He revolutionized rap production through groundbreaking studio wizardry. He made remixes matter more than the original songs. He established ad-libs as a standard recording asset. He introduced dramatic, forceful horns to rap’s sonic discussion. Pete Rock has notched these achievements during his impeccable recording, producing and remixing career, one of the most distinguished in rap history and one that includes collaborations with Nas, Common, Mary J. Blige, Ghostface Killa, Busta Rhymes, Public Enemy and Run-DMC, among many others. Showing that he remains sharp as ever, the Mount Vernon, New York rapper-producer returns with NY’s Finest, his best moment as an artist. “I called it that because I feel like that’s me,” Pete Rock explains. “I’m one of New York’s finest producers.” Pete Rock backs his words up with “We Roll,” a powerful boast-session with Jim Jones and Max B riding shotgun. Styles P and Sheek Louch unite on the hood-hyping “914,” an ode to Pete Rock and the LOX’s home area. Pete Rock then slows things down on “PJs,” a tag-team effort from the Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Masta Killa. The pair deliver their signature brand of slanguistics, giving Masta Killa (one of the most slept-on Clan members) a major platform on which to shine. “Masta Killa, there’s something about him as a person that I like,” Pete Rock reveals. “His aura, his movements. You can just see it in his eyes the type of dude that he is. I feel the connection. I see the streetness in him.” Pete Rock’s family’s native streets are located in Jamaica and he gives a nod to his heritage .. For War.” The reggae-styled track also features Chip-Fu from the Fu-Schnikens and Renee from Zhane and is sure to catch people off guard. “Renee sang on the hook and I rhyme in Patois,” Pete Rock says. “My family all comes from Jamaica. It’s pretty surprising to hear me rhyme in Patois, so people are like, ‘Is that Pete Rock?’ They’re bugging off that. You can’t help but to like it.” Elsewhere, Pete Rock teams with Little Brother for the autobiographical “Bring Ya’ll Back” and works with DJ Green Lantern on the anti-hater mandate “Don’t Be Mad.” Pete rocks the mic on “Till I Retire” and partners with Royal Flush on the hardcore “Questions.” Redman blazes through “Best Believe,” Papoose shines on the soulful yet hardcore “Comprehend” and R&B singer Rell croons on the piano-accented, dancefloor ready “That’s What I’m Talking About.” With the sonic diversity evident on NY’s Finest, it may seem as though music flows through Pete Rock’s veins. Maybe it does, as his father was an avid record collector and DJ. Thus, as he was growing up in Mount Vernon, New York, Pete Rock gravitated toward music. He picked up his father’s ear for catchy basslines and memorable drum patterns, as well his father’s penchant for record collecting -- a passion to this day. But what made Pete Rock different from many other kids growing up in hip-hop culture’s formative years was that he didn’t want to just make music or be like his idols. He wanted to stand on his own, to become an idol to others because of his contributions to the music and culture. Pete Rock got his first major exposure via Marley Marl’s late 1980s radio show, where he was a DJ. An equally big break came when Eddie F, the DJ for Pete Rock’s cousin Heavy D, gave Pete Rock his first drum machine and showed him some basic techniques. “In the ‘80s, all I was was a spectator, sitting back and learning,” he says. “I used to go with my cousin Heavy D to his studio sessions, go to Marley Marl’s house or Howie Tee’s house. I was the quiet, humble cat that just sat back and watched and learned.” While many of his schoolmates were living the lives of typical teenagers, Pete Rock made music his life. His best friends became the SP1200 drum machine and its manual. “I studied that manual inside and out,” he says today with a laugh. “I did not come outside for a long time -- for a couple of years, man. I was 14-years-old with this drum machine in my room. I had two turntables, a mixer and a tape deck. Before I got that machine, I was making beats with the tape deck. I would overdub and keep pausing and pausing for the parts of the record I liked, until I learned how to sample.” Once Pete Rock learned how to use the equipment as his disposal, he set out to make his mark on the music industry. “People respect leaders, so I wanted to figure out how I could be a leader in hip-hop music,” he says. “The ‘80s was a big time of learning for me. When the ‘90s came I stood up like a king and ruled. I think that I was the actual leader. I brought something new to the table that no one was doing, absolutely no one.” That production technique was a method of beatmaking known as filtering, a tool that made Pete Rock’s recordings with former partner in rhyme C.L. Smooth -- 1991’s All Souled Out EP, 1992’s landmark Mecca and the Soul Brother and 1994’s The Main Ingredient -- so sonically staggering. Pete Rock pioneered a way of filtering out sounds from original recording that he could use to build his own beats. It made his sounds -- especially his blaring horns -- stand out. “Once I get the bassline and the bottom beat, everything else comes easily,” he says. “I was one of the first producers to do that.” While working in the early 1990s with C.L. Smooth, Pete Rock also emerged as the premier remixer in the urban music industry, handling reworkings for Mary J. Blige and House of Pain. But it was his horn-driven work on Public Enemy’s “Shut Em Down” that made him a remix phenomenon. “That was the remix that got me the respect and that got people’s attention,” Pete Rock says. “People wanted to know who did it, who I was. It made Chuck D’s voice sound even more serious than it already was.” Since then, Pete Rock has released a string of highly regarded solo albums, including 1998’s Soul Survivor and 2004’s Soul Survivor II, and produced songs for Ghostface, Talib Kweli and others. Now, with NY’s Finest, Pete Rock reclaims his title as a music master. “I wanted to big myself up,” Pete Rock says, “because if you don’t do it, nobody else will.” Truthfully, though, Pete Rock’s music does the talking for him.
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