Pete Rock is one 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 the best ears for sampling in the industry; having mined some the most obscure and indelible jazz, funk and soul records for some hip-hop’s most highly-regarded albums and singles.
He’s been behind the boards for everyone from Public Enemy to Nas to Leela James. He’s a cornerstone contemporary hip-hop and urban music.
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 the game’s most accomplished DJs.
Here are ten 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 the most melodically lush tracks on Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s classic second album. A stellar example 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 James Brown: namely “Popcorn With A Feeling” and “Funky President.”
“The World Is Yours” – Nas
One the most iconic songs Pete Rock ever produced and a standard in the acclaimed catalog Queensbridge lyricist Nas, this jazzy track is carried by a simple piano loop 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 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 90s, soul-drenched hip-hop production.
“The Saga Begins” – Rakim
Pete Rock gave Rakim one his best beats when he flipped Monty Alexander’s “Love Has A Way” and chopped it up with some 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 the opening guitar line from “Where Do I Go” from the original Broadway production’s recording Hair, Rock dropped one his most underrated beats on an album brimming with genius.
“What They Call Me” – Rah Digga
A brilliant example Pete Rock pulling from a hodgepodge sources to create a memorable sound; this Rah Digga banger is a melange 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 sources to give the song it’s melodic feel. The ambient synths 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 the 70s most underappreciated soul acts–a family 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 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.”