullcrap anymore, and I'm sure a lot of guys out there will relate to that subject matter regardless of the way it is being presented.
12. Spliff N Wessun
You would think Smif-N-Wessun would be the guest artists on this track, but you would be wrong, as Ruste Juxx hops on (and rips it, I might add). The Ayatollah beat is really freaking good, and Sean P comfortably spits some fire. Good cut.
13. Jail Shit
This was solid. Agallah lays down the instrumental, and Rock is on the hook. I'm not sure why P wouldn't ask his Heltah Skeltah brother to drop a verse here, and I'm really curious as to how Rock would have sounded on this if he did so. Oh well. Sean Price does well enough on his own.
14. Monkey Barz
Ty Deals' production seriously consists of a bunch of jungle noises--especially monkeys, surprise, surprise--and Sean P somehow manages to make it work. This is actually one of P's best lyrical outputs on the album, as the Brownsville rapper proves that he can spit over any beat. I enjoyed this quite a bit.
15. Slap Boxing
Rock is here again, and this time, he actually drops a verse. Ruste Juxx comes through for another verse of his own, too. Unfortunately, the instrumental by Edward Maximillion III isn't engaging enough to make "Slap Boxing" that worthwhile, a pretty freaking dope performance from Rock notwithstanding. It doesn't help that Sean Price sounds like he phoned in his verse, either.
16. Rising To The Top
You may remember this song from the Grand Theft Auto III soundtrack. Agallah is on the boards again, and he offers up two verses and the chorus, as well. The production is just alright, if not a bit bland. This was a fairly boring way to close out Monkey Barz, and to make matters worse, this is the longest song on the album.
The verdict on Monkey Barz is in, and it's that it deserves every ounce of praise that has been heaped upon it since its release in 2005. This is a great album, containing numerous bangers and consistently dope performances by Sean Price (and his guests) on the mic.
Monkey Barz does not stick to any one particular theme, but that's the type of artist Sean P is. He is not a concept rapper. He just spits, and sometimes, that's for the best. P's debut record is a prime example of that. The large variety of producers on this project also adds to the unpredictability, and a little bit of volatility often makes a hip-hop album that much more interesting.
The only criticism I would have is that Monkey Barz is an album that probably should have come out five years earlier. I'm not sure what took so long for Sean Price to release his debut record, as Heltah Skeltah put out Magnum Force in 1998 and then didn't put out another project for 10 years. Perhaps Sean P was very busy during that time period; I don't know, but an earlier release would have certainly lengthened his solo career.
It was also a bit disappointing that there was no production from Da Beatminerz on here, but the beats were good enough as a whole where P's former go-to beatmaking team wasn't sorely missed.
Another aspect about Monkey Barz that you have to admire is how Sean Price kept the features in-house. Outside of Agallah, every guest on the album is a member of the Boot Camp Clik or, at the very least, is affiliated with the collective (Ruste Juxx).
Monkey Barz was a very impressive debut effort from a rapper that wasn't expected to be this dope as a solo artist. If you don't have this in your collection yet, then I suggest that you get moving.
1. Bye Bye
2. Onion Head
3. Boom Bye Yeah
4. Fake Neptune