Percee Interview

  • Joel & Andy
  • artofrhyme.com
  • May 09, 2006

Artofrhyme.com: Who are some artists that inspired you?
Percee P: People like the Treacherous 3, Cold Crush, Fantastic Five, Fearless 4, Soul Son of course, and then my oldest brother who use to rap and DJ, and my uncle. My oldest brother's name was Dice, but my uncle was the Undefeated Force. My brother's crew was called the Fabulous Four, this is back in the days when I was a little kid. Those are people that inspired me; them and people that were out in the parks.

Would you agree with me if I said you were one of the most slept on MCs of the past 10 years?
Yeah, I think so.

Is it frustrating for you to know that you have that talent that's overlooked?
Yes, in a sense it is. I just feel like I'd rather be slept on and a good MC then people not like me or ain't trying to hear me. I think people that do sleep, when they hear, they might catch on. Even cats that say they're hip-hop don't even know sometimes. If I'm walking around selling CDs outside Fat Beats I'll call them over and try to get their attention. They'll point up ahead and say they're going to buy some underground hip-hop. I'm like, "But yo, if you're underground you'll check out what I got." Cause to me, underground is anybody trying to push their own units without the help of labels or anything. How are you underground if you don't support underground like that?

So I'll be like, "How long you been listening to hip-hop?" 'Oh! I've been listening for a long time.' "So you know a lot about hip-hop?" 'Yup.' So I'll ask if they've ever heard of Kool Keith. Jurassic 5? Aesop Rock? You know, I'll start naming all the people I've worked with and they'll say yes to them all. So you ever heard of Percee P? No. So I show them one of my CDs with all their names on it. They ask how I know all those people in shock. I just tell them that they're normal people just like me and you, why is that impossible?

Then I pull out a magazine and ask if they're sure they've been listening to hip-hop for a long time. I'll show them the Source from '92 when I got Rhyme of the Month. Then I put it on them and ask how they didn't know. Either they weren't really listening or they haven't been paying attention cause my records been on the radio too. You get a lot of cats that say they're into hip-hop but they don't really know. They say they're down but they're just listening to everyone that's in their face but don't try to discover new ground. They listen to everyone that other people tell them they should listen to.

You mention that you sell your CD outside of Fat Beats in NYC, what are some of the times that someone could catch you out there?
I'll be out there around 1 or 1:30 and I'll stay out there til probably 8 or 8:30.Just about everyday?Yeah. But it's a rainy day today so I ain't going out there.

You mention about being completely underground pushing your own units. Would you ever be on a label and do you have any plans on releasing an official album?
Well, it depends. I know Stones Throw records is interested in me. Basically I'm just working on a project. The reason I will consider doing it with them is that they give their artists creative control; plus they're fans of Percee P. I'd rather deal with fans of mine than someone who don't know anything about me. That way hip-hop doesn't try to mold me into something. That's like me going to labels that only care about "thug" hip-hop and them trying to change me into something that's selling a lot right now. Stones Throw just let their artists do what they do. So if I go with them then they will just promote me and put it out there.

Then on the other hand, I feel as though I should remain independent too. I see a lot of other artists, well established ones, trying to get off the labels. They're having problems with labels and from the outside looking in that doesn't give me a good feel. Most artists nowadays are trying to start their own labels. Back in the days of the 80's people were always trying to get on labels, now people are just trying to start their own label or just push their own CDs. That's good, nothing wrong with trying to make the money for yourself when you're broke.

You're rare in the sense that you're waiting around, obviously you want to get paid but you're putting your work first. Is it tough for you to sit back and not cash-in, in order to keep your standards high?
Yeah. You know what, I always said that I know what I'm doing is influencing other people. If I stand out there in streets, lots of nights other people come around, some keep me company, but they're doing it too. And it's inspiring because they're like, "we're doing this too." To them, they're looking at me like, "this cat is independent, I'm gonna do this." But then at the same time it's a slap in the face when they're like, "I'm gonna shop this to a label" after they've been doing what I've been doing.

