Artist: Sean Price
Album: Monkey Bars
Label: Duck Down
Rating: 4 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
Sometimes you wait. And then you wait some more. And then, you wait more. You buy singles, you buy mixtapes. And sometimes all of those purchases will have little notes in the liners or on the back of the cover saying €˜COMING SOON €™. And it makes you wait. And you get into a rut. And at some point, you even hear that whatever it was that was €˜COMING SOON €™ is not €˜COMING LATER €™ (no homo). And then, wait for it, one day, a release date is announced, and once again, it €™s €˜COMING SOON €™. Of course, a couple of months before that date, things get pushed back again.
Well, it still happens. Witness €œMonkey Barz € the first solo foray by one Mr. Sean Price aka Ruck of Heltah Skeltah, who by my rough estimate and partial recollection, had his solo album advertised as €˜COMING SOON €™ on his €˜Don €™t Say Shit To Ruck b/w Solidify €™ single dropped back in 2001 or thereabouts. Think about that for a second- 2001. FOUR years from €˜lead single €™ to actual album. For comparison €™s sake, remember how long heads waited for €œMurda Muzik € to drop from Mobb Deep? At this point, the only crews making Ruck and Duck Down look quick on the trigger are Golden State, Rakim, Hittman, and anyone else Dre was supposed to have released on Aftermath. The hilarity (or depending on your point of view, tomfoolery) doesn €™t stop there though- in the interim, Sean Price dropped another €˜official €™ single, €˜Telemundo €™, and about 6 months ago, yet ANOTHER €˜official €™ single, €˜60 Bar Dash €™. One wonders if a million monkeys promoting a million albums could theoretically drop an album more quickly than Duck Down. If anyone is willing to give it a shot, give me a shout.
Boring jokes aside however, €œMonkey Barz € is finally upon the listening public, as the first shot from Duck Down for their €˜Triple Threat €™ in 2005 – albums from Sean Price, Buckshot with 9th Wonder, and Smif-N-Wessun, and the overwhelming feeling I get from listening to this album is, €˜THIS IS WHAT I WAITED 4 YEARS FOR? €™. Fortunately, the issue is not Sean P. If you go back to 1997, the prevailing notion in the hip hop world was that Rock was the nice one in Heltah Skeltah, and Ruck was just the complementary piece – at the very least, with his singles, and now this album, Ruck erases that notion, lyrically coming through on all of the tracks present. No, the problem with €œMonkey Barz € lies in the fact that too much of the material is recycled, too much of the material is monotonous, and there is little that makes this a true €˜album €™ rather than just a collection of tracks.
Things start out brightly enough to make you think the wait was worth it however. In fact,a couple of the best tracks on the whole LP, €˜Onion Head €™, €˜1,2 Y €™All €™ and €˜Heartburn €™ are all found within the first 5 tracks of €œMonkey Barz €. €˜Onion Head €™ in particular sounds like something Kanye would have made if he still retained the use of his testicles, and Sean comes through with some definite quotables –
“Got a dime bitch that lives in Japan
Black belt, suck dick, chop bricks with her hand
Arigato, Sean Price slick like El Gato
3 piece suit in the booth, ain €™t shit cute?”
The other highlight in the trio, €˜Heartburn €™ pairs underground darling 9th Wonder with Sean, with some amazing results as well, leading to one of rare conceptual tracks on the LP, with Sean going over what he loves in his life, be it good or bad (it makes sense when you hear it)
Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there till the very end of the album, mostly due to the inclusion of retread tracks such as €˜Fake Neptunes Song €™ (which is exactly what the title indicates it is…and not in a good way), €˜Shakedown €™ (The Good – they got rid of Rampage. The Bad – they threw on two throwaway verses from Sean P and Starang to compensate), €˜I Love You €™ (from the horrid “Puss N Bootz” DVD), and €˜Jail Shit €™ (mostly due to a horribly outdated Agallah beat). In fact, out of 16 total tracks on the CD (including the bonus GTA3 track, €˜Rising To The Top €™), the €œMonkey Barz € advance features an outlandish SEVEN previously heard tracks, all from the mixtape released by Sean P last year. Either the advance isn €™t accurate, or there is some serious laziness at large here. My impression is that it €™s probably a little bit of both. However, it €™s not just the old material which leads to a letdown – much of the new material, particularly the material found in the middle section of the LP, leaves much to be desired, whether it €™s due to a misguided attempt at southern rap ( €˜Madman €™), or a bad guest appearance (Buckshot on €˜Bye Bye €™ rediscovering his better-left undiscovered BDI Thug days).
Solace is found again near the end of the LP, with the spectacular title track, replete with monkey sound effects, thunderous bass, yet another recycled verse from Ruck, and some nice samples near the end, and on the Ruste Juxx assisted track €˜Spliff N Wessun €™, which for my money contains the best verses of the LP by Crown Heights best MC (Rustee J if you €™re an idiot), even with yet another recycled verse by Ruck. Rustee shows up again for the final track of the LP, another song pulled from the “Donkey Sean Jr.” mixtape, but one which I €™ll let slide solely because it was so dope the first time through – €˜Slapboxxin €™.
To sum it up, if this advance album is indicative of what Sean P will be releasing at the end of May, anyone who has bought a Sean Price mixtape or is a fan should be very disappointed. Filled with recycled verses, recycled songs, and a lack of conceptuality, €œMonkey Barz € is a sorry excuse for an album that was 5 years in the making. If anything, it only serves to accentuate how much Ruck needs Rock and vice versa if it has become so difficult to write new material, and also serves to announce that someone needs to sign Rustee Juxx to an album deal pronto.