Pete Rock: Still Soul Brotha #1?

posted August 27, 2007 12:00:00 AM CDT | 36 comments

Roughly 15 years ago producer-extraordinaire Pete Rock (alongside fellow beatsmiths Large Professor and Diamond D) helped usher in hip-hops soul movement. Almost a decade before Kanye West and Just Blaze drew up the modern blueprint of that sound, Heavy Ds little cousin was sampling vintage soul and jazz records and transforming them into the songs that would comprise his own classic albums. Alongside fellow Mt. Vernon, New York native C.L. Smooth, the self-proclaimed Chocolate Boy Wonder released 1 EP (1991s All Souled Out) and 2 LPs (1992s Mecca And The Soul Brother and 1994s The Main Ingredient) of some of the finest hip-hop music to ever be committed to wax.

Unfortunately, shortly after The Main Ingredient was released internal squabbles between the duo led to the demise of their once holy union. And while the two did attempt to reconcile their differences at various points over the past dozen years, even recording together for both installments of Petes compilation-style Soul Survivor solo albums, "Da Two never became one again.

Thankfully, over the past decade Pete Rock has continued to bless us with his often imitated but never duplicated brand of soul-hop, and in January will kick 2008 off right with his latest effort, NYs Finest. Pete recently spoke exclusively to HipHopDX.com to give us some details on his new project, as well as some rare insight into his split with C.L. and the end of his working relationship with another MC who alongside Pete once created a classic collaboration.

HHDX: I understand that the title of your forthcoming fourth solo effort, NYs Finest, isnt in reference to the artists appearing on the album?
Pete Rock
: Nah, not really. Its talking about me basically being one of New Yorks top hip-hop producers ever.

HHDX: And who are the MCs blessing the beats from New Yorks finest producer on this go-round?
Pete Rock
: I got DoItAll and Mr. Funke from Lords of the Underground. I got Jim Jones and Max B. I got Little Brother on there. I got my man Royal Flush. I got Red Caf. Slum Village is on there [Gangsta Boogie]. I did a joint with Redman [Best Believe]. I got Styles P and Sheek Louch from The Lox [914]. Theres a joint with Raekwon and Masta Killa on there [The PJs]. I got Papoose. I got Chip-Fu from the Fu-Schnickens. I got my man DJ Doo Wop on there big shout out to him. Renee from Zhane is on there singing. And my man Rock Marcy from The U.N. is on there. And thats pretty much it Oh, and my man Rell from Roc-A-Fella is on there.

HHDX: I noticed you took it back in the day there with Lords of the Underground and Chip-Fu.
Pete Rock
: Definitely, cause these guys are still talented. Its like, to me if all our talent is still here why not just keep putting something together?

HHDX: Is the sound of those joints 92, or is it futuristic stuff?
Pete Rock
: Its definitely futuristic. But it gives you the 92 feel with just a little bit of a twist.

HHDX: I know some eyebrows might be raised by the Jim Jones and Max B features. So how did a Pete Rock and Dipset union come about?
Pete Rock
: Basically through my man Andre Neal from Violator. He had called me up and basically told me that Dipset was looking for beats. And thats how I ended up doing Gs Up for Jim Jones second album. And then from there on we just I played em a couple beats and asked em to jump on something, and they did it.

HHDX: And I think you forgot to name one other MC spittin on the album Pete Rock?
Pete Rock
: Oh yeah, of course, Pete Rock I mean, its my album so I figured I didnt really have to [mention myself]. I dont really count [laughs].

HHDX: I gotta ask this, just cause Im curious what you think, is Kanye West the greatest producer/rapper ever?
Pete Rock
: Nah. Im not gonna say hes the greatest producer ever. Hes a great producer, but hes not the greatest producer ever.

HHDX: Well I meant producer/rapper.
Pete Rock
: I mean, I like when he spits. And I like his beats. But theres other people that I loved before Kanye West. I got an appreciation for what he does, and what hes brought back to the game. He basically opened the doors back up for cats like me. They werent playing Pete Rock-ish beats. Like, if you listen to the radio they play a bunch of radio-friendly records thats wack. Hes bringing that soul back.

HHDX: Is the sound of NYs Finest comparable to that of Soul Survivor II?
Pete Rock
: Sort of, but not really. Its new. Its basically Pete Rock with a twist different sounds in the music, trying to do different things.

HHDX: Are you a live instrument guy? I never knew if you get down.
Pete Rock
: Yeah, I play the bass. On the Lords of the Underground song I used a live bass.

HHDX: I dont know if you like hearing this, but a lot of fans myself included thought the best moments on Soul Survivor II were the 3 songs C.L. Smooth appeared on. So was C.L.s claim on Da Two from the first Soul Survivor to be the best that ever did it on a Pete Rock track accurate?
Pete Rock
: Well, Im not gonna say that. But that basically was the last of Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth that youre ever gonna hear again. I just did it for the fans because they wanted it. But [us recording together] still doesnt work. Were oil and water. We dont mix. Were two different people. Im about my music, and about my business, and thats it. Im about putting this music out for my fans. I do it for them.

