Alice Meets… Pete Rock

Categorised as INTERVIEW., MUSIC.

 ‘The Creator’

His instrumentals absorb you entirely into their endless depth and hypnotic loops, and those magnetic samples lure then leave you speechless at their perfect treatment; Pete Rock production is just unparalleled. And if you don’t agree, then you don’t got soul my friend.

If there’s a record that truly deserves cherishing, it is ‘Petestrumentals’ – an aural journey to be had, from getting lost in the haunting subtlety of ‘Smooth Sailing’, intense head-nodding to ‘Nothin’ Lesser’, induced booty-shaking to ‘Back on the Block’, to marvelling at the pure perfection of ‘Pete’s Jazz’s layered composition.

Basically, regardless of the musical mood of his sonic vibrations, the force that permeates through all that Rock creates is unyielding Soul.

He is best known for his legendary partnership with the slick emcee CL Smooth; CL’s rhymes blending conscious lyrics with cheeky innuendo to complement Rock’s addictively soulful beats. The music they created together through the first half of the nineties on classic albums ‘Mecca and the Soul Brother’ and ‘The Main Ingredient’ is genuine Hip Hop gold, and the delicious ‘I Got A Love’ is one of my very favourite jams.

Pete Rock is crazy prolific at the moment with about a dozen projects on the go, and his dream-team collaboration ‘Monumental’ with Smif N Wessun dropped a few weeks back.  Whilst ‘That’s Hard’ featuring Sean Price and Styles P and title track ‘Monumental’ featuring Tyler Woods both have that big beat sound, I’d recommend checking out ‘Nighttime’ featuring Buckshot and ‘Roses’ featuring Freeway for some nice dirty flows.

Last month Rock was in London on tour with the musical legend Roy Ayers, and took a little time to chat to me about his current work, production methods, the importance of music, and the disgusting ruckus that went down at the ‘Monumental’ launch party in New York…

So, congratulations on ‘Monumental’ –

Thank you.

Could you tell me a little about the inspiration behind it, and the process recording it?

The process was basically simple – I just followed a guideline of their first album, which was called ‘The Shining’, and just used that as a reference to make this new album. So I just gave the guys a bunch of beats, they picked fourteen beats, basically the album, and that was it you know? They picked the beats and we made it. That was the inspiration; the inspiration was the first album.

Smif-N-Wessun’s first album?

Yes.

Okay. You have a lot of projects on the go right now – would you be able to tell me where you’re at with that right now, what you’ve got coming up?

Well, the Camp Lo album is done, and the mix-tape, the Smif-N-Wessun is obviously out, Pete Rock and Premier is being worked on, ‘Pete Rock vs. Premier’, my solo ‘Petestrumentals 2’ I’m working on, and a solo album for Elzhi I’m working on as well.

Oh wow – that’s cool, I didn’t know you were doing stuff with Elzhi.

Yeah.

Nice – look forward to hearing that. I’m hoping to come to the show tomorrow night with Roy Ayers-

Yes, I’m here on tour with Roy, and we’re having a blast. He’s one of my idols and one of the great jazz artists that I’ve looked up to for a very long time, since I was a kid. Him and James Brown.

How does it feel to be sharing the stage with someone that you’ve looked up to?

It feels good, you know, feels great. Roy Ayers is very talented – put out lots and lots and lots of music for people like myself to learn from, which is exactly what I did.

And how did the collaboration come about? Did he approach you or…?

No, I actually did a tribute show with a band in New York, and he was there, he attended. Then after I came up with the idea of calling him and talking to him, just to have a conversation, and then we talked about all sorts of stuff like music and just working with each other on music – and I can’t wait.

Are you working on recording anything together?

Yes we’re gonna end up recording stuff together – we haven’t yet, but we will.

Cool. And I was wondering – so much classic material, like Roy Ayers and James Brown, has already been reworked in hip hop and sampled-

Yeah, yeah.

Do you find – is it more of a challenge to source samples nowadays? Do you have to dig a lot deeper than when you started out?

Well, I mean, I dig the way I dig. It’s something now that feels…I just feel like when I do dig, stuff comes to me now. You know, I don’t really have to dig hard when I’m digging anymore. When I dig, just things happen; you know what I mean? I find stuff. It’s easier than when I first started.

Ah ok. To me, as a producer you’re a master of making those big hip hop beats and anthems as well as the more kind of subtle and hypnotising melodies, what I think of as bedroom hip hop, just stuff you get hypnotised by. I was wondering whether you consciously set out to achieve a certain mood when you’re in the studio and producing, or whether it just kind of happens organically?

It just kind of falls into place. You know, with the guys that I’m working with, and once the vibe is created then the rest is history. But the vibe is important.

Yeah – do you have a preference at all for upbeat or low-key?

No, I mean just the regular stuff that I’ve always been using. No preference, just I have a set thing of what I use.

Right. And do you feel your production method and technique has changed or developed since you started out?

Errrrrrrm…yes. And no. I believe that I have updated stuff and, you know, I listen to other things just to keep myself on my toes. But it’s changed for the better, if I may say. And it just brings back the feeling of real good music.

Cool. Often when an artist records their first album there’s this raw and special quality to it that can’t really be re-captured a lot of the time, so I was just wondering if you could tell me a little about your first record and what it sort of means to you?

What my first records meant to me?

The first records you created and what they mean to you now?

Oh, just means it’s a classic now (laughs). You know, it means a lot to me because it was times when I didn’t wanna, you know, record myself rhyming or doing anything like that. But looking back to it and seeing the reactions from other people made me just keep on, and now that I did I don’t regret it.

Right – so were you kinda reluctant at first then?

Yeah, I was reluctant at first and then, but now I’m like I’m glad I did it.

Yeah, of course. I’m glad. And would you be able to – it’s a bit of a big question – but describe what music means to you?

What music means to me?

Yeah. (laughs).

It’s like having a left and a right arm – a right leg, a left leg. You need it – those are the things that you need, right? So, I need hip-hop. It’s very important.

Cool. And if you don’t wanna talk about this I completely understand but I saw on the news about the launch party that you had for ‘Monumental’-

Yeah, all I have to say is that we will see justice and it is plain as day that the cops were absolutely wrong for what they did, for hitting innocent people. And for Bloomberg and for the chief of the police to say the cops had every right to do that makes no sense, it just makes me feel like the NYPD are targeting Black and Latinos for no reason.

Yeah…

I mean, instead of dealing with what they are supposed to be dealing with which is criminals, rapists and all kinda stuff you know? Deal with those and lock those people up, those are the people that you’re supposed to be, you know, taking off the streets. You don’t come to an innocent party and beat innocent people up. And we will see justice for it and that’s all I have to say about it.

Okay, thank you. And thank you so much for taking the time to have a little bit of a chat today.

Okay, no problem. Bye.

Bye.

 

For those of you who didn’t see about what went down at the ‘Monumental’ release – the party was all good-natured until the police shut it down after a disturbance outside (reportedly unrelated) and became very heavy-handed with the peaceful fans. For the full story check out this report and video: http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.15762/title.details-emerge-in-police-scuffle-at-pete-rock-smif-n-wessuns-nyc-release-party

And sadly, due to bad health, Pete Rock had to pull out of two of the three dates at The Jazz Café with Roy Ayers so I can’t report how that went down – but, at least we can look forward to much more fresh music to come from the producer-extraordinaire, and hopefully that Pete Rock/ Roy Ayers collaboration promised… Almost sounds too good to be true!

Words by Alice Price-Styles.

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