In the early ’90s, producer-rapper Pete Rock became one of rap’s most potent double threats. His work with then partner-in-rhyme C.L. Smooth -- most notably the singles “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” and “Straighten It Out” -- introduced Rock’s distinctive horn-driven production and husky-voiced raps.
A few years later, rap duo Tek and Steel, better known at the time as Smif-n-Wessun, helped popularize the grimy New York rap sound that came to dominate the city’s sonic tone in the mid ’90s with such singles as “Bucktown” and “Sound Bwoy Bureill.” Tek and Steele later changed their name to Cocoa Brovaz in the late ’90s due to copyright issues with the Smith & Wesson firearms company. All the while, the pair kept releasing high-quality rap.
Now Pete Rock and Smif-n-Wessun have combined for "Monumental,” a stellar collaborative album produced by Pete Rock that showcases Rock’s still sizzling production, Tek and Steele’s rugged rhymes and guest appearances from Raekwon, Sean Price and others -- a collaboration for the ages.
As the proverbial dust settles a week after “Monumental” released, we sat down Pete Rock and Smif-n-Wessun to give us their list Top 5 Collaborations.
5. “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)” by Nas feat. Lauryn Hill
Album: “It Was Written” (1996)
Pete Rock: “With those two records they sampled -- Kurtis Blow’s “If I Ruled The World” and Whodini’s “Friends” -- you could never go wrong because those records were the shit in the club back in the day. Whoever did that record knew what they were doing as far as catching that remembrance. Boom. It becomes a hit record. Then, you have two of the greatest artists on the song.”
4. “Tru Master” by Pete Rock feat. Inspectah Deck and Kurupt
Album: “Soul Survivor” (1998)
Steele: “I’m not going to front. I was so upset that I wasn’t on that track.”
Pete Rock: “The cars in that video, they were really hard to drive. They’re not so easy, so I give NASCAR and them drivers mad respect. Them joints is mad hard to drive and it’s so loud. The motors are mad loud and when I did that video, it was crazy.
It was mad hot and we used the real Daytona track in Florida. We felt like that beat had a lot of energy and it was really exciting. We felt it was kind of racy. When the ideas came and I heard the word ‘racy,’ I was like, ‘Look. Let’s do this like a Daytona type of thing.’ Me, Deck and Kurupt were racing around the track, racing each other around the track. That came out really nice. I really love that video.”
3. “I Love You” Remix by Mary J. Blige feat. Smif-n-Wessun
Album: The original version of “I Love You” appeared on “My Life” (1994)
Pete Rock: “That was on the radio every day. When I heard that, I used to get real happy.”
Tek: “Doing that song was more than I even thought was possible to happen. Even at that time, we got the call from Puff Daddy himself: ‘Yo. I want ya’ll on this.’ We were like, ‘Who’s this? Puff?’ Get out of here.”
2. Artist: Guru
Album: “Jazzmatazz Volume: 1” (1993)
Tek: “I really don’t even know the song titles on “Jazzmatazz.” I just know that for me it was my first time hearing music put together like that, hip-hop and jazz that’s not corny. I was a young street cat and I was like, ‘Hold up. This is the “Just To Get A Rep” dude right here.’ Are you serious? That album was crazy. It broadened and opened my horizons -- my eyes and ears -- to all different sorts of music.”
1. “Down With The King” by Run DMC featuring Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
Album: “Down With The King” (1993)
Pete Rock: “I had to go against Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen. They didn’t believe in me. They were like, ‘Who’s this young kid? Who’s he think he is? He’s just a producer. He didn’t do what me and Rick Rubin did.’ I heard all that. But Jam Master Jay was really the adamant one with saying, ‘Yo, Pete. Don’t worry about it. We’re gonna make this happen.’
One day, he shows up at my mother’s house unannounced. He rings the bell and it’s Jam Master Jay at my door. I’m 20 years old and I’d just finished buying their last album. It was a bugged feeling. We went next door where I had my DJ equipment and we worked on the beat. He worked on the beat with me. He actually helped me make the drums. I provided all the sounds, but he got behind the drum machine and started playing with the drum machine and we got a beat pattern going.
Once we got the beat pattern going, he was like, ‘OK. I like this feel right here Pete.’ I started going through my records, playing with samples. I picked this one album up and I was like, ‘Ah. Wow. This sounds dope.’ Then I started sprinkling it with little sprinkles of sounds and singing. It sounded like cathedral singing, like someone at a funeral singing some type of deathly hymn. It was crazy.
We took it back to Def Jam, played it for Russell. At that time, me, DMC and Jay were hyped on it. We had to convince Run, too. Once it came out and did so well, that made me feel good because I made Russell eat his words. From then on, Def Jam started working with me.”
For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker.
- Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears Mixtape
- Up & Coming: The Dean's List
- Cali Swag District Bring “The Kickback”