Pete Rock is one of hip-hop’s most acclaimed producers and it’s not hard to see why. The legendary beatsmith from Mt. Vernon, New York has always had one of the best ears for sampling in the industry; having mined some of the most obscure and indelible jazz, funk and soul records for some of hip-hop’s most highly-regarded albums and singles.
Both with his erstwhile partner C.L. Smooth and as a solo artist, producer and collaborator, Pete Rock’s creatiivity has given so much to hip-hop. Not to mention, he’s also one of the game’s most accomplished DJs.
So to celebrate the legendary Chocolate Boy Wonder aka Soul Brother No. 1’s birthday, here are ten of our favorite Pete Rock beats. Take a listen.
“Carmel City” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth
Milt Jackson’s “Enchanted Lady” forms the foundation for this, one of the most melodically lush tracks on Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s classic second album. A stellar example of Pete Rock’s ear for jazz and melody.
“Blue Funk” – Heavy D
Lou Donaldson’s classic instrumental “Pot Belly” provides the jazzy pulse and background on this underrated Heavy D single; with a heavy (no pun intended) dose of James Brown: namely “Popcorn With A Feeling” and “Funky President.”
“The World Is Yours” – Nas
One of the most iconic songs Pete Rock ever produced and a standard in the acclaimed catalog of Queensbridge lyricist Nas, this jazzy track is carried by a simple piano loop of Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “I Love Music” with some clever scatches incorporating T La Rock’s hip-hop classic “It’s Yours.”
“Straighten It Out” – Pete Rock and CL Smooth
Rock took the basic groove and opening line of the bridge from Ernie Hines “Our Generation” and looped a brief horn snippet from Kool & the Gang’s “Chocolate Butter” and turned it into a classic slice of 90s, soul-drenched hip-hop production.
“The Saga Begins” – Rakim
Pete Rock gave Rakim one of his best beats when he flipped Monty Alexander’s “Love Has A Way” and chopped it up with some of Ra’s most classic lines. The result is almost Premier-esque in it’s minimalism.
“Can’t Front On Me” – Pete Rock and CL Smooth
Flipping the saxophone squeal from Tyrone Washington’s “Submission,” and a snippet of the opening guitar line from “Where Do I Go” from the original Broadway production’s recording of Hair, Rock dropped one of his most underrated beats on an album brimming with genius.
“What They Call Me” – Rah Digga
A brilliant example of Pete Rock pulling from a hodgepodge of sources to create a memorable sound; this Rah Digga banger is a melange of Curtis Mayfield, Cannonball Adderley, James Brown and the 1950s Superman theme.
“The Basement” – Pete Rock and CL Smooth
For this underrated posse cut from Mecca and the Soul Brother, Rock combined elements from a variety of sources to give the song it’s melodic feel. The ambient synths of Keni Burke’s classic “Risin’ To the Top” form the backdrop, while Sister Nancy’s equally-ubiquitous “Bam Bam” gives the song it’s hook. Those funky drums? “Expo 83″ by the Backyard Heavies.
“Be Easy” – Ghostface Killah
Another genius soul sample backs this classic Starks track. This time, Pete Rock mined “Stay Away From Me,” a 1973 track from the Sylvers, one of the 70s most underappreciated soul acts–a family of musicians from Watts, California.
“Down With the King” – Run-D.M.C.
Once again flipping “Where Do I Go” from Hair (this time the original–not a cover), and chopping in cuts from classic Run-D.M.C. joints like “Run’s House,” and “Sucker MCs,” Pete Rock resurrected the Kings From Queens in the context of hardcore 90s East Coast street rap. The result? Run-D.M.C.’s first No. 1 hit on the rap singles chart and their second-biggest pop crossover hit after “Walk This Way.”