seanprice.jpgAfter making his mark in the ’90s as one half of the Brooklyn duo Heltah Skeltah, Sean Price (a.k.a. Ruck) made his solo debut with 2005’s Monkey Barz. Although the album went mostly underappreciated, it was chock full of uncompromising boom bap and witty punch lines. The Boot Camp Clik affiliate follows a similar blueprint on his latest offering, Jesus Price Supastar. Whether bullying the competition, relaying hard-luck MC struggles or simply demonstrating a mastery of flow, the Price is right.

Keeping in line with the BCC formula, the tracks on Jesus Price are supplied by a healthy dose of underground beatsmiths (Ill Mind and Moss, for example). But the major contributions from Justus Leaguers 9th Wonder and Khrysis give the project a more universal sound. Khrysis provides Sean P. with the slap-you-silly drums and cascading violins of “King Kong,” while 9th offers up the serene blaxploitation-channeling grooves of “Violent.” And over the rigid guitar chords of “Like You,” Ruck proclaims, “Sean Price is the nicest to write poems/I never say the same shit twice like Mike Jones.”

Even with surprisingly solid production, this effort’s most endearing aspect is Sean P. himself. A master of ceremony and self-deprecation, the Brownsville representer showcases his sense of humor on the Masse-produced “Mess You Made,” where he quips, “How you gonna be broke and your last name Price?/That’s like sweatin’ bullets and your nickname Ice.” The inner reflections continue on “Oops Upside Your Head,” where Sean and Smif-N-Wessun’s Steele ponder the tricky shell game that is mainstream radio.

FM spins have always been Price’s biggest hurdle, and the 9th Wonder–produced “Let It Be Known” continues the trend. Despite potent lyrical darts from Sean and Little Brother’s Phonte, a forced singsongy hook thwarts the track’s pop potential. Aside from this feeble attempt to break new ground, Price stays on course with an album that delivers unadulterated hip-hop worthy of supastar status in underground circles. —ALVIN BLANCO


Read the rest of XXL’s Critical Beatdown review section in the XXL’s March 2007 issue (#89)