How did the collaboration with Big Daddy Kane and Jurassic 5 come about on their last album?
I'll tell you a quick story about that. The Quality Control album, I remember getting that album and having the little promo tapes that labels pass out at shows. I went to a club and saw the album and the Common album so I listened to it and then bought their albums. It reminded me of the old school cats harmonizing and no one was really doing that. I appreciated that, I bought the album and everything; Quality Control. Not knowing that I was going to be on their next album, AND I didn't even know that they knew me.

What happened was, one time they came to New York. I have a friend of mine, Barney, he's a photographer. He wanted to take pictures of me to build a portfolio of underground artists. He thought I was really good and people should know who I was with pictures and a short bio. He came to me and I told him I knew a lot of artists I can introduce him to. Better yet, I'm gonna introduce you to somebody who basically all artists come to to do shows. In New York, his name is Rocky. If you're somebody coming to New York to do shows then you perform for him first. After I took Barney to see Rocky, everything worked out well for him to get pictures of everyone. So Barney came up to me and told me that he appreciated what I did, so he bought me a ticket to see Jurassic 5. I said I was down with that.

Naturally, I'm going to bring my CDs. I'm not going to miss out on an opportunity with a big crowd. So I'm selling my CDs in the line with the people outside, then when I got in I still had some to sell. When we got in we were right in the front. Barney's like, "Yo, that's Cut Chemist, you should say what's up." That's not my style really, I didn't want him to think I was sweating him or anything. But I went over there trying to sell my stuff, I said, "How you doing? You're Cut Chemist, right? My name is Percee P, I don't know if you're interested in some stuff." He's like, "The Rhyme Inspector Percee P? Yo, that record you made, Let The Homocides Begin, that's like one of my favorite records of all time. DJ Shadow is the one that put me up on that, yo he sampled you on his first album on a song Napalm Brain Scatter Brain." I was like, what? He's like, "You're a legendary cat. We've been listening to you for a long time. You should give me your number so we can see what you're doing." Then they introduced me to all the other artists. We started talking and then they asked me if I wanted to come out at the end of the set. That was like the brain freeze show, one of those shows with DJ Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow up there doing their thing. Then the first time I performed with them they called me and told me if I wanted to come they'd call me out right before the end of the set.

So during the show I'm walking around, I know that at the end when they call me I'll go up there since I already have the pass to go backstage. Then you got the cats sleeping on me, like, "Who are you?" Then after they see me perform on stage all my CDs are gone. Funny how that works.

They exposed me to so many fans cause these cats are on a major label. I guess they loved my performance too so I lived up to what they wanted. They looked up to me, then when they saw me on stage they were like, "oh man." Usually when I'd go up on stage I'd kick something they would know, so I kick my rhyme off "Yes You May", I figure that's my most famous verse because it got me a quotable in the Source magazine. They liked it, the whole presence of slipping in over the beat they threw on. Then they said they wanted me to do something with them on their album, and they added that Big Daddy Kane would be on it. I've done shows with Kane, never songs with him. Then I heard the beat and it was crazy. And they were like, "yeah, cause you're kicking rhymes fast and Kane is known for fast rhymes too." I think we did a great job. I think we made that into a classic song.

You touched on it, but have you really noticed that since that time you've had more recognition and that selling your CDs has been easier?
Oh yeah. People are like, "I heard of you, you were on that Jurassic 5." But some people still don't even know. Some people don't even have the Jurassic 5 album, but have heard "What's Golden", so I tell them not to sleep on it cause it's been out for a while.

