DIE LAUGHING: “My shit is still just MDK — murder, death, kill — and chuck, yuck, giggle,” says Price. “That’s it.”
Despite his notorious blunt-scented halitosis, Sean Price feels terrific these days. He still doesn’t clock mega rap ducats — and likely never will — but the Boot Camp jester thug can no longer make legitimate use of his infamous “Brokest Rapper You Know” tag. And though Price did
solicit fans for gifts at newborn daughter Shaun’s tandem concert/baby shower in New York this past month, he no longer has to sling “nicks at night” while his kids “watch Nick at Nite.”
“Me and my wife still live in Brownsville,” says Price, who plays the Middle East next Thursday. “But we’re not in the projects anymore — even though we could see the projects through the window.” He continues: “No matter what, it’s crazy that I get to do this. When I first started, I had no confidence in my raps at all, while my [Heltah Skeltah teammate] Rock was already into it seriously. When we got our deal, he had books of rhymes, and I had like six verses. I didn’t think it would last — I figured I would get exposed eventually.”
To know Price — a hardcore rap ambassador who might also be hip-hop’s most hilarious MC — it helps to understand the unconventional label that helped build, and rebuild, his career. Originally formed around the Boot Camp Clik, but now expanded far beyond the villainous likes of Black Moon and Heltah Skeltah, Duck Down was founded by its flagship rapper, Buckshot, and his unlikely white Westchester-raised partner, Dru Ha, in 1994, on a Timberland-string budget. Under the Priority Records umbrella, Duck Down was as responsible as any imprint for designing the East Coast rap blueprint: drums that cause seizures, lyrics that gave Tipper Gore recurring nightmares. But when their distribution deal soured in 2000, Duck Down remained homeless for more than two years. Some music was released, but between the rise of bling-hop and Boot Camp members returning to the street lives that they’d never really left, the label became dormant, a remnant of the glorious “Bucktown” era.
Then in 2005, with little left to lose, Duck Down did something that no focus group would ever recommend. With a new distribution deal in place, Dru and Buck put all their chips on Price, who was almost exclusively known as Ruck from Heltah Skeltah. He was a lewd, criminal-minded rap alum with virtually no name recognition. Yet his 2005 classic Monkey Barz — a brilliant, balls-out blend of humor, hormones, and hard knocks — sparked what has become the greatest comeback in rap history.
“We stuck together,” says Price of Duck Down’s roller-coaster-esque return to the front of independent hip-hop. “Sometimes things get fucked up, but we’ve never been jealous of each other. And if some of us were, I guess they were man enough to hold it down and work it out on their own. We’re really family — I’ve known Steele [of Smif-N-Wessun] since I was 10 years old. Rock’s mother and my mother — rest in peace — were good friends. It’s not like a rap crew; we’re not just a bunch of dudes who were, like, ‘Oh — you rap too — c’mon, son.’ ”