"Don't Curse"--Heavy D & The Boyz (feat. Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, Grand Puba, CL Smooth, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, 1991)
“Heavy D is family…that’s my real cuz. My career started because of him. He was the first believer. After him introducing me to everyone in the neighborhood people started to latch on to my DJ skills. I got a job DJ’ing at New York’s WBLS, and that just blew me away. I was the youngest DJ on the radio back in ’87. I think I was around 16 and I was Djing with Marley Marl on his In Control rap show! That was the greatest feeling in the world to be on the radio waves.
Was I worried about rapping on the same song as those great rappers like Kool G. Rap, Kane and Puba? Of course I was [laughs]. But like I said, Heavy is family. He used to always gas me like, ‘If you don’t do this rap I won’t do this with you anymore.’ He would encourage me to try different things. I used to sit in the studio when he was making Big Tyme and Peaceful Journey. ‘Don’t Curse’ came about because the actual sample was so funky. It was an old hit from Booker T. & the MG’s called ‘Hip Hugger.’ And it had that feel to Heavy like, ‘Hey, let me try to make a catchy song and get the hardest rappers to rhyme on the song and do them, but just leave the curses out.’ That was a great idea. Heavy is very intelligent when it comes to concepts.”
Mecca & the Soul Brother--Pete Rock & CL Smooth (1992)
“I remember spending nights in the Green House studios in Manhattan and waking up with ideas while we were working on Mecca & The Soul Brother. I would wake up, run to the back of the room and make music. Green House was my home away from home. I had the key to the city with that studio. Green Street was also the place where the Bomb Squad did a lot of their music. They recorded Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted there and I witnessed some of the tracks being made. It was crazy to see all the equipment they were using; just seeing a bunch of guys behind the boards working on tracks.
I loved the way the singer’s voice came off on the record [I sampled for] ‘Straighten It Out.’ It felt a certain way to me. I chopped it up, used the vocals for the chorus, and had C.L. rhyme over it. As for ‘They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),’ I realized the song was going to mean a lot to people when I got extremely emotional in the studio as I was making the beat and mixing the song down. The final mix made me cry because I had lost a close friend Trouble T-Roy, who was Troy Dixon one of the dancers for Heavy D & The Boyz. ‘Reminisce’ was a tribute to him.
Troy was a guy that grew up with us in the neighborhood. He had the element of everything in one person. He was a street guy, a community person…he taught me how to do a lot of things…he taught me how to stand up for myself. He died when him and one of Kid ‘N Play’s people were playing around by the edge of the stage and throwing empty garbage cans at each other. He slipped and fell 20 feet. That was the worst thing that could have happened to us.
The music for ‘Reminisce…’ just spoke to my soul. I was looking for something to dedicate to Troy and I came across the sample from a good friend. He showed me the record and I explored the music on the album. I knew the song was special when I seen the reaction from the record label and from friends and people who I would play it for. I have never seen that emotional reaction from people before in my life about a rap song. People say ‘Reminisce…’ is the greatest hip-hop song of all time. I can’t say that. But I think it’s one of the greatest songs Pete Rock has ever done in his entire life. I climbed to the top of the mountain with that one. I think Troy was somewhere enjoying every minute of it.”
"Shut 'Em Down" remix--Public Enemy (1992)
“As I said earlier, I used to watch the Hank and Keith Shocklee and the Bomb Squad in the studio. That’s how the remix for ‘Shut ‘Em Down’ came about. Eddie F and the Untouchables, who I was working under his company at the time, would go out and find us work. I landed a Public Enemy remix and I was very, very happy. I love Chuck D to the day I die. I would tell him how happy I was and how I wanted to impress Public Enemy so bad. This was a new sound for P.E. I never heard a reaction from them until one day Chuck looked at me and gave me a hug. He said ‘Shut ‘Em Down’ was great. Chuck really loved the remix. That’s all I needed to hear.”
"Blue Funk"--Heavy D & Da Boyz (1993)
“Blue Funk is a classic hip-hop album. Compared to all of Heavy’s albums before it was a step in another direction. People didn’t expect to hear that hard of a sound from him. It was like, ‘Wow, Hev is a little more street!’ Hip-hop was becoming more street after gangsta rap. The West Coast stomped a mud hole in the game. Everyone was on some gangsta shit. You remember ‘You Can’t See What I Can See?’ That was another hard joint that Hev was chopping niggas heads off with his lyrics.”
