When Smif-n-Wessun would review beats for “Monumental,” its collaborative album from Pete Rock due in stores today, Tek and Steele had a distinct advantage.
“It may sound funny to the public, but the music really talks to us,” Tek says. “There’s actual voices and words and conversations that go on in the music that tell artists what to write or what to say. When we go into the studio and hear the beat, that’s why some of the choruses are so [intensely] felt and so deep, because the music is telling you to, ‘Say this. This is what the people need to hear over this type of instrumental.’ That is the secret. It’s out the bag now.”
Tek says as much on the title track when he raps, “I let the music talk to me. I reply to the mic, who relays it to the board and tell the engineer record.”
So when Pete Rock played Tek and Steele the beat for what would become “Do It,” the pair thought back to their 1998 “The Rude Awakening” album. That collection featured the song “Spanish Harlem,” which showcased Hurricane G, one of their favorite female rappers of all time. Pete Rock was also a fan of hers, ever since she appeared on Redman’s “Tonight’s Da Night” back in 1992.
“Hurricane is just one of those female MCs that I have a high respect for,” Tek says. “That particular track accommodated her particular style. We couldn’t call the album “Monumental” without having certain elements on the actual project. Imagine if we had no female artists on that project. There’s no way it’s monumental. The females would be like, ‘Hold up. Wait a minute. There’s no representation of us. It’s totally not monumental.’ But we gave consideration to people we think are great.”
Having Pete Rock produce the entire 14-cut collection also streamlined the recording process, as there wasn’t a lot of people to consult when a decision was needed.
“It really eliminated a lot of the middlemen bullshit working with one producer because we already knew what direction we wanted to go,” Tek says. “He also knew the direction we wanted to go. That’s what makes the album gel together the way it does because even when we were in disagreement, it was only partial disagreement. It wasn’t a disagreement about something where something couldn’t be changed and fixed the right way to where everybody was like, ‘That’s it.’ Working with one producer allows everybody to feel the comfort zone of, ‘Yeah. I don’t have to fight against this to get it to where we all think it needs to be.’”
That type of synergy made “Monumental” an album Pete Rock believes lives up to its lofty title. “When people of our stature come together it’s a monumental thing because nothing bad will come out of that,” he says. “It’s another word for class, monumental. This album right here will always be remembered in this game of hip-hop.”
For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker.