When you talk about “The Beginning”, there are a few names that always pop up in the discussion. Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy… KRS is always reminding us that he was there, but so was Percee P. After years of bubbling around on the scene, the “Lethal Lyricist” has finally released his debut album on Stones Throw records, and with one listen you’ll start to see exactly how he’s earned his legendary status over the years. I got a call from the man himself while he was out on the tour with Common and Q-Tip earlier this month and I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his vested career so far and how he’s continuing to do his thing currently.
You talk about it a little bit on the album in the track “The Man To Praise” but tell us about how you got started back in the day, especially linking up with D.I.T.C. and those guys.
Well I’ve been rapping since 1979. I’m from up in the South Bronx, Patterson Projects, so basically I was there since my moms had moved there when I was 3 years old. That was the beginning stages of hip-hop. You know I grew up there, so as I got older as a teenager we would do our thing. Around 1989 I used to battle with Lord Finesse before his first record came out, so that’s how I met him. Then he hooked up with A.G. and dropped Funky Technician. So that’s who was featured on the first album, but he told A.G. that he wanted to get me on the second joint, so we hooked up and did the track “Yes You May” with the three of us. It turned out that The Source quoted my verse as a “Hip-Hop Quotable”. What some people don’t know is the remix to that track, was the first song Big L was on too. So that’s how I first hooked up with the D.I.T.C. crew, and as they got bigger, more cats came on like Diamond D. I also knew OC and the guys from Organized Konfusion while we were in high school and a couple other cats from around the way.
So after all these years of being in the game what made you decide to go with Stones Throw as a label?
Well basically I’ve been just grinding out it in the street because I didn’t have a deal, trying to keep my name up and keep it alive by whatever means I had to do. You know whether it be rip it on the open mic circuit or try to get some shine at other people’s shows, or dropping promos for 88hiphop.com or mixtapes, showing up to make an appearance in videos, you know. So I started taking it to the streets to sell my own tapes myself. I started hanging out in front of Fatbeats as a regular spot because they would always carry my records, so I figured that anybody coming through Fatbeats might have an idea of who I am. You know I try to make it easier on myself, because it’s still not like guaranteed sales, but the crowd that kicks it at Fatbeats goes out on the scene and knows the kind of spots I want to hit up or open mics I can be at and stuff like that. So after a while people just started knowing I was out there, so basically even though I wanted to bounce around I wanted to be where these people know they can find me. That’s when I realized I had started something that I couldn’t stop and that was my plan just to keep going with that.
So I met Stones Throw basically the same way I met J5 up in Canada doing some shows and hanging out at the different spots grindin’. I didn’t know they knew who I was, so I just closed in and tried to sell ‘em something. I approached them like “Yo I’m an artist too, my name is Percee P”… and they were like “Oh word… Percee P?” At the time it was Peanut Butter Wolf and Wildchild, so they wanted to get some footage of me while they were doing this documentary. So I spit a verse for ‘em and did a little intro and whatnot, so that’s how I met them and they stayed in contact with me. So I went back to doing my thing and grinding and I ended up being on the Jurassic 5 album, so that was a plus. Then I did a few other things, I had some joints with Planet Asia and Jedi Mind Tricks, so I had some things developing and they called me up and wanted to fly me out to Cali and get a chance to know me better and work with me a little bit, build up the relationship and it just kinda happened from there.
So what was it like working with Madlib?
It’s dope. I mean, I never really go in the studio with him, I just get the beats. You know we’re all professional recording artist so we know what to do. I just go in, and without him being there they play the beats, I track it and lay it down with the vocals. Then they take it back and add the scratches or put down the hook. But it was a good combination, I was satisfied with the tracks I was using and I think they even started remixing every song so those might be coming out.
Alright, well I know I met you and ran into you a few times just like you were talking about, out on the scene doing your thing still hustling and keeping it going. I picked up a couple of mixtapes from you directly and whatnot, so tell me how does that work… Like what’s the average day in the life of Percee P?