"Down With The King"--Run-D.M.C. (1993)
“I was scared to do this song [laughs]. It was such a difficult situation because we had to convince Russell Simmons to like the song and understand who Pete Rock was. This is Run-D.M.C. we are talking about. This is one of the greatest groups of all time and Russell started out with them. To listen to a young producer like me, I was only 20 at the time. Russell was like, ‘How old is this guy? He doesn’t know anything.’ I told him this was the new ‘90s shit…you have to get with it. But Russell wasn’t with it. For a while I was losing hope that it was even going to happen. But Jam Master Jay was with me on it! He came to my house one day ringing my mother’s doorbell [laughs]. I open the door and it’s Jay at the door. He was like, ‘Yo, let’s go make this song. Don’t worry about shit…watch this. We are going to make this happen!’
When we were recording ‘Down With The King,’ DMC was easy, but Run wasn’t so easy in the beginning. But then we finally convinced him. We ended up doing the song at Green Street and we presented it to Russell, who still didn’t get it, but the powers that be overruled Russell’s vote. It was just undeniable. I couldn’t believe Jay helped me accomplished this. If it wasn’t for him that song wouldn’t have happened. When the song came out, Run-D.M.C. was surprised. It shot right to no. 1 on the Billboard rap charts with a bullet. People wanted to see them win. I was just happy to construct a musical piece that they would get on.”
"The World Is Yours"--Nas (1994)
“When Nas’ Illmatic album was done it blew me away because everyone was silently competing with each other. I knew I was working alongside producers that I liked. I was competing against DJ Premier and Large Professor. But I couldn’t do it with just one song [laughs]. I was like, ‘Yo Nas, let me do some more songs!’ But at that time certain things didn’t work out properly. There were things said and things that were not done in a timely fashion and people got upset. So the bottom line is I only ended up doing one song.
When I listen to a song like ‘The World Is Yours,’ I’m amazed at the lyrics. I used to stand back and look at Nas like, ‘Who are you? Are you for real?’ [laughs] His voice, the things he would say…you could just picture what he was saying. Nas was the actual lens of a movie camera. That’s how Nas hit me. Nas made me sing the chorus on ‘The World Is Yours!’ He was like, ‘Yo, I want you to sing this…’ I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to sing.’ Then he started singing the chorus too me [Pete sings]: ‘Whose World is this?…the world is yours, the world is yours…It’s mine, it’s mine…’ So I ended up doing it somehow, someway. We were practicing it in my basement and we recorded ‘The World Is Yours’ at Battery Records. Thank you to Large Professor for introducing me to Nas.”
"Juicy"--Notorious B.I.G. (1994)
“Due to people just doing business a new way and me being young and not understanding the publishing side of things, I let certain things fall through the cracks [when it came to ‘Juicy’]. Puffy came over with Big and I had the drums playing and Puff was interested in what he heard. He asked me if I was making it for CL Smooth and I was like, ‘Nah.’ Big was standing there, but he was more interested in seeing how I made beats. He was requesting certain interlude beats. He was like, ‘I want this song you put between these two songs on your album.’
I made this beat called ‘In The Flesh’ that was on the Main Ingredient album. And I made that beat in front of Biggie. He was like, ‘Oh shit…I just wanted to see how you did it, son.’ He was bugging. But Biggie wasn’t even interested in ‘Juicy.’ Next thing you know, ‘Juicy’ comes out and I don’t get credit. I really felt a way about it after Big passed away. We didn’t get to have the relationship that Premier had with him. I had a lot of music for Big, but it just didn’t happen.”
The Main Ingredient--Pete Rock & CL Smooth (1994)
“’I Got A Love’ was actually a song that I actually put together in 1993. A lot of the beats for The Main Ingredient were made a year earlier. When I made ‘I Got A Love,’ I thought it had a good feel to it. I always loved that Philly sound. The music I used was from an old Gamble & Huff sample. That sound is immaculate.
By this time, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth were becoming [well-known]. We had a Sprite commercial, and we did it because I thought as long as you keep the music the same you can’t sell-out. But if you let people tell you how to sound and what to rhyme over then you are a sell-out. We kept it hip-hop. It was like, ‘All right, you want us to do this commercial? Then I want to keep my music the same because this is Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth expressing ourselves.'
When we released The Main Ingredient, the West Coast battle was won when it came to selling records. Dr. Dre, Snoop and them were smashing it. Unfortunately, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth didn’t last. From the outside looking in our split looked nasty. It had a lot to do with business. That’s all I can say about that. I believe if we had maintained through the evil forces, which had a lot to do with people getting in our ears, we would have stayed together. People were dividing us to knock a popular man off his throne. It happens in this game and everybody goes through it. I always attempted to work with C.L. over the years. Even when I did my solo albums I would call him up to do a song and he would come to the studio. Now we are on tour overseas doing shows.”
