Listening to Percee P rhyme on virtually any track on Perseverance makes it easy to envision him standing outside of Fat Beats NYC, slanging self-produced CD’s to backpackers, just as he’s done over the past few years. You can hear the hunger in his voice and his seemingly endless cache of run on rhymes flow so naturally, that he probably has had many buckets filled with tips throughout his career as a street rapper, in the truest since of the word. For those not familiar, the back story sounds like that of an ambitious, young, up-and-coming go-getter. Class is in session: The Rhyme Inspector Percee P has been in the game for more than two decades, and even while pushing 40, this is his first studio LP.
Percee is carries around a bit of legendary status, mainly because more than anyone, he always been your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Just ask Big Daddy Kane or Kool Keith, both who’ve asked Percee to appear on their respective albums in the past, or more recently, Aesop Rock and Edan, both who have collaborated with the emcee. And it doesn’t stop there, taste-makers like DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Peanut Butter Wolf, and Egon all will tell you why Percee is in their all-time top 5 lists.
So, the release of Perseverance is a bit of a monumental event, as Stones Throw finally makes this project a reality. Produced entirely by Madlib, Percee finally gets his big break. So is this the album we’ve been waiting twenty years to hear, or has the anticipation built up so much hype that there is no way it could ever deliver?
The album gets off to somewhat of a strange start, as the Madlib produced “intro” gives you snippets of Percee P verses, but almost upstages the legend by letting his own In India-esque beat ride for 60 seconds, before we even get to hear Percee rhyme. Thankfully “The Hand That Leads You” kicks things off on a more positive note, with a heavy, classically styled Bronx beat that would make Diamond D proud. It’s at moments like this when Percee is at his best – doing what comes naturally to him – spitting freestyle rhymes. Again on “Legendary Lyricist” or later on “Throwback Rap Attack”, Madlib provides minimalist tracks that inspire Percee to do his thing, with complete disregard for silly things like hooks or breathing.
But it’s not all endless freestyles, Percee gets topical in a few places as well. Reflecting on his long history in the game, “The Man To Praise” finds Percee telling his life story, explaining his frustrations as he watched all of his peers land record deals. Later on “The Lady Behind Me”, Percee explains his love for hip-hop (in another extended female metaphor), over a melancholy Madlib beat.
Percee also taps a handful of guest artists for the album, but with hit and miss results. “Watch Your Step” is one of the better collaborations, as Vinnie Paz and Guilty Simpson sound evenly matched next to Percee, not to mention Madlib’s sinister, RZA-esque loop. Diamond D’s verse on “2 Brothers From The Gutter” may not sound as freshly delivered as stuff on “Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop”, but Madlib’s unique 8-bit beat has flavor. Aesop Rock and Percee reteam for “The Dirt and Filth”, which works, but seems a bit out of place on this record, while Chali 2na (“No Time For Jokes”) and Prince Po (“Last of The Greats”) bust verses with admirable results.
At 19 tracks, this is a long album, and it times, it begins to sound a bit monotonous. It’s possible that Madlib’s production may just be too experimental for Percee’s more straight-forward rhyme style, than say an M.F. Doom, who adapts to Madlib with his own off-kilter style. Regardless, Percee still makes the most of this record, and it does have plenty of great moments. More importantly however, after almost 30 years in the game and never dropping an album, Percee has remained true to the art form, without sacrificing his style for anyone or anything. Now that’s perseverance. – D.T. Swinga
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