Conceived from the celebrated era known as the 90s, Pete Rock is usually one of the first names mentioned when talking top five hip hop producers. Emerging from a special time period when classic albums seemingly came out week after week, Pete Rock was triumphant with his own musical flair that garnered high praise from his east coast counterparts and beyond. We recently caught up with the Pete as he shares with us his musical journey.
How did you first get into beat making and what were some of your influences?
Just listening to records such as jazz, soul and reggae records growing up as a kid. My dad who’s probably my biggest inspiration when it came to that type of thing, was a record collector and DJ. So I took what I learned from him and applied it to what was happening at that time in my life as I got older in hip-hop during the late '70s early '80s. But I didn’t officially start then, I was just doing my homework during that time, listening to Africa Bambaataa and Cold Crush, Grand Master Flash and all those kind of cats. That was the school I came from, the era of Kool Herc and Bambaataa. As I got older, I was fortunate to have family that was in the music game that was there from the very start of Heavy D’s career. He actually had me under his wing for years and formed his group Heavy D and The Boys. Then there's DJ Eddie F who I got really close to back then, and together, we worked together on beats, and he was the one who taught me how to work with the SP-12 and other drum machines I didn’t know how to use, you know? From there, the rest is history.
Speaking of equipment, can you tell us what your first musical set up was?
Aw man let’s see... A tape deck, two turn tables (which I was fortunate to have) and a mixer. I was actually making beats with the pause button at first, you know, because I wasn’t using major equipment until I got a job and started making some money. Then I was able to buy other equipment and got in the music business and started making real money. But I’ve practically worked with everything.
Some of your most memorable works were with CL Smooth, can you tell us how that all formed?
In high school, being in the neighborhood, getting acquainted with people, and growing up with
people from teenage years. Sometimes you grow up from teenage, sometimes you grow up from earlier, but I met him in high school. A friend of mine introduced me to him and we started making demos in my basement, and we made a lot of demos, maybe 40 or 50 and we actually got signed off of those. Which was crazy because it just seemed to have happened all so fast. Next thing you know we’re in the studio doing an EP which was the All Souled Out EP, then from there was Mecca and Soul Brother, then after that was Main Ingredient, then after that you gotta wait!
Speaking of albums, you recently dropped your 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s mixtape with Camp Lo, with plans to also release an album this summer with them. Can you share some of the concepts behind the project?
Camp Lo actually came up with the concept, and I just went along with it because I thought it was dope. I thought it was right on point with what they were about, and what I was about and we just quickly came together, you know what I’m saying? And I think it’s going to be a very interesting project and I’m just very happy to get involved with a project such as this. The title of the album will likely be the same as the mixtape.
You have a couple of collaborative projects rumored to be coming out, can you clarify if there’s any truth to these? DJ Premier, Diamond D, CL Smooth?
Well I can’t speak too much on the CL Smooth because I’m not sure if that’s going to happen, but I am working on various things, such as this artist by the name of Doo-Wop who’s a dope mixtape DJ and emcee that I’m doing a project with.
Me and Diamond hung out together down in Atlanta not too long ago and we talked about doing something together, while Tek and Steele’s Monumental album which will be out on June 28th. Then the Pete vs. Premier, then my own album, which is the Petestrumental 2 album, you know just working!
Being 20 years deep into the game, what are your thoughts on what hip-hop has become today versus how it was back then?
Back then it was just different you know, the music was different and now, it's just newer. You know, it’s a new millennium we’re living in, the sounds are newer, we got newer equipment, newer things happening, so the sound has changed a little bit and it’s all good to me. I just keep my ear tuned to the street and see what’s going on around me and adapt.
What’s your most cherished memory in the music game?
On the music end, I would have to say working with Run-D.M.C. We (Pete Rock and CL Smooth) got a chance to work with Run-D.M.C. which came out pretty dope. That was a great experience that happened right before Jam-Master Jay passed away, and we got really close with one another while working together. So that I will have to say, is my most memorable moment and also hearing my record on the radio for the first time was also a memorable moment for me.
Any final words?
Look out for all the projects that I got coming out – the one with DJ Premier, Camp Lo, Tek and Steele, Pete Rock’s Petestrumentals 2 and the list goes on and on. Just look for surprises!
Interview: Davis Huynh
Photography: Jun / Lafayette Crew