Pete Rock performing at Razel and Friends - Brooklyn Bowl in 2016.
|Peter O. Philips|
Soul Brother #1|
The Chocolate Boy Wonder
June 21, 1970|
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
|Origin||Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.|
|1987 - present|
Peter O. Philips (born June 21, 1970), better known by his stage name Pete Rock, is an American record producer, DJ and rapper. He rose to prominence in the early 1990s as one half of the critically acclaimed group Pete Rock & CL Smooth.
After the duo went their separate ways, Rock continued with a solo career that has garnered him worldwide respect, though little in the way of mainstream success. Along with groups such as Stetsasonic, Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots, Rock played a major role in the merging of elements from jazz into hip hop music (also known as jazz rap). He is widely recognized as one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time, and is often mentioned alongside DJ Premier, RZA and J Dilla as one of the mainstays of 1990s East Coast hip hop production. Pete Rock is also the older brother and younger cousin, respectively, of rappers Grap Luva and Heavy D.
Pete Rock was born in The Bronx, New York, the sixth of seven children born to Jamaican immigrant parents. His family moved to Mount Vernon, New York when he was seven years old. During high school, he met his future recording partner CL Smooth. According to Rock, his father was also a part-time DJ who had an impressive record collection. Rock would often accompany his father to a cricket club called Wembley in The Bronx and watch as he spun records for the guests. His first job was as a paperboy, in his neighborhood.
Pete Rock oversaw the production of Jay Stay Paid, a posthumous album by the producer J Dilla, released June 2, 2009, on Nature Sounds. Following that, Pete Rock joined Kanye West in Hawaii, who traveled there to work on the latter's fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In addition, he and DJ Premier have announced that they are working on a joint album together, although further details are unknown. Recently in London he confirmed that Big Pooh & C.L. Smooth will be on his half of the VS album and he plans on dropping 5 albums in 2011 including reuniting with C.L. Smooth for a third album & drop his 4th album on Nature Sounds. His next few collaborative albums are both due for a summer release with Monumental first then with Camp Lo's "80 Blocks From Tiffanys" LP. In an April 2011 interview on Conspiracy Worldwide Radio, Pete Rock discussed his new solo work including his album with DJ Premier, as well as exploring the fact that he has had numerous beats rejected by Eminem over the years  Pete Rock Uncensored Radio Interview. In an August 2011 interview, he has confirmed the completion of the Camp Lo album "80 Blocks From Tiffany's" and that he is currently working on production for Torae's album, Elzhi & his own solo album PeteStrumentals 2. Pete Rock announced on Twitter that PeteStrumentals 2 is indeed confirmed finished and scheduled for a 2015 release. The project was released on June 23, 2015 on the indie label Mello Music Group.
Through the years, Rock has helped to jump-start the careers of several artists. His first project outside of Pete Rock & CL Smooth was the hardcore duo YG'z, who released an EP called Street Nigga in 1993, with four out of the six tracks produced by Rock; however, they were quickly dropped from their deal with Reprise Records. His next venture, INI, was a group featuring Rock, his younger brother Grap Luva, Ras G and rapper Rob-O. They released a single, "Fakin' Jax", through Elektra Records in 1995, before their debut album, Center of Attention, was shelved by the label. The other two members continue to record solo material, albeit only sporadically. In an interview Rock elaborated on the situation:
We finished the album, turned it in to Elektra and they never put it out, they only put out a single. Sylvia [Rhone] really didn't cooperate, she didn't break bread with me when it came down to resolving that. It was all about her changing everything around. She wanted to change my whole sound. When she said, "You gotta make a beat like Puffy", I just knew it wasn't going to work out.
Since their split in 1995, Pete Rock's relationship with CL Smooth has been highly unpredictable. Although the pair briefly united for the reflective "Da Two" from Rock's Soul Survivor album in 1998, they avoided entertaining requests for a reunion album until 2001, when they once again teamed up for "Back on Da Block" from Rock's PeteStrumentals. In their interviews during this period, it appeared as though a new album was underway. As Rock would explain:
We've been on tour, we know every rhymer and producer in this business. We've influenced people, even people we've never met have said that we changed the face of hip-hop. So we're going to try to do some more.
The pair went on a short international tour culminating in their well-received show at London's Jazz Cafe; however, soon after this they declined to comment any further on the new album, which never materialized (although Smooth did make three separate appearances on Soul Survivor II). Eventually, Smooth would confirm rumors of a rift in an interview with AllHipHop.com, in which he appeared angry and frustrated with his former partner, saying "I didn't ask him to be a superhero" and "I'm not the problem." In an interview taken in December 2006, Rock ruled out any further collaborations with Smooth but stated that he holds no grudges against his former partner. He recently confirmed that he will be recording a third album with C.L. Smooth.
Pete Rock builds his beats from samples, the majority of which are taken from obscure R&B, funk, and jazz records. Early on in his career he would also sample drum breaks such as Black Heat's "Zimba Ku" for Heavy D & The Boyz's "Letter To The Future". Pete Rock heavily used the E-mu SP-1200 as well as the AKAI [S950]--later moving onto using the MPC--for his productions. Pete Rock tends to use the samples as palettes for his beats, chopping (cutting the sample into smaller parts), filtering (altering the frequencies of the sample), and layering several samples, often within the same song. While this technique was applied long before Rock (on De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising or the work of The Bomb Squad for example), Rock's work is distinctive for the way in which he uses samples to achieve a hazy, droning effect. He is also noted for his resonant basslines, horn samples, and gritty sounding drums. His beats often sound as though they were being played from an old vinyl record; he samples many of his sounds straight off these records. He frequently recorded at Greene St. Recording in Manhattan, having liked the equalizer that was used there, which gave many of his productions a wah-wah effect.
Another trait of his, more so in the earlier part of his career, is the way he uses horn samples to supplement his grooves. With perhaps the most famous example being "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" (on which he uses a horn sample from Tom Scott's "Today"), Rock has also used horns on several other productions such as "Straighten It Out", Public Enemy's "Shut 'Em Down", Rah Digga's "What They Call Me", and A.D.O.R.'s "Let It All Hang Out".
Along with Gang Starr, The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock played a large role in the fusing of jazz and funk music into hip hop. The aforementioned "Reminisce..." withstanding, Rock used many jazz samples on his album Mecca and The Soul Brother, such as Cannonball Adderley's "Country Preacher", for the song "Return of the Mecca", or "Capricorn" for the song "In the House" from The Main Ingredient. Pete Rock's heavy use of intro and outro beats has also been widely influential. To introduce feature songs, he often plays a short instrumental excerpt, completely different from the rest of the song. Aside from their role as transitions, these are widely regarded as a way of displaying his large collection and as a challenge to other hip-hop producers to identify the records that the breaks come from.Mecca & the Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient use intro/outro beats on nearly every track to great effect, and the tradition continues to the present on Rock's recent releases.
"Another Pete Rock Remix" is Pete Rock's trademark catchphrase, heard on countless singles that he has remixed. In addition to hip-hop artists he has done remix work for artists from other genres such as his 1995 remix of "Before You Walk Out Of My Life" for R&B singer Monica. In 1992 he collaborated with Mary J. Blige on the What's the 411? single "Reminisce," which utililized the same sample from his own single "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)". Rock claims to have done several high-profile remixes that remain unreleased, including one of Madonna's "Secret." He also claims to have produced the original beat for The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" and that it was recreated by P. Diddy and Poke (of Tone & Poke fame), without consent. However, he was invited to produce the remix, which utilizes the same sample as the original--Mtume's "Juicy Fruit." Although he received no official producer credit, he made the original demo beat for A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)," which was then recreated by Q-Tip on the album The Low End Theory. He remixed Public Enemy's "Shut 'em Down" and "Nighttrain" in the same day, starting at 12pm and finishing at 12am.
Up until 2003, he created all of his productions on the E-mu SP-1200, thereafter using the AKAI MPC2000XL. He also has a collection of about 90,000 records and looks for records at least once a week. Pete Rock was one of nine artists who participated in thetruth.com's Remix Project, where he remixed the Sunny Side song "Magical Amount."
Pete Rock has had a considerable impact on a number of record producers who have emerged in the hip hop scene since the late 1990s. Many critics have compared newcomers to him, generally favorably. Perhaps most notable among these comparisons are Detroit producer J Dilla, and North Carolina's 9th Wonder, both of whom have worked with Rock during their recording careers. Several of the comparisons stem from the fact that these producers have created the bulk of their productions out of samples, as well as the warm, mellow, and exuberant undertones apparent in their work. Pete Rock himself has added validation to the comparisons with J Dilla by stating "he's the only producer in this game that was just as serious [as me]."