Im still here. Ive put out 3 solo albums since the split. Im here giving people the thing they missed [after we broke up], which is Pete Rocks music. Without the music you couldnt sell a C.L. Smooth acapella album. So my thing is its the music that the people love. I dont take anything away from him; hes definitely dope and everything like that. But it was the music that the people loved, and Im here to keep giving it to them.

HHDX: Right now 9th Wonder is refusing to answer any questions regarding his split from Little Brother. Do you think the fans are owed a detailed explanation of why their favorite group broke up?
Pete Rock
: Oh yeah definitely, they have a right to know. And the explanation [for our breakup] is we dont get along, period. We made a mark on the music world. And Im sorry to the fans that we had to part, but things like that happen as you grow older. We grew apart from each other and thats the bottom line. Im not gonna speak bad about him, but it is what it is.

HHDX: Switching gears here, I mentioned 9th and Im just curious to know what other disciples of Pete Rock, if you will, impress you? Who all gets the Pete Rock stamp of approval?
Pete Rock
: All the new guys Kanye, Swizz Beatz, 9th Wonder, Hi-Tek, Madlib, Nicolay, Just Blaze, all those cats. They all get my stamp of approval.

HHDX: Are you getting back in the producer-for-hire game? I know you did some tracks on the latest albums from Ghostface and Talib Kweli. So do you have any additional production credits forthcoming?
Pete Rock
: Yeah, I did 2 joints on the new Kweli album, Ear Drum. And I did 5, 6 songs originally for Ghosts first Fishscale but he only used 3. And on the second Fishscale he used 1. Im working with those guys and a couple more people that Id rather not mention yet. I wanna make sure that it happens.

HHDX: So what all is on Pete Rocks plate for 07/08? Besides NYs Finest, what else you got cooking in the kitchen?
Pete Rock
: I got a DVD coming with the album, just basically breaking down the new stuff. And Im working on production with new acts for Soul Brother Records like my man E-Ville.

HHDX: That DVD, is that like a making of the album?
Pete Rock
: Yeah basically. I got Kanye, Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze, Timbaland, a lot of people on there just talking about their Pete Rock moments.

HHDX: You gonna be involved in the new Heavy D album?
Pete Rock
: I just talked to Hev yesterday, so hopefully. Yeah, Im pretty sure Ill be a part of it. I would wanna be a part of it.

HHDX: Dont Curse Pt. 2 would be apt right about now.
Pete Rock
: Youknowhatimsayin!

HHDX: And not to keep rehashing the past, but is there any chance of you ever working with Nas again?
Pete Rock
: I dont think so. I dont think I want to at this point. I just dont think its gonna be the same. Like, we never developed a relationship with one another.

HHDX: Thats a testament to that one joint [The World Is Yours] that people are still asking about when yall are gonna work together again.
Pete Rock
: Yeah, thats the one joint that everybody talks about. Well always have that.

HHDX: And do you want to say anything about the long-standing rumors regarding you and his ex, Carmen Bryan, having a relationship? You wanna touch any of that?
Pete Rock
: Nah, I dont wanna touch any of that. Theres nothing to touch. I dont even know the person youre talking about.

HHDX: Do you think the fans thirst for knowledge about an artists private life is starting to supersede their actual interest in the music itself?
Pete Rock
: Yeah, because its not about peoples private lives. Its about the talent that we have. When you talking to me about stuff like that, it disinterests me. I dont even wanna talk anymore after you asking me stuff like that. Its really none of your business what goes on in someones personal life. But to say something about that incident, I dont even know her. Ill say it again. I dont know that woman. Obviously, he thinks I know her because he hasnt spoken to me in 14 years. And if thats the reason, I think thats real stupid of him. And you can quote me saying that.

HHDX: And thats the type of clarification Id like to get out there. I mean, you dont know me, but me personally I dont give a shit about none of this.
Pete Rock
: And he dont know me either. And my thing is get to know me before you start accusing me, thinking the wrong thing. Cause cats out here are haters. No one wants to see me and him get together. Me and him getting together defeats the purpose of anyone else trying to do beats for him, cause I go hard with my music. And when cats try to compete, they cant fuck with me! So thats the only reason why I think somebody started that [rumor]. It was a diversionary tactic for me and him to not work together.

HHDX: I dont want to end on a sour note, but I do wanna get an update on your mentor Marley Marls condition since his heart attack back in June, hows he doing?
Pete Rock
: Hes doing great. Hes doing much better. I picked him up from that ordeal. I was kinda shocked. When I heard the news I just dropped everything. I heard he was in the hospital and I ran up there and checked him out. But hes good.

HHDX: Yeah, I think he was saying it was maybe just stressed induced.
Pete Rock
: Yeah, a lot of stressand bad eating. You gotta switch your diet as you get older. I mean, Im only 36 and Im trying to be a vegetarian. The red meat I dont eat at all. Thats easy. But as far as the fish and chicken, Im trying to get off of that. Im trying to do the whole vegetarian thing, cause as you get older you dont want things like that to happen.

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