(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, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots and Gang Starr, 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, the 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 the late Heavy D. He's married to Shara Phillips.Early lifePete Rock was born in The Bronx, New York, the sixth of seven children of 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.
His first major exposure to the hip-hop audience was in 1987 with Marley Marl, as a DJ on New York's WBLS radio show "In Control With Marley Marl." The 17-year-old Phillips was recognized by the listening audience as the man "puttin' in work", as he would use double copies of each record to cut up every song he played, when most New York DJs would only use double copies on every third or fourth song. Propelled by the growth of his popularity, he began producing in the early 1990s. In 1991 he joined with CL Smooth to release the EP All Souled Out
.The following year saw Mecca and the Soul Brother
, the first of two full-length albums, released to critical acclaim and hailed as a classic by many. Pete Rock and CL Smooth were first signed to Elektra Records, managed, and Executive Produced by Eddie F of Heavy D and The Boyz who also then managed Pete Rock as a producer. Pete Rock was one of the original three "Untouchables" producers along with Eddie F himself and Nevelle Hodge.During this period, Pete Rock began to produce songs for other acts, such as "Down With the King" for Run-DMC and "The World Is Yours" for Nas, as well remix singles for Jeru the Damaja ("You Can't Stop the Prophet"), Public Enemy ("Shut 'em Down"), and The Notorious B.I.G. ("Juicy" – the original of which was allegedly based on Rock's own demo). Pete and CL followed up Mecca
in 1994 with The Main Ingredient
. Like its predecessor, The Main Ingredient
also received wide critical acclaim. However, soon after the album's release, the duo split and went their separate ways, with Rock focusing on production work for other artists.In 1995, he formed the group INI, with Grap Luva, Rob-O, and I Love H.I.M. and released the classic 12" "Fakin' Jax". The trio recorded an album, Center of Attention
(originally named The Life I Live
), which was heavily bootlegged and remained unreleased until 2003, when BBE Records picked it up for distribution. The release of this album was coupled with another previously unreleased mid-'90s Pete Rock-produced album, DeDa's The Original Baby Pa
.In 1996, he appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD, America is Dying Slowly, alongside Wu-Tang Clan, Coolio, and Fat Joe, among others. The CD, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic among African American men, was heralded as a masterpiece by The Source magazine.ProtegesThrough 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, Rass 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.
Another mid-1990s artist, DeDa, also met the same fate with his album The Original Baby Pa
, although both this and INI's album were eventually released as a double album package in 2003. Other associated artists include Meccalicious, who recorded a few songs under Pete Rock's guidance (sometime around 1997), before disappearing from the music scene altogether.Rock has had some success, however, overseeing and jump-starting the career of hardcore underground favorites The UN, a group featuring four MCs, including former Flipmode Squad member Roc Marciano. Rock premiered the group on the single "Nothin' Lesser" from his PeteStrumentals
album, and they went on to release the fairly successful album UN or U Out
in July 2004, featuring production by Rock, Large Professor, and several others.
Relationship with CL Smooth
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.ProductionPete 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.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 "T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You)." 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 the group 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 SP1200, 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.”More recently, Rock has broadened the range of music he has remixed. In 2009, he was commissioned to remix Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” which appeared on 2009’s Johnny Cash Remixed
. In 2010, he remixed indie rockers Yo La Tengo's single Here to Fall for the Here to Fall
Remixes EP, which included remixes by De La Soul and RJD2.
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 the late 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\]."Many other producers, including Kev Brown and Kanye West, have also found themselves compared to Pete Rock, with the latter glowingly referring to himself as "the new version of Pete Rock" on Slum Village's "Selfish" from the group's 2004 album Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit)
. Pete Rock has acknowledged his relevance to these artists, releasing an instrumental record with 9th Wonder (Class Is in Session
), as well as recording his own remix of West's "Heard 'Em Say". Rock himself has named his main musical influences as being influential hip hop producer and close friend Marley Marl and legendary soul musician James Brown.