The image of Bronx rap stalwart Percee-P standing out the front of Fat Beats, enthusiastically hawking a CD-R of his greatest songs and features, was a familiar sight to rap fans in New York over the last decade. Even after he finally released his debut album with Madlib in 2007, he continued to keep hustling his music in the same manner, even at his own shows. While the phenomenon that is hand-to-hand music sales is nothing new, Percee brought a level of enthusiasm to his sales pitch that was both memorable and sincere – more a reflection of his obsession with the art of rhyme than the machinations of a ‘starving artist’.
Fat Beats now longer exists as a retail store, now focused as an online service and record label/distributor, but last Saturday former Natural Elements MC and current Roc Marciano accomplice Ka announced that he would be selling the first copies of his third solo album, The Night’s Gambit, in person at the location of the late storefront. The weather was shitty, but the turnout was impressive by all accounts, as rap fanatics made the trek out to Manhattan to cop a signed copy of the new album on wax and/or CD from the man himself, who is a registered member of the New York City Fire Department when he’s not crafting intricate verses.
It didn’t hurt that last year’s Grief Pedigree was a favourite amongst those who take this rap shit serious, delivering a focused narrative from an old soul who’s seen too much, that doesn’t sound like anything else out there. Entirely self-produced, with a sole guest appearance from Metal Clergy cohort Roc Marcy, it presented a singularity of purpose that has become almost extinct in modern day hip-hop, and was accompanied by a video for every song on the album. As a result, the thought of Ka possibly repeating that feat in 2013 was able to attract customers in droves, who not only were able to secure a scarce vinyl copy of the new release but were able to digest the sounds before the rest of the world had access on iTunes – another unusual, yet very welcome, approach. Not to mention that the 33 ⅓ version is once again blessed with an exclusive bonus track, which further strengthens the connection between Ka as an artist and a fan himself.
I’m not suggesting we all sit around the campfire and hold hands at this point, but it’s a promising sign when a dope MC can adapt the grassroots approach and have it actually work for him. The new album picks up right where the last left off: one feature, self-produced and worthy of multiple listens to unravel its many layers as we await the infamous Metal Clergy project. For the last release, only three record stores in the city were willing to stock his LP. One would like to think that with the critical acclaim Ka has since earned himself that this won’t be the case again, but the fact that even a tight-wad such as myself shelled out $20 to order Grief Pedigree last year indicates that quality still counts for something in the instant gratification era.
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