Artist: Pete Rock
Album: Soul Survivor 2
Label: BBE / Rapster Records
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: Matt Barone
“The way the beat knocks, the new version of Pete Rock” – Kanye West, from Slum Village’s ‘Selfish’
Hopefully, those watching Slum Village’s latest video on MTV or BET know exactly whom Mr. West is talking about in this line. In a time where new rap artists are seeing release dates faster than Bad Boy’s Da Band dismantled, those who have paved the roads these young bucks travel on can unfortunately be forgotten. Thankfully, though, Kanye West has acknowledged production legend Pete Rock in this current single ready to make heavy noise this summer. One can only hope that the result will be a newfound relevance in 2004’s hip-hop world for Pete Rock, which could be started by deserved commercial attention for his amazing sophomore solo record, “Soul Survivor 2.”
The Chocolate Boy Wonder, as he calls himself, has made a career supplying his vintage instrumentals to a diverse line-up of artists ranging from Nas to Non Phixion. Along with his partner CL Smooth, he created rap classics like ‘They Reminisce Over You’ and ‘Straighten It Out’, eventually leading up to his 1999 solo debut “Soul Survivor”. Employing a talented roster of MCs and singers to bless his beats, Pete Rock showcased his production abilities on “Soul Survivor” while occasionally grabbing the microphone himself. Five years later, though, Pete Rock has become rather silent, only working with a select few as fans drool like rabid dogs waiting for his next dose of pure hip-hop music.
Well hip-hop die-hards, wipe off your mouths because “Soul Survivor 2” is here, and Pete Rock’s beats are just as good, if not better, than ever before. Listening to this album is like entering a time machine and zooming back to the mid-90s when rap music was devoid of rampant wackness and full of quality sounds. Rather than flexing his reputation and loading this album with superstar names, the Boy Wonder recruits a nearly flawless team of underground stars and fan favorites to speak over his creations. This move is very successful, as Pete Rock has handpicked MCs that fit his production style perfectly and compliment each respective beat beautifully.
North Carolina natives Little Brother, one of the best and most promising young acts rap music has generated in years, appear on masterfully orchestrated ‘Give It To Ya.’ The smooth and melodic backdrop and expertly crooned R&B hook make this enjoyably easy listening, and Big Pooh and Phonte exhibit their effortless ability to craft impressive verses. ‘One MC One DJ’ features one of the industry’s best kept secrets Skillz over an old-school inspired brand of boom-bap, as Skillz delivers more of his witty punch lines and proven flow. Pharoahe Monch flexes his brolic verbal muscle on ‘Just Do It’, serving his best vocals since his “Internal Affairs” LP.
Pete Rock also shows that he can make rugged, hardcore hip-hop on “Soul Survivor 2”, whipping up solid head-nodders that bring out the gutter side of all MCs involved. ‘Head Rush’ finds the Boy Wonder doing his closest Rza impersonation with winning results as the Wu-Tang Clan’s Rza and Gza spit scorching bars. Slum Village toughen their traditionally laidback flows on ‘Da Villa’, with Villager Elzhi ripping the pounding instrumental to shreds with a sick verse. On the other hand, the always militant Dead Prez barely get by with monotonous lyrics on the ferocious ‘Warzone’, where Pete Rock’s monster of a beat is hot enough to overshadow the revolutionary duo and drown them out.
The tastiest treat to be found on “Soul Survivor 2” is the reunion between ‘Mecca and the Soul Brother’, better known as Pete Rock and CL Smooth. It has been a hot minute since this duo has worked together, and, as evidenced on the three tracks they did for this album, their wonderful chemistry is still in tact. ‘It’s A Love Thing’ is an uplifting and romantic song that demands video treatment. CL is in top form professing his love to a special female, while the breezy and infectious production should bring a smile to even the most thugged-out of men. CL shows love of a different kind on the album’s closer ‘Appreciate’, where Pete Rock’s soulful background music surrounds CL’s
declaration of gratitude to the duo’s longtime fans. Master MC Talib Kweli checks in on ‘Fly Till I Die’ alongside CL, as Kweli justifies the high levels of praise he has recently received from Jay-Z and other A-list rappers.
While the production remains flawless throughout the entire album, some of the guests fail to do Pete Rock justice. Why Postaboy is even on this disc will baffle one’s mind, and his contribution ‘It’s The Postaboy’ is both a waste of a dope beat and a demonstration of B-team lyrical abilities. Kardinal Offishal’s ‘We Good’ should only be listened to with two aspirin in arm’s reach, as his irritating delivery warrants a muzzle. Pete Rock wrongfully grabs the microphone on the J-Dilla assisted ‘Niggaz Know’ and reminds listeners why he is better known for his production capabilities.
“Soul Survivor 2” is an album that more than likely will sell a minimal amount of units, but for those who are smart enough to give it a listen, this album will restore some hope into the current rap music scene. By staying true to himself and making the music that truly wanted to make, Pete Rock has put together a great collection of timeless hip-hop. In a game where substance tends to fall victim to style and flash, Pete Rock is truly a survivor that continues to inject some soul into an ailing musical genre.