You've always been considered ahead of your time, as other MC's get better do you feel you're still growing ahead?
Yeah. Haha. I always say that. My thought is, don't strive to be an average MC. I look back to cats that were thought to be ahead of their time, ahead of their pack. Fearless Four, when you listen to old school hip-hip there were more than average MCs, people on the next level. Treacherous 3, Kool Moe D. So that's why I always think don't strive to be average. If I ever rhyme in front of other people, don't try to sound like the other MCs. If you have 20 MCs, probably 17 of them will be thugs rapping the same, and then 3 of them will have their own style.

I listen to thug cats too though, I'll see what they're saying. I like MOP, they're thug cats but they're different. They've got their energy plus their own flow. Then you got people like Twista, but he's nice. He's a thug cat but he's lyrical.

Some cats just rhyme and choose to sound like a Jay-Z or a carbon copy of another artist. I'd rather a cat try to stress his originality. Jay-Z's got his own style, but you got some many cats biting off of him, I don't like that. I think people are starting to stray away from innovativeness and originality. You got a lot of cats thinking I'm going to try to bite someone's style because they're hot and it could get me a deal. In the 80's, you had people like Public Enemy, Ultramagnetic, the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul. All that stuff was being played on the radio. It wasn't even about the status of the label, it was all about the product and the material. People like LL on Def Jam was on the next plateau at the time, but now it's like "what label are you on?" You gotta be on Roc-A-Fella to get some airplay.

Even 10 years ago, if you watch Rap City on BET everyone one of those songs was classic...
That's right! And I always said that too. The thing about most of the hip-hop classics of that time weren't even on major labels, they were all independent records. You got brainwashed thinking about, "What label are you on?" You end up passing up good product. Look at Wu-Tang, they wouldn't be out there if they didn't put a record out themselves. They ended up pressing Protect Ya Neck after all the labels passed them up. They took their chance. I know if I wasn't selling my CDs I wouldn't be talked about in the industry like I am.

Look, the label is going to look at me like, "he's Percee P, I remember him from back in the day, he was good." They talk about me in past tense, but I recycled myself. I came back to the streets with the people. The people are what's going to keep you alive, cause I'm old school to some but new school to someone else. Even if I'm selling them older product it's still keeping the songs alive because I still have to perform the old songs I've done. Who's going to know it if the stores aren't carrying it and the radio isn't playing it? The best way is to sell it to them. When I do the songs, people know the words. People are doing more research on me.

As far as being ahead of my time, I didn't want to be average back in the day and I still don't want to be average. When I came out in '88, people would say I was more technical and more advanced than a lot of the rappers at that time. Now in 2003, people still say I'm more advanced than a lot of rappers.

I read an article on another website, and they implied that a lot of other MC's are intimidated by you, which is why they may not ask you for guest spots? Do you think that's true?
You got a lot of cats that have a jam and they know you can rhyme, but all of a sudden they get the power trip not to let you rhyme. Or they got deals, cause you know I'm an artists so I know other artists, if you want me to do something for you then ask me to do it. I'm not one of the cats that's going to ask to be on your album, if you want me to do something, just ask. So a lot of cats probably do get intimidated, it's not my fault if you think I'm going to outshine you. That's me; I'm doing what I'm supposed to do in promoting myself. I'm just trying to give myself the opportunity to be on a major label. If you're on a major label and you have a big deal and this is something big for me for exposure, why shouldn't I be at my best. I'm representing me. You ask me to be on your record, I'm going to sound good and I want to make sure it was worth you asking me to do something.

Like when Jurassic 5 asked me to be on their album, they looked at me as, "alright, we're gonna ask Percee P to be on it with Kane and Jurassic 5." To me, in my mind, this is Jurassic 5 asking me, they've got mad fans already. Most people know Big Daddy Kane already. Then when they say Percee P, the true fans probably know me, but most are asking, who's Percee P? So I have something to prove to those people. I at least want to sound good enough to have people say, "So that's why they asked him to be on the album." Also, they should want to hear more of me if I rhyme like that.

But yeah, sometimes people do get intimidated, but it's not my fault. I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do.

Anything else you would like to add?
Check out my website, no dashes, www.perceep.com.