"The Bitch In Yoo"--Common (1996)
“Ice Cube was mad at me a little bit because of this song [laughs]. But I think he got over it. At that time it was really fiery and Common felt dissed. When he came to me, he came to me with passion like, ‘Pete, I need something hard…’ We went to my man’s Rob-O’s house to work on it. I didn’t even use my own equipment. My man had an SP, some turntables and records around. And I had a stack of my own records. I went through the stack and I found an album that I started fucking with and the next thing you know Common was like, ‘Yeah, Pete…yeah Pete!’
When I heard Common’s lyrics it was fucking perfection. I knew feelings were going to be hurt [laughs]. I just thought, ‘When Cube hears this he’s going to want to fight.’ I didn’t even think that would be the beat for ‘The Bitch In Yoo.’ I’m my own worst enemy at times. I was like, ‘Nah, I can make something better.’ But Common made it into something. He made me great on that one.”
"Fakin' Jax"--"I.N.I." feat. Pete Rock (1996)
“INI were my brother’s friends. They all went to school and my brother Grap [Lova] who put me on to this guy Rob. Rob-O…I loved his voice. He was real smooth and laid back. The way he flowed over a beat was crazy. So Rob, Grap and Marco Polo formed a group. At the time I had gotten a deal over at Elektra Records and took INI with me. The label gave me a nice package, nice money, nice everything.
But when Sylvia Rhone came into the picture she changed a lot of things. Me and her didn’t see eye-to-eye. And that’s no disrespect to anyone. That was just the business moves at the time. I didn’t have anybody guiding me to show me what to do. And the streets ended up bootlegging that album. A lot of the copies that came out weren’t even the right actual mixes. So INI’s album kind of fell through the cracks.”
Soul Survivor--Pete Rock (1998)
“I was on the best rap label in hip-hop—Loud Records. You had Mobb Deep, Big Pun, and the Wu-Tang Clan as your label mates? Being around that type of hip-hop just fuels and influences you and makes you want to go make good music. And that’s what happened with Soul Survivor. I didn’t have revenge on my mind. People talk, but I talk with my hands.
‘Tru Master’ was one of those songs. It was my idea to put Kurupt and Inspectah Deck on the same track. I always loved Deck. And Kurupt and I had some history from the early ‘90s and I always wanted to work with him. I had a lot of help from a guy named Chris LaMonica that was working for Loud Records. He helped me recruit a lot of the artists for Soul Survivor. But I already had a lot of the artists in mind.
‘Verbal Murder 2’ (feat. Big Pun, Noreaga and Common) was all about hip-hop spitters…testing your skills…can you climb an oily wall? When you listen to that song those guys are murdering that shit. ‘Strange Fruit’ was also great because of Tragedy…that guy right there was one of the illest rappers. He was ahead of his time when he first started with Marley Marl. As time went on, Tragedy really came into himself as an MC. It was all about that Queensbridge style…that street corner mentality.
There were other artists I was trying to get for Soul Survivor that didn’t happen. I never got the chance to work with LL Cool J. Then there was Jay-Z. I used to chase Jay around forever [laughs]. I used to hang out at certain sessions with Just Blaze at Baseline. We always wanted to work with each other, but it never happened until years later. I love the fact that people call Soul Survivor a classic. Everybody is entitled to make a bad album here and there. But the good ones really stand out.”
PeteStrumentals--Pete Rock (2001)
“Like I said, I always liked Barry White and liked seeing him perform on television when I was little. He would always wave that conductor’s [baton], but his music was still funky. I had that in mind with PeteStrumentals. I wanted to make a hip-hop instrumental album. I had all these beats that certain rappers would hear and feel they couldn’t do anything with or songs that were straight up instrumentals. I saw what J. Dilla was doing. He really opened my mind to a lot of production [techniques] in his music. I would just think, ‘Wow, how the fuck did he do that?’ I would figure it out by finding something he used or go to a session he was doing. Dilla invited me to his home! His mom told me, ‘You were his favorite producer.’ All I could say was, wow."
"Put It On" Remix--Big L (1995)
“I made this Big L remix at home. We used to play it on WBLS back in the day when I was with Marley. When I met Big L, it was just a friendship thing. He knew I made beats and I knew he rapped. I used to go pick him up in my black Honda Accord; I would scoop him up in Harlem right on 139th. We would drive around New York to the Bronx and he would just be rhyming over my cassettes that were filled with beats. L would just be going in! That was the illest time I’ve ever spent with Big L.
What can you say about him? Listen to what he said and how he delivered his rhymes. Look at the noise that was surrounding him…Roc-A-Fella was trying to sign him, this person and that person was trying to sign him. To me, Big L was the greatest thing that DITC ever produced. That’s not to disrespect Diamond D, OC, Fat Joe or Lord Finesse. You know how you have the golden child in a group. Big L was that person to me.”
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Soul Survivor II--Pete Rock (2004)
“I wasn’t totally satisfied with the Soul Survivor II project because I was going through some things with the label. I just did it so I could have something done. It had been five years since that first Soul Survivor album. But I was able to work with Slum Village on this one. What drew me to them was J. Dilla and his music. I loved the fact that Baatin, rest in peace and Dilla were free. They were free with what they were doing artistically. With record labels there’s always someone trying to direct you on how to sound so they can get the record played on the radio. To be free means to say what you want and do what you want. I felt that J and Slum Village were doing that.”
"Sonny's Missing"--Raekwon (2010)
“Raekwon had this beat for a very long time. I didn’t think he was using it, so that’s why I used it for a track on New York’s Finest. If you listen to that album you will hear a song called ‘Questions’ on which Royal Flush is rhyming over it. Raekwon calls me one day and says, ‘Hey, listen to this.’ He plays me ‘Sonny’s Missing!’ Now I originally made it for him. It was from a movie we love called The Education of Sonny Carson. Raekwon felt like he had to have it, so I let him use it. I didn’t give a fuck because Rae was my dude and Royal Flush was my dude.”
"The Joy"--Kanye West feat. Jay-Z,Charlie Wilson,Kid Cudi,and Curtis Mayfield (2010)
“This song happened through a good friend of mind named Barry, who used to bodyguard for Kanye. He was like, ‘Yo, Kanye is looking for you.’ I got in touch with him and Kanye says he wants to bring me to Hawaii to work on an album. So I went out there and I had the nice suite. The hotel was beautiful…Kanye took care of me. We got to the studio and we started working on stuff. He played me ‘Runaway’ and was like, ‘Yo, look…I took your drums from ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother.’ It was a nice way he put it together. I started playing him beats and the ones he liked he put them to the side, and the Curtis Mayfield joint was one of them.
I used to love that song as a kid (Mayfield’s ‘The Makings of You’). I also liked Gladys Knight’s version. But I never heard the live version of it. So when I heard the live one with Curtis and the bass player going crazy I was like, ‘Oh shit….let me fuck with this!’ I was just playing around and experimenting. I was just going to do one part of the sample, but when I heard how Curtis sounded singing it I just said, ‘You know what? Fuck that…’ I put the vocals on it…and that shit was butter.
Now what really fucked me up was Jay-Z being on it. I’m going to tell everybody right now. I had no clue that Kanye was going to do that. Because the way we were working on the song it was just him on it. And I jumped on it and did my adlibs. Then my man Young Guru called me and was like, ‘Yo Pete…I got a surprise for you.’ He played it for me over the phone. At first I couldn’t hear Jay’s voice too good. Guru is like, ‘You heard it?’ I’m like, ‘Nah..’ I was driving so I didn’t want to get pulled over by the cops so I just stopped the car. I heard Jay’s verse and I almost had a heart attack [laughs]! I was like, ‘Is that fucking Jay-Z??? Finally, I can’t believe it.’ But then when ‘The Joy’ didn’t come out on Kanye’s album people on Twitter and Faceback were like they brought his album because they thought it was going to be on there. But hey…maybe it will be on Watch The Throne.”
NY's Finest--Pete Rock (2008)
“I got introduced to Jim Jones through someone who was working with him. I called him up and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to come through your session with some beats.’ We did a song called ‘G’s Up,’ which was on Jim Jones’ first solo album. Then from that came the song ‘We Roll’ from New York’s Finest. This was before Max B got locked up. Jim told me that Max actually convinced him to jump on that song because he didn’t understand how to come in on the beat. Max was kind of helping him out [laughs]. But it came out excellent.
My younger brother actually put me on to Little Brother. He told me how they idolized me. ‘Bring Y’all Back’ was basically a track I wanted Little Brother to do for me. The style of lyrics that they had over the beats I had just matched perfectly. I actually brought 9th Wonder and his whole crