Retrospective: Pete Rock and CL Smooth

There was a time not long ago when an amateur music historian could easily trace hip-hop's ancestry back through time; past funk, R&B, jazz, blues and gospel. The trail would lead the intrepid searcher to where rap's double-stranded DNA of call-and-response first came into existence many millennia ago. These aforementioned attributes are what make hip-hop and soul music kindred. And none in the former genre can argue that his or her overall catalog is more soulful than that of Pete Rock and CL Smooth. The duo only had two studio albums (Mecca and the Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient) both of which were released on Elektra Records, yet appeared on numerous compilations and memorable collaborations. "All Souled Out" was a classic EP. While "Lots of Lovin", "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.), and "Straighten' It Out" were prominent to purveyors among their studio offerings, "Down with the King" with Run DMC is a banger that still stands the test of time. Last week, Pete Rock and CL Smooth rocked the comfy confines of B.B. Kings in Times Square, NYC to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the release of Mecca and the Soul Brother. The underrated, classic duo of Camp Lo opened. The packed house seemed surreal, layered in blunt smoky fog dotted with diversified faces of long time followers and baby faced fans in attendance. Taking a breather during the end of the multi-city tour, Pete Rock  considered by many to be one of the best hip-hop producers of the past two decades  sat with The Shadow League to share his thoughts on a laudable legacy and the current state of rap.


Ricardo Hazell: What are the events that led to this tour being put together?

Pete Rock: Well, it was the 20th anniversary of "Mecca and The Soul Brother" and we thought the best thing we could to celebrate was to do shows in honor of [it].

RH: What are some of your favorite memories from this tour thus far?

PR: Seeing Camp Lo opening up for us. I was very impressed by that. 

RH: Could you comment on the success of the "80 Blocks From Tiffany's" (featuring Camp Lo) mixtape?

PR: There were 40,000 downloads on Datpiff in the first two weeks. I think we're over 50,000 now. You know, with no machine behind it that's still very impressive. I put this project out for free because I listen to what people say, and I listen to what fans say and some of them are tired of hearing from some of the rap that's not good. So, I said, 'Here, try out this for free'. To me, that's a classic album in the making. I call it an album, but the new language is it's a "mixtape." We went in on the samples and stuff like that. It was pretty dope. I think Camp Lo did very well with it.

RH: And how has the reception been from the younger generation thus far?

PR: It's been great. The entire tour has been sold out with the exception of two or three places, and we've toured the whole country. That's not bad, all these young kids. I feel like I'm relevant today. All these young kids are starting to know who I am.

RH: Who are some of your favorite modern day emcees who have released something within the last few years?

PR: I grew up loving KRS-ONE, Rakim and Kane, but today it's Nas, it's Kendrick Lamar, it's Ab-Soul, it's Pusha T, Kanye West. Those are some of my favorites.

RH: Can your fans expect any new collaborations from you in the near or distance future?

PR: Oh, definitely. I'm a producer and that's what I do. I make music, not only for other artists, but just for people to enjoy with instrumental albums. It's one of those things where you're in talks with the artist but you don't want to jinx anything. You just hope that everything goes through the way you want it to so we can execute. But it's going to be good.

RH: What can fans expect from you in 2014?

PR: You can expect to hear Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier sometime during the first quarter of 2014.

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