Percee P: Breathe Easy

The story of Percee P is long and battle-laden enough to deserve it’s own feature length documentary. This is a man that started rhyming in kindergarten, put out his first record in ‘89, and has been on the grind like a skateboard ever since. Thanks to the recent surfacing of video footage capturing his legendary battle with future collaborator Lord Finesse in a DVD titled “SBX: Holding Down the Tradition” released on BDP Records, along with the capabilities of sites like MySpace and YouTube, it’s now easy to get a taste of what this MC has brought to the table for the last two decades. Those fortunate enough to speak with the humble artist will know he always comes from the heart, and whether it’s on the street or at a show, all he really wants is a chance to be heard.(Story continues below...)It hasn’t always been this easy to get schooled on the legend. For years now, the only modes of getting the Bronx native's music out was through the numerous singles and mixtapes he himself distributed hand-to-hand on the streets of New York City; humbly introducing himself to anyone outside Fat Beats, or at the End of the Weak battle on Sundays. Although his location and free agent status have changed, his hustle is still the same.With his signing to Stones Throw Records and his debut album, Perserverance, produced by Madlib, the Rhyme Inspector relocated to California where he’s been for three years, still selling CDs outside Fat Beats, getting a good level of recognition from the people, and slowly learning his way around the city.“I miss New York a lot, though that’s my family and all that,” admits Percee P. “But over here it’s more like a fresh start. I’m still kinda learning about Cali, and how to get to a lot of places. Sometimes I hang out with people, especially when I’m grinding and trying to get to shows, I roll with people that know how to get there themselves, so I can get the hang of things. But the response is really good, a lot of different MySpace people be leaving comments and stuff. I just feel it’s going to get better with the album out. Cause right now it’s just coming out, kicking some verses, grinding in the crowd, and the feedback is coming back from people who get the mixtapes and hear it like “Damn.” Or I’ll pop up in a club, and people who heard it will give me good responses.”Percee knows dropping this album has been a long time coming, realizing that fans will take its 20 years in the making into account when judging it. But, he feels he’s made it worth the wait. Before Percee was selling his own music to anyone standing in a line, he was hustling tapes of Cold Crush Brothers and others from his collection of rare and vintage tapes from the ‘80s. Demand was high, so he took advantage of bootlegging his old stash by walking around with his stereo bumping the cassettes. People were copping enough of the tapes that eventually he started putting his name and pager number on the back of them, which led to more than a few customers asking if he was the same Percee P they had heard on collaborations or through word of mouth.“I thought it would be a good idea to put my pager number with a voicemail and my name,” say Percee. “Then people were like are you the same Percee P that recorded with Lord Finesse? ["Yes You May"] And I’m like “Yeah.” They’d be like “Yo, whatever happened to you?” So I’d ask if they’d ever heard a particular record or song, and eventually started putting songs I’d recorded on tapes, and called it “Now and Then.” So I kept that going over the years, just updating the tracklisting as I’d make newer songs, adding them on and shuffling it around. It kept my name going, and that was the smartest thing I could have ever done for myself.”Not one to be held down by the typical 9-to-5 lifestyle, Percee decided to keep hustling in the streets and put it all on the line, knowing full well the struggle that laid ahead. “I quit my day job, and made that my day job,” remembers Percee. “It’s something I’d rather do anyway, and usually I’d get more money that way. So that’s my mind state, and I’d try to do field research before I’d go to stores like Fat Beats. I know I wasn’t guaranteed to sell anything there, but I was more likely to sell [there] than if I was standing in front of a Tower [Records], cause artists I’d collaborate with would have records in Fat Beats. So people were more likely to know songs I’d made, and are more open to underground Hip-Hop anyway.”It was in lines out front of Fat Beats where international visitors from as far away as London and Japan would buy Percee’s mixtapes, and eventually spread his music around the world. It was in one of those lines moving copies of his own fast-pace lyricism where he’d make the contact that would take him to the next level.“This dude I knew returned a favor by taking me to see Jurassic 5, and basically any shows I was definitely trying to go to, especially if I didn’t have to pay to get in,” says Percee. “Plus J-5 was a big group, and I didn’t even know that they knew of me. It was at Irving Plaza. I saw Cut Chemist in line, and I was reluctant to go over to him, and my friend was telling me to go over because he’d probably know who I was. So I went over and introduced myself to him and tried to sell him a tape. He said “Word, that ‘Scatter Brain’ joint is one of my favorite records of all time,” the one DJ Shadow put me up on. So he bought a tape from me, called all the rest of the fellas over and was like “Yo, guess who this is?” They were all kind of excited, and I was excited too. This is a sold-out show at Irving Plaza, and they ask me to come on stage. So that was a real big accomplishment for me, and since that day every time they come to New York they had me come up with them.”From there J-5 brought Percee into the studio to record “A Day At the Races” with Big Daddy Kane, who Percee had known for some time from doing shows together, but had never recorded with. Chali 2na happened to have a video camera with him that day in DJ Numark’s home studio, and caught the recording process on tape from inside the booth as the two dropped their verses. After the album was released, it wasn’t long before Madlib got wind the legendary MC was still working, and decided to find out if he was interested in recording a full-length album together.After all this time, fans and critics alike will be wondering what to expect from a debut 20 years in the making, anxiously awaiting the day when they can either praise or pass over the project. But if you think that the Rhyme Inspector is going to let his first effort fade into the obscurity of countless, underwhelming independent releases, you’re in for a rude awakening.“Basically I tell the story of myself, and I’m still bragging like most MCs with the battle rhyme style, but I say a lot of personal things too,” explains Percee. “Still in that battle mode, but a lot of things that other people can use when they listen to it that might inspire them. My mind state is more from the level of an artist who’s trying to make it in the business, even though I was out there, but not on the level of a mainstream artist. My thing is ‘Don’t sleep, take a peek.’ I have a lot to prove, and I dedicate my album to those cats out there grinding on the street, no matter where you from, I know the feel that you going through personally. I know people treat you differently when you’re standing on the street, they’re not trying to hear your music. But now I pull out my 12-inch vinyl on Stones Throw with Madlib, and they’re like “Oh, let me get a copy.” But they haven’t heard me rhyme yet, and they still want a copy now.Percee knows he’s with a good team now, but he doesn’t want people to forget the reason why anyone wanted to get with him in the first place. He’s quick to provide motivation to the next dude he sees grinding on the street, since he knows the current state of music doesn’t exactly promote individual choice when it comes to what they’ll take the time to listen to. “I wish people could [go] back to having an ear for music. Cause people now are just following trends, listening to whoever they’re told to like,” says Percee. “I think DJ’s jobs should be finding dudes on the street and showing them some love on the radio, to expose him or her to other people. That’s what it was with Kool Herc and Bambataa, the records they played was them trying to have a good ear, thinking something was dope and playing it at they’re next party.”Percee’s first single off the album is “Put It On The Line,” accompanied by a video that depicts scenes from the late ‘70s in the Bronx, during a time of serious change and upheaval. When matched with his music, the scenes of struggle create quite the compliment to the brash flow of the music, which is precisely what he was trying to achieve. “I wanted to show people that whatever they’re talking about now, all that stuff been around, it’s just a new time and date,” explains Percee. “Back in them days gangs was always around, there were jams in the park, and that was the time when I started rhyming. And a lot of times people today push that stuff like something big, but the drugs and hood lifestyle been around. I was never one to try and push all that, I just try to give pride to the people where I’m from that grew up poor and let them know you can make it out.”(Story continues below...)All these years later, Percee still feels like he’s spitting what you ain’t getting, which is what he describes as the raw, uncut substance as opposed to the polished, shiny objects that flood today’s market. His training regiment has been more physically and mentally straining than most, and with nothing to lose yet everything to prove, the man is confident his product will break ground as well as necks.“I’m hoping cats will get motivated back to MCing again, and I’m hoping people will get from my album what people expected from Kool G. Rap or Rakim. Giving you a reason to recite lines, and everything you’re not getting from these cats on TV and videos—the art of rhyming. There’s more history to be made, going against the grain and being myself. Even if it’s me walking around in a crowd pushing my own music, I hope people can judge me off the music, and maybe appreciate meeting the artist.”