Official 247HH exclusive interview with New York based Hip Hop artist Pete Rock, where you’ll hear about how he started in the Music Business and fell in love with the Art of Production and Scratching
Peter Phillips (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, Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots, 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, 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.
Pete 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.