The P

The P

  • Blake Gillespie
  • Impose
  • April 09, 2006

Fourteen years of guest spots, sporadic 12" records and selling tapes outside of Fat Beats equals the definition of "Perseverance."

He got his first shine on record in 1996 on "Yes You May" with Lord Finesse and A.G. Before that, he battled Finesse in 1989, and before that he rhymed in the streets, honing his craft. But even with the credibility of hanging with the Diggin' in the Crates crew on records and battles, 2006 will mark Percee P's first official album. Fourteen years of guest spots, sporadic 12" records and selling tapes outside of Fat Beats equals the definition of perseverance, or as the Rhyme Inspector puts it, Perseverance.

If you've ever heard a Percee P guest appearance, chances are his rapid delivery of "lung collapsing lyrics" had you fiending for another hit, or at least hitting the rewind button to catch a clever line again. Over the years he's collaborated with Big Daddy Kane, Jedi Mind Tricks, Jurassic 5, Vakill, Aesop Rock, Edan and Kool Keith. Each time, he's proven his worth through spitfire rhymes like "I can get Madonna / Money and threats are minor / Bet you'll find ya / Bitch with a wet vagina and my cassette behind her." But it wasn't until Percee unknowingly tried to push his tape to the Stones Throw crew at a New York show that he was given the opportunity to go solo officially. Good things come to those who hustle and wait. "I approached them to sell my tape in a club in New York," Percee says. "They said 'yeah we're artists' and I said 'I'm an artist too, my name is Percee P.' They recognized me and Wildchild wanted some footage of me that ended up in Da Packumentary."

Through the years, Stones Throw stayed in contact with Percee while he kept peddling his CDs to keep his name in the street. Eventually they started flying Percee out west to build a personal relationship. The relationship prospered and led to ST taking Percee under their wing to produce his first record-] O years after his first appearance. In other words, Percee asked if he could kick it, and ST responded "yes you may." Last year, to ensure ST fans wouldn't mistake Percee for a newbie to the game, the label released Legendary Status as a wake up call. "It was basically to introduce me to a different generation," Percee says. "Now by the time the album drops they'll know my history and see I've been here for years." Since Percee's LP debut would be on Stones Throw, naturally Madlib would produce it, a col- laboration that makes more sense than BMI and ASCAP put together. This led to Percee sifting through Madlib tapes and over 300 beats, looking for the perfect fit to his lyrics-a task that was nowhere near simple for him. "It's hard when someone keeps giving you tracks like that; I kept wanting to go back in the studio," he says. Percee explains that he typically writes his verses without music, and then looks for the best beat to fit each flow. But working with Madlib, the recording process changed a bit. Some songs, such as his latest single "Put It On The Line," Madlib took the lyrics and put it to a different beat than what was originally intended. "Most of the time I'd kick my verse or hook and then give it to him to figure things out," Percee says. "He's a DJ and I trust him to put his own creativity into it too. It's supposed to be a half-and-half thing."

In giving Madlib the freedom to be, well, Madlib, the two finished the album with 17 tracks and a supplementary disc of Madlib remixes-enough to put heads to bed. "Outside of just having me rhyming on tracks and doing it song to song because he's a DJ, he wanted to do things that would get me in the club as well," Percee says. "So you're gonna hear me on songs that might sound like 'Juicy' and have that kind of vibe." Also within those 17 songs will be guest appearances from Chali 2na, Aesop Rock and other MCs who once gave him spots on records.

Ultimately, Percee has always looked at being on other people's albums as a blessing in itself, a way to keep the fame. But now, with his own record set to drop in June, he feels he's finally representing himself and building opportunities for more work. "I'm excited because this is the most promo- tion I've ever had," he enthuses. "Most artists from the '80s have made albums except for me. I'm probably the only artist that has ever done this- survived without a record."

Percee hopes his record will open the doors for more of those possibly forgotten old school MCs to get back in the music business as well. "I want people to think 'damn, he seriously started back in 1979, let's try and collaborate with Chill Rob G," he said. "You think about all the old soul singers and they can still blow. But a lot of times people look at an artist from a different generation and think they can't still hold it down."

Even just talking with Percee over the phone, it is easy to tell having a record in his pocket has not affected his modesty. In a raspy early-morning voice from doing a show the night before he spoke of the fact that he still has a lot to prove. "I'm not ashamed of my history," Percee says. "I wear it proudly." It's true that not much has changed with Percee. He does live in California now, but when he's not doing a show, he is pushing his CD out- side of Call record shops. One thing he has never underestimated is the power of word of mouth.

Percee admits it takes a dedicated mind to be an old school family man who still pushes his tapes at shows and record stores. He's a humble man who will still hit up an open mic night when he gets the chance-usually just to push tapes, but he won't pass up the chance to take the stage if called upon. He still goes to shows to make himself as approachable and accessible as possible because if heads don't know he exists, then he doesn't. "A lot of cats could still be around now, but they probably have too much shame to do what I've done," he says. "I feel like Fat Beats is an internationally-known store and so my CD will end up going all over the world."

Since it is ST's tenth anniversary, there are talks of a tour, but nothing is definite yet. In the meantime, it would take an army of naysaying rappers to slow Percee down. "I'm doing more collaboration and more shows than I've ever done," he says. "I'm doing different things than I've ever done as an artist. I'm open to do different things on a track, like collaborate with an R&B artist."

Since its conception, its been apparent that no one truly retires from hip hop (yeah, you, Jay-Z) but merely falls silent until the need to be a part of the music pushes them back into it. Whether it is an unsatisfied hunger, a diss from a newcomer to the game, or just hearing something that rekindles an old flame, rappers have a difficult time stepping away from the limelight. As Percee puts it, "Too Short has retired like 5 times, but I bet he still hears something that keeps him recording." For Percee P, hip hop lives inside him. He started rapping when he was 10 years old and now as an elder of the music, he still does not see an end to the possibilities. "One thing about hip hop, I know I'm getting older, but hip hop is the only type of music that makes you seem like you have to be in your 20s to do it," he says. "You look at rock groups doing reunion tours when they're in their 40s and I think hip hop should be the same. I've seen artists give in before they blow up, I've met Nas coming up, Big L, and I've been through all this and I want people to see I still got it."

To quote the Rhyme Inspector himself, "My raps are nice / I sacrificed years for my career / when I ain't here / I hope I get cheers after life." "Even if I said I didn't want to do it no more, I'd probably hear some- thing that would make me want to get back in the game," Percee admits. Putting his legendary status on the line, Percee P will release Perseverance this summer on Stones Throw Records.