Percee P

Perseverance

(Stones Throw; 2007)

By Clayton Purdom | 5 February 2008

I’ll let you in on a secret: I didn’t review this record when it came out earlier in the year because it kinda bores me. This is strange, because it’s not a boring record, and for those that care about such things Percee P’s debut is a hip-hop landmark of some note.

It is no revelation. No tables are upturned. I have no sweeping proclamations. Perseverance is, rather, an actualization, one that must incite within its creator a whirlwind of emotion on a scale I cannot imagine. This is because at twenty-three (not that young) I’m too young: P’s been rapping longer than me or most of the Glow’s staff or readership has been alive. When I was pining for Ninja Turtles he already had a decade of craft under his belt; a decade before I started caring about rap he was battling Lord fucking Finesse. And yet, twenty years in, Perseverance is the first record old boy’s managed to cobble together. It’s hard to think of another genre where someone could be on the radar but album-less for 28 years. I’ll admit that my first conscious contact with him came during my yearlong infatuation with Edan’s Beauty and the Beat (2005), an album I loved so thoroughly that I found myself exploring the back catalogues of everyone involved. But Percee’s back catalogue lead both nowhere -- a handful of sought-after 12” singles -- and everywhere, through the D.I.T.C. crew and Endtroducing… (1996) and now through the venerable (but occasionally boring) Stones Throw roster.

In a way, a front-to-back Madlib production is the perfectly spotty setting for an hour of Percee P emceeing. As a mic showcase, the record refuses to impress. This dude is too old to blow your mind and his basso delivery renders his performance boulder-like, smooth but immoveable. His idea of spitting hard is often to just switch up the rhyme scheme, and even then we’re not getting past LL Cool J technique (“My styles are splendid / Some say when I rhyme / I’m ahead of my time / Like Jimi Hendrix / Heavy metal, my shit gets hot like a kettle / Once it settles it sells like crack / Peddled in the ghetto”). For his part Madlib does exactly all the crazy and occasionally great shit he always does, often too stoned to bother programming drums (“2 Brothers from the Gutter”) or keeping it backpacker like it’s 2002 (“No Time For Jokes”) but also coming with sweetly sweeping retrospection (“The Lady Behind Me,” “Throwback Rap Attack”).

It’s an album oddly out of time, from Madlib’s panoramic set of influences and Percee’s reactionary flow all the way to the guest list, which is so up-to-date it includes members of Jurassic 5 and Jedi Mind Tricks. But it’s also a hard album to fault. When the way-too-long album works, it’s stunning: “The Man To Praise” sounds and feels like the encapsulation of a hard career, a windswept monument to an unprofitable passion. And when it doesn’t work -- at least, not the way a blog-addled 2007ite would want it to -- it feels mulishly so, all indie rap for indie rap fans and fuck you if you don’t like Peanut Butter Wolf still. This is an essential record for people like that, and a touching and pleasant one for everyone else.