Well on the average day I probably get up around 11:00am or so cause I’m out late. You know in LA at least the clubs are going until 2, so by the time I get home it’s usually around 4 o’ clock in the morning. I don’t really have that full eight hours of sleep sometimes because you know it’ll be almost 5 o’ clock before I really fall asleep. Sometimes you know I have to check emails or hit up the MySpace or whatever. So I get up and then head into LA, on the bus, train whatever New York styling it so I can hang out. That’s my way of trying to stay grounded and have a little time to focus, you know that’s my peaceful time to myself so I can write or think you know. I’ll have the CD player on and I’m thinking in my head of where I’m gonna go, you know what shows . I usually hit up Fat Beats about 1 o’ clock and stay out there around til they close. Then depending on what’s going on that night I try to hit up whatever spot is going down for the night. So it’s an all day thing from the time I wake up until I go home at night it don’t stop. I mean if I don’t have nothin’ to sell then I don’t have a choice but to settle down, but as long as I got some CD’s on me then I’m trying to be out finding somebody, even on my way home.
It’s kinda hard for me to be around people without something to push. I look at it as promotion and I think that’s something every artist should do. Even if you got people who do that for you or whatever status you are, you should do some self promoting too. You know you have some guys who let other people run a fan club or you go to the shows and other people sell the merch. I try to make myself available for my fans so they can say that they actually met me. So if I ever come to your town or I do a show you’ll be able to walk up. I never stay backstage or hang out in the van, because I think a real fan would appreciate that. I just try to give people the opportunity to meet me and that way they can say they saw what kinda person I really was. I mean this is my job and I’m out here to make money, but I’m still the guy who came from the street, and people have to see the guy from off the street.
That kind of leads into my next question. You say you’ve been doing this since 1979 so for all these years it’s pretty much all you’ve known. If you weren’t an MC, then what do you think you’d be doing?
I don’t even know man, I mean I’ve thought about that. I can draw good. I’m not a basketball player. So really I might just have a regular job. That’s why I’m glad and I have to give props to Kool Herc because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be able to say that I’ve been to different places or around the country and overseas. It’s really all because of him, and all these artist no matter what their status should pay homage. All the pioneers who helped paved the way you should give thanks and help spread the knowledge. You have to give thanks to God and all those brothers because right now if you’re living a different lifestyle, you rolling around in a Bentley, you got thousands in the bank because of hip-hop, if it wasn’t for them you might not have all that.
So that’s what I’m thankful for because it gave me something to do and it saved my life. I mean I already told you I was from the South Bronx. So back when it started, I mean I was born in 1969. So by 1973 the place was just run down, the place was dead and people felt like “well what’s out there?” Everybody was looking for a way to escape whether it was basketball or heroin and all that kind of stuff. This was before crack though, most people think the neighborhoods got messed up in the crack era, but the Bronx had problems before that. Way before the crack came in you still had people burned out and violence and stuff going on. It was just like that, but it’s kinda better now you know what I’m sayin’ they’re fixin it up slowly and stuff. But I mean the mentality is still there. Hip-hop was the alternative, that was the whole purpose as an outlet to be a b-boy or to be a MC or DJ or graf artist, to be that one kid on the block that got his props from a gang member. To be known on your block and be somebody known for something more positive, that was the thing with hip-hop.
**quotes edited for space and clarity**
Those sound like the words of a true veteran if you ask me. I’m glad I got the chance to speak with Percee myself and I highly recommend that you not only check out the new album, but go see him yourself on the street and cop a mixtape or two. You’ll be able to catch him coming to a city near you soon with the “Stones Throw B-Ball Zombie Tour” as follows:
11/08 – Los Angeles @ El Rey Theater
11/16 – San Francisco @ Independent
11/17 – Portland @ Berbatis Pan
11/18 – Seattle @ Nuemos
11/19 – Vancouver @ Richards on Richards
11/29 – Minneapolis @ Foundation Nightclub
11/30 – Chicago @ Abbey Pub
12/01 – Toronto @ Opera House
12/02 – NYC @ Highline Ballroom
12/03 – Philadelphia @ Starlight Ballroom
12/04 – Boston @ Paradise
12/06 – Washington DC @ Black Cat
12/07 – Baltimore @ Sonar
12/08 – Atlanta @ The Loft
For now here’s some heat off of the new album for you to chew on.