Pete Rock: Unsung Hero

posted February 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 21 comments

Pete Rock is, without question, one of the unsung legends of Hip Hop. The Bronx-born and Mt. Vernon-raised New York native earned his spot in the pantheon of Hip Hops greats by using elements of Jazz and Funk, to create classic Hip Hop music.

After rising to fame as one half of the critically acclaimed rap duo, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Pete Rock built and maintained a worldwide following, both as an artist, and a producer. With almost 20 years in the game, and a lengthy resume full of Hip Hops biggest names you would think hed have no reason to keep pushing. But when you live what you love, theres always more work to be done. Pete Rock is back once again with his new album, NYs Finest. Not because he needs it, but because he loves it.

HipHopDX: What made you want to release another solo album?
Pete Rock:
I feel like theres a balance missing in Hip Hop today, on radio and videos. I wanted to come back and teach the young kids about who I am and what Ive done in the rap game. Try to steer them, or anyone whos looking to get into Hip Hop music, in the right direction.

DX: In one of his rhymes Kanye called himself the new version of Pete Rock. Are you ever bothered when people mention you they talk about you like youre not still active in Hip Hop?
Hell no. I never left and Ill always be in the game. It just shows me that my work wasnt done in vain and I inspired a lot of cats. I cant take it no other way. The only thing is I dont like to be talked about like Im not here. I been here, making beats. I got stuff on Keyshia Coles new album, Styles Ps new album, Im working with LL Cool J right now, did work for 50 Cent. Right now Im just concentrating on putting good music back out there. I took my time getting back out, but I never left.

DX: Technology is making it easier everyday for almost anybody to be a rapper or a producer. How do you feel that affects the quality of the music?
I think its a good thing. Its not what you got its how you use it. Im a vinyl guy myself. But you dont want to carry records through airports because theyll fuck up your shit, so I carry the laptop and Im all good. Theres a certain sound that comes from vinyl. They cant make that vinyl sound or the feel when youre deejaying a party. Just the feeling of rubbing vinyl is one of the best things in the world. But all the new age stuff is cool. It all comes down to how you use it, what sound youre going for, and, most importantly, your reasons for doing it.

DX: What is your process like when creating music?
I go in my music room, probably got a little something burning, and just listen to shit and let my imagination go. Sometimes I go in there with an idea in my head and sometimes something will just come to me real quick but either way once I get started it just flows. I been doing this for so long that it just happens for me. I mastered it. Whether Im sampling, playing the keyboard or whatever, its a real easy time for me.

DX: Do the rhymes come as easy as the beat or is that something different?
The rhyming part is different. And to be honest, I think I love that a little more than the music but theyre both part of Hip Hop. I love to rhyme. Im not a Biggie, who was immaculate with the rhymes, but Im good enough to get the point across and entertain people while theyre listening to what Im saying. For instance, a dude like Swizz Beatz, the type of music he makes, when youre in the club and to see what happens, peoples reactions when one of his beats comes on is crazy. You get a whole new respect for him.

DX: When working on the new album, did you consciously choose who you were going to use or did you just try different things with different people?
I just wanted to work with people who had the same love for the type of music I make. I look for those artists who feel the type of music I make. My whole thing in 08 is to work with people that want to work with me and vice versa. Being that the game has changed and artists dont work the same ways that they used to. So its kind of strange when I find myself e-mailing cats beats now instead of sitting with the artists and really going through the music. But I only dealt with people who have the same love for this that I do.

DX: Lately you hear a lot of people talking about the differences between a beat-maker and producer. How do you feel about the uses of each title?
Its all the same thing. People always try to devise a new meaning to an old word. It may be appropriate in some situations, but not always. Like Im a beat-maker and a producer, so what am I? Theres no new word, youre a producer. But I think what cats are trying to say is, being versatile in your music counts. Dont pigeonhole yourself into one genre. Dont be afraid to step out of the box and try new things. If you can make different types of beats, Hip Hop, R&B, Pop, Jazz, then youre a top notch producer.

DX: What are some songs on the album that you feel people will be drawn to?
I think people will like the joint I got with Jim Jones and Max B. The Jim Jones song is aight. I did a club joint with Rell. Its a nice, feel good song. On the street side I got joints with Papoose, Royal Flush, Redman. I got a Reggae joint with Chip-Fu from the Fu-Schnickens and Rene from Zhane thats the dark skinned one for all those who dont know.

DX: With radio and video stations being so particular about artists having a certain type of song to get airplay, are you worried about your project going unnoticed?
Thats how the game is. Its to a point where cats want that commercial, Pop record thats going to make them some money. And thats all they want anyway. They want to enslave the artists, in a sense, to make a bunch of those types of songs that make them a bunch of money. I only believe in what comes out of you. I dont believe in people telling you what to think and what to say and how to make your music. You should do it on your own and do whatever you feel. Make whatever your soul is feeling; thats what I been doing for years.

DX: Youre part of one of the most influential groups in Hip Hop and responsible for the creation of some classic Hip Hop records. Do you feel you get the respect you deserve?
I feel like theres someone behind the scenes or in some office somewhere that doesnt know their history and doesnt know Hip Hop. If they did, they would include guys like me more. I was on the Hip Hop Honors show once, as a deejay. I wasnt on stage or anything like that. You only seen me up in the corner. And its funny to me. But I was glad to be there and Im always glad to take part in things like that. But there is somebody in the back that really doesnt know their history. They dont really know Hip Hop and dont really love Hip Hop. And its always that person that ends up getting a job in Hip Hop. Theres a bunch of people making a living in this that dont know their history, and it makes me laugh.

DX: Your career spans almost two decades and still going what were some of the moments that meant the most to you?
My best moment as a producer is always when I get to work with people I never worked with before. Guys like Run-DMC, LL, Biggie, Big L, 'Pac, people like that. I was excited to work with these artists because, at the time, I was just a consumer of Hip Hop. I was snatching money out my mom's pocketbook to go to the record store. I loved it and was that determined to do music. It was embedded in me at an early age because my father was into it. As an emcee, my favorite times were when cats would come to the crib. Everybody from Biz Markie to Redman, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Large Professor, just a lot of cats would come by the crib and wed be jamming in the crib. Wed listen to samples and rhyme over beats we made that day or whenever. Thats one of the most glorious feelings. Tours were cool too. Just seeing the audience rock with you, singing the words and shit is a crazy feeling.

DX: In a previous interview, Chubb Rock mentioned hed want to do a Jam session album similar to what the Jazz artists used to do. Who would you like to recruit if you could do such a project?
There are so many people out there that Id love to work with on a project like that. LL Cool J, Id want to bring my cousin Heavy D back, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Jay-Z, OutKastthe list goes on.

DX: Its common knowledge that theres no 401K in Hip Hop. With that being said, do you ever see yourself stepping away from the music industry to pursue a more stable way to make a living?
I will always do something in music. Anything that I am able to do professionally in music I will pursue it. One of the things I really want to get into scoring movies. I dibbled and dabbled in it but I really would like to get into it in a serious way especially since I seen how RZA capitalized on the scoring thing with Kill Bill and Blade and all that. I would like to deal with action movies, superhero movies, and gangster movies. Gangster shit and superhero shit in particular. Im real into the superhero thing big time. I been into them since I was a kid, so I would love to be part of one of them. I like a lot of the movies theyve been making and theyve been coming out with a lot of them lately so Im really gung ho about getting into it now.

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