There’s been no shortage of reverence for Sean Price by industry peers since his untimely passing. According to P’s frequent collaborator and fellow Brooklynite Illa Ghee, Sean was the best kind of friend: one who made it his duty to share in his success with others. “He wanted to give me the assist,” says Illa in a recent interview with HipHopDX. “He was saying all the time, ‘I’m here to give Illa the assist. I want people to hear what I hear.”
Illa linked up with Sean for the first time in 2011 on the track, “Price to be Illa,” and the rest is history. Illa made six appearances on Sean’s most recent effort, Songs In The Key Of Price. And, according to the man himself, they recorded an album together.
“It’s called Metal Detectors,” says Illa. But its release isn’t imminent. “I just have to get my mind right before I deal with that. I kinda chilled out with it for a minute because after losing a friend, I just want to chill and grieve for a minute until I’m feeling a lot better.”
In recent years, the two emcees formed a friendship that bloomed outside of the recording studio. Yes, music was frequent, but their bond was largely rooted in a like-mindedness and good natured approach to life. “He helped me out through a bad time,” explains Illa. “The thing that’s so crazy to me is my mom passed away in August 2014. And he helped me get out my funk.” Unfortunately for Illa, the month of August also saw Sean’s passing. “Then it turns into him passing in the same month, it was like I was just getting through one and now I’ve got to fight through another.”
When was the last time they saw each other?
“The day before he died,” says Illa. “I had stopped by over there and then we just went to the store. Hung out for a few. He was doing something with his family, and I broke out.”
Despite the calamity of Sean’s passing, Illa is doing his best to remain stoic. In the days that followed, he was spotted grieving with fans at the sight of a new street mural in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, though he added, “I figure I was pretty strong on the outside about it.”
If there’s been a silver lining to any of this, it has to be the props Illa is getting from industry peers. Critical reception to Songs In The Key Of Price has been largely positive, with many lauding his contributions to the album. Skyzoo, in particular, likes what he hears:
@ILLAGHEE2K you BLACKED on that my G. Anytime you wanna link lets get it.
— Skyzoo (@skyzoo) August 22, 2015
Illa is pleased to see his hard work paying off though it’s also a catch-22: he benefited from Sean’s help, but Sean isn’t here to see the hard work paying off. “In a way I’m happy, but then again I’m not, because I feel my friend should be here. I feel it’s not fair, genuine like-mind, it’s not fair.” His self-confidence, however, is another story. “At the same time, the New York competition rapper in me is like, ‘Yo, I’ve been saying shit like this for years, it didn’t just start. I didn’t just start rhyming like this on ‘Figure More.’’”
He’s not concerned with reputation, but that hasn’t stopped Illa from setting his sights set on the creative endeavors ahead. Speaking about producers he’d like to work with, two, in particular, come to mind. “I’ve always been a fan of Hi-Tek,” says Illa. The other is no slouch either: “Sad to say it, I didn’t even know who Nottz was. A friend told me, ‘Don’t get gassed, but a Platinum producer loves the way you rhyme.’ I’m like, ‘Who is it?’ He’s like, ‘Nottz.’ So I was like, ‘Word?’ I didn’t even know him but listening to his beats, he has such soulful basslines. He puts the beats up on Instagram and I dig it. It’s soulful. I like beats that make you feel like you’re standing in between the beats just rhyming.”
When he decides to get back to work, Illa will spend the rest of 2015 working on his next solo LP, tentatively titled Suede Cigarettes. The going hasn’t been easy, but it looks as if the tide is finally changing. Sometimes, greatness comes from sadness. For now, he’ll continue keeping it 100: “I just gotta help everybody continue on from here on out, and see what I bring out next and ride out with it.”