Who is Pete Rock? Well if you’re a lover of hip-hop you must know this already. I mean even if you are not familiar with his entire catalogue, you need to recognize that he IS one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time! He altered my passion for hip-hop in a major way and I’m sure many heads can attest to this.
I’ve always paid close attention to the composition of a song, courtesy of my father who was a huge jazz, classical, funk and soul music connoisseur. He would break down the instrumentation in each track to me and help me to recognize each musician on a track, down to the harpist. So it was no surprise that when I listened to a Pete Rock production I would dissect it. He’s always been clever in his use of jazz and soul samples, understanding just how key an interlude on an album could be. No one has better interludes on their album then Pete Rock.
Peter Phillips was born on July 21, 1970 to Jamaican immigrants in the Bronx, NY. His family moved to “Money Earning” Mount Vernon, NY, when Pete was 7 years old. He met CL Smooth in high school and the two would later form the supergroup Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Just like my father, Pete’s father was a part-time DJ with an extensive record collection and I’m sure this is where Pete developed a passion for jazz music and music in general. He was first exposed to hip-hop from the legendary DJ, Marley Marl on his radio show “In Control with Marley Marl” on WBLS. Pete would later join with his friend CL Smooth to release the album All Souled Out. The standout track on that album was “The Creator” and the track “Mecca & The Soul Brother” would inspire and title their next album just one year later. As I mentioned in another article, Mecca & The Soul Brother was life changing for me and is responsible for making me fall in love with hip-hop.
Before these albums Pete Rock was already producing tracks and remixes for various hip-hop and R&B artists. Managed as a producer by Eddie F of Heavy D and The Boyz, Pete became associated with the Untouchables with Eddie F and Nevelle Hodge. Pete was already honing his craft as a producer working with artists such as Nas, Run DMC, Mary J. Blige, Jeru the Damaja, Biggie, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, and the list goes on. It was through his extensive production that Pete Rock became more popular and recognized not only in the hip-hop industry but in the R&B world.
In 1994, Pete and CL released The Main Ingredient. Now many people will say this was probably the best album that the duo released and maybe even considered one of Pete’s greatest productions. I personally feel that this was a masterpiece, from the construction of each track, to the cohesive flow, to the strategic interludes between each track. This album is in my top ten hip-hop albums of all time. This album would be the last album for the group, as they parted ways and Pete focused on his production work and solo career. This was a sad moment for me as this was my favorite group, but I was pleased to watch Pete move on to furthering his craft as a producer.
Pete went on to form the group INI with his younger brother Grap Luva, Rob-O, Marco Polo, I Love H.I.M. and DJ Boodakhan, best known for the track “Fakin’ Jax”. Pete continued on to work with Marley Marl in radio and developed a relationship with Loud Records, releasing another one of my absolute favorite albums, Soul Survivor. This album was simply fantastic and definitely showcased the skills of Pete, as well as his ability to work with numerous artists. To be able to put together a solid album featuring so many different artists is highly commendable. We are talking CL Smooth, Wu-Tang members, soul group Loose Ends, Big Pun, Black Thought, O.C. and more. He later went on to produce albums under his own label Soul Brother Recordings such as PeteStrumentals, a compilation of unreleased beats and three songs from former partner-in-crime CL Smooth. He also produced Soul Survivor II, working closely with members of the Wu, Lost & Found: Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics, My Own Worst Enemy with Ed O.G., The Surviving Elements: From Soul Survivor II Session, NY’s Finest, Monumental with Smif-N-Wessun and recently 80 Block’s From Tiffany’s with Camp Lo. He is set to release PeteStrumentals II later this year.
I want to point out that J. Dilla named Pete Rock his favorite producer, which in my opinion is a HUGE compliment. Ma Dukes told me in an interview a couple years ago that Dilla wanted to be like Pete, he idolized him. Dilla was definitely one of the greatest producers, so to know that Pete Rock was his fave shows just how incredible a producer Pete Rock is.
Recently, Pete has worked with some of the most popular hip-hop artists today such as Kanye West, Elzhi and Torae, which just further goes to show how much he is appreciated for his talent and sound. I personally am looking forward to hearing PeteStrumentals II and a collabo with DJ Premier, and watching him continue to flourish as a well established producer in this industry.
Happy Birthday to my favorite producer of all time, Mr. Peter “Pete Rock” Phillips. Thank you for creating such pure and immaculate music.