ARTS

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September 30, 2007

Shortcuts—Percee P's Perseverance

On September 18, the long-awaited debut album of Percee P, “The Rhyme Inspector,” was released to the anticipation of dedicated fans around the world.

Well known for featuring on tracks of alternative M.C.s such as Madlib, Aesop Rock, Kool Keith, Big Daddy Kane, Edan, and Jurassic 5, Percee has been making a name for himself in hip-hop for a long time but always from the shadows. Now, with the release of Perseverance, he is finally showcased in the foreground.

I first heard Percee on the track “A Day at the Races” on Jurassic 5’s Power in Numbers and was immediately blown away by his ability to manipulate our clumsy and choppy language with such clean and fluid flow. His ability to speed up and slow down words, yet maintain precise and clear enunciation, is both impressive and rather unique.

My second experience came from a good friend who gave me a CD of Percee’s that he received in person at a concert in Boston. The sample is literally a burnt disc with Percee’s signature—The Rhyme Inspector—written on the top in Sharpie.

This is only one of many similar meetings; Percee is infamous for hitting the streets to get his name out and introduce people to his music. For years, he spread his name and word with his own hands, making Perseverance a perfect debut title in more than one way.

The album itself is fairly true to Percee of the past, maintaining the Percee flow with new and refined beats that work to strengthen his vocals.

Eighteen tracks produced by Madlib at Stones Throw Records, Perseverance harkens back to Percee’s roots with appearances from Aesop Rock, Chali 2na, Prince Po, and others, but it maintains a more serious and hard-edged tone than is typical of Percee. An initial fear of many when Perseverance was announced was that Percee would have to “sell out” to get this record produced, but that certainly isn’t the case. While some tracks—“2 Brothers from the Gutter” and “Put It On the Line”—have more mainstream, familiar sounding beats, the lyrics and production give it a harder feel that goes well with Percee’s rough edge.

Starting with a compilation of Percee verses from years of featuring, the first eight tracks are really the cream of the album.

The record’s first single and the most universally appealing song, “2 Brothers from the Gutter,” is sandwiched between two phenomenal tracks: the heartfelt story rap “Ghetto Rhyme Stories” and “Who With Me?,” a beat-driven track that would make Humpty Dumpty’s head bob. Although quality permeates every word on the record, this middle section remains the strongest and most compelling.

My only critique of the album is Percee’s repetitive lyrical content. While some tracks are very deep, others seem to be renunciations of his rise to fame and his claim to greatness.

Even so, the record is remarkably consistent, an optimistic sign for a first showing. What else could we expect? Percee’s been waiting years for this chance, and the hardest working man in hip-hop doesn’t disappoint.