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SP Double has come a long way, and it shows

Built for speed: Adrian Perlman is SP Double.

SP Double just wants to keep it moving. The MC (aka Adrian Perlman) has endured his share of personal travails and had enough beef with other rappers to fill a warehouse. But all of that's in the rearview now; he'd rather focus on what's ahead. Just the same, he's smart enough to know that the road to the future is paved in the past — a past once littered with bitterness and disappointments. And until he made peace with that past, he couldn't move forward.

But he's not here to stir up hard feelings that have long since softened. He's already said everything he had to say in the booth — plainly, eloquently, directly. His new album, Loyalty Honor Respect, is the unfiltered story of his life — and on wax, SP bares all.

Just two tracks into the seventeen-track album — a record that one local blogger rightfully observed has been talked about for so long it was starting to become Denver's Detox — the story begins to take shape. There's the record deal that fell apart — after he uprooted a family for it — and the bit about how nobody really paid attention to him until they saw the boldfaced names of the high-profile acts he was working with. While he doesn't necessarily name names, he doesn't hold back, either. Nobody gets a pass, and that includes the father who died when the rapper was just eight: "Father was a punk/He beat on my mom/Father was a drunk/OD'd, now he's gone/Am I wrong for being mad at a dead man, I ask myself."

"I was living on the west side of Denver, and my dad was an alcoholic," SP recalls now. "I grew up seeing domestic violence and him beating my mom, beating my sister. Me and my brother were a little bit younger, you know what I mean? So he hadn't really got to put his hands on us as much. My mom finally said 'Enough's enough,' and so she bounced — we bounced. At that point, he went deeper into alcoholism. He delved deeper into the drinking when my mom finally had enough of the abuse."

One night, a mix of booze and Percocets proved fatal to his father, leaving a gaping hole in young Adrian's life. "Me and my dad were really close," he notes. "My mom worked a lot. And while my mom was working, I was staying with my dad quite a bit. The immediate effect was I didn't understand it. You know, I was just like, 'He died? Okay, I get it.' As I got older, though, it really started to sink in, you know? When I played sports and all the other kids had their dads there, cheering them on, teaching them how to throw the ball, teaching them how to hit the ball. And after, we'd go and their dad would be showing them support, telling them how good they did.

"My mom tried her hardest to be the mom and the dad, but there's just some things," he says. "And then when I started getting older, I met my wife when I was fifteen years old, and he never got to see that. I have three kids, and he didn't get to witness that. So it's a continued impact. There's still things that I do that I'm like, 'Man, I wish my dad was here to see it.'"

On the second verse of the song fittingly titled "Back II the Future," SP shifts the focus and goes from reflecting on his own loss and anger to the idea of forging ahead for the sake of his kids: "I see the future shining through you/As long as I'm alive, I'll never do that to you/He missed out on sports court and my first love/Looking back on my memories, it's like the worst of/Drugs, abuse, now he's hitting on my sister/Remember thinking if he thought that shit made him feel bigger/Break the cycle, burn the curse I was given/Uplift the vision, spread the wisdom to my children."

Despite the loss of his dad, SP didn't lack for father figures. His mother moved the family north to the suburbs, where he was befriended by Illustrate and Preach, a pair of older kids at church. The former fostered his love of hip-hop, taking Adrian and another kid named Taktik (with whom SP would later form the group Non Existent) to recording sessions in Boulder. Preach, meanwhile, was a big brother-like presence who served as a mentor and gave the burgeoning wordsmith his moniker. The name originally stood for Speed — a throw to his time writing graffiti with Preach — but was later shortened to prevent people from mistaking SP for a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony-style rapper. "I had to figure out a way to be clever and drop it, but keep it along the same lines with the name," SP recalls. "So I dropped it to SP Double."

 

Preach died in 2010, and his passing had an enormous impact on SP. "We grew up together," he notes. "So it was basically losing a family member. Honestly, man, he's the reason I had my own business and why I was taking my music as far as I had. He was always the one who believed in me and told me, 'Keep going, don't listen to these people.' And as far as business, 'Why are you working for somebody else? You have skills. You could do it yourself and make double the money.' He was a big part of that."

Those skills included a talent for street art that SP parlayed into a viable career as a tattoo artist, ultimately opening his own tattoo shop, 303 Ink, with his wife. More than just his business partner, Trista has supported his music from the start, from the days when the couple was newly married and SP would invite a parade of MCs over to record in the makeshift studio he'd created in their three-bedroom apartment to years later, when the whole family moved to Florida for a record deal that didn't pan out.

Along the way, the rapper/producer was under the tutelage of Illustrate and, later, Dent. He eventually came into his own, working with a litany of local MCs, including several members of what is now Prime Element (as Heavy Hitters) and the Fresh Breath Committee, a supergroup of sorts that first came together under the Boostwell banner, after meeting at battles that SP would host at his shop. Although various differences ultimately ended each of those partnerships, SP continued to hone his craft on his own while making new connections, including linking with Kid Vishis, which led to working with Royce da 5'9. SP met Chino XL and Focus, two important collaborators, the same way — by simply reaching out online.

Of all those alliances, his relationship with Focus proved to have the most impact. Besides blessing him with beats and collaborating with him on songs, Focus (aka Bernard Edwards Jr., son of Chic's Bernard Edwards and onetime Aftermath producer) gave SP an infinite amount of wisdom and encouragement. When all the strained relationships of the past finally caught up with him, SP was "two steps away from throwing my mike in the trash," he says on "Write or Wrong." When the Florida deal fell apart, he had to start from scratch: "The dough was right, but the situation wasn't," he notes on the album's title track. That's when Focus provided some much-needed focus.

"It was just a coming of age," SP admits. "Focus being my mentor, man...he was like, 'Listen, man, calm down.' He's older, you know what I mean? So he's already been there. And that's what he said: 'I've been there, dude. I've beefed with people. I've been through the same thing as you. You have to remember, I've been doing this since the '80s. Nothing under the sun is new to me.' He's like, 'Let it be.'

"He's like, 'You have a beautiful family. You have your business going. You have skills on the mike. Just let it be,'" SP remembers. "And he said, 'Do what you do. And whatever it is that you do, wherever you want to be, you have to play your position to get there.' What I took from that is, okay, you know what? I produce, I do videos — I learned to do all this for myself. Why not give back? Why not put it out there and support the town?"

So SP Double returned to the lab to work on his music. At the same time, he started working on his relationships with other acts, focusing on generating positive energy and momentum, shooting videos and collaborating on tracks with other rappers from every part of the scene.

His tenacity paid off. Loyalty Honor Respect, executive-produced by Focus, features SP Double's finest work to date, shining with lyrics that are incisive, confrontational, confessional, heartfelt and, above all, memorable, over beats that absolutely bang. Such luminaries as Royce da 5'9, Joe Budden, Chino XL, Big Pooh, Crooked I, C. Ray and Statik Selektah are featured — but even among those impressive guests, it's clear that the MC is at the top of his game. His distinctive internal rhyming-scheme style, influenced by MCs like Kool G Rap, is sharper than ever. It's been a long road to get here, but SP Double has no doubt that he's finally arrived.

"My son Gabriel, my oldest son," SP concludes, "he came up to me and said, 'You finally did it, Dad. I'm happy for you.' He saw the struggle that it took. He's been there through the whole process: Florida, back. He's a smart kid. And he's the same age that I was when my pops passed. So I feel great showing my son that rather than me showing him beating his mom and drinking and doing drugs and all that. That, to me, is the biggest obstacle I overcame."


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