Brooklyn stalwart Sean Price and Aussie producer M-Phazes teamed up for their Land Of The Crooks EP, a project that may very well have been based on the thought of less as more. Phazes’ beats command attention for the vibe they conjure without any of the extra noise: in a time where a plurality of up-and-coming producers scrounge about for a boom-bap feel and overcompensate for their lack of chops with excess scratches and loud but cold drum samples, M-Phazes displays a refreshing amount of ability to play to the strengths of boom-bap beats. His lone departure from the dustier sound that dominates the five track effort, “Murdah Type Thinkin” comes off as less of an effort to update the sound for today’s soundscape as more of a decision to jump a few years from the height of the boom bap era to the sonically pleasing, melodically sound electro-glitchiness of early Timbaland or J. Dilla. At a point where hip-hop is old enough to be self-referential at all levels, from mainstream to underground, Phazes does himself great service by paying homage without kitsch.
Few rappers, then, would be better suited for such a project than Sean Price. P is, more or less, an avatar for the old New York sound. He is unchanging, undaunted by the erratic, southern-looking rap landscape. Listening to this, as well as any other Sean Price project, makes it clear that the listener must posses an appreciation for P’s brand of music, or at least to meet him halfway. The Arm-Leg-Leg-Arm-Head Don won’t be taking two steps toward the listener or rap radio anytime soon. Guilty Simpson and Roc Marciano lend verses to two different mixes of the same track, and as they’ve never disappointed, they didn’t pick their appearances here as moments to begin.
Price’s strength has always lied in his creativity and penchant for smooth delivery of a decidedly limited amount of subject matter. Where other rappers are shouted down for their refusal to move the dial from whatever their typical topics of discussion may be, Price gets love for his ability to maintain a ridiculous sense of humor and his depth of inventiveness that allows him to avoid repetition. “Bag Of Shit” is based around a completely ridiculous, though surprisingly plausible conversation between two hustlers. A choir appears on the chorus, a chorus which has a great deal to do with the song’s title. Between the hooks, he navigates the piano-heavy track in a straightforward but engaging manner– Price rarely finds himself in the way of a good beat.
With M-Phaze’s inventive use of a handful of sound loops and choice samples, and Sean’s steadfast dedication to speak only on what he wants and how he wants, this EP’s length (that is, concerning it’s vocal tracks, there are six more instrumental cuts) will definitely leave listeners satisfied. It’s worth whatever comes out of your wallet, but don’t keep your wallet out too long.–Jordan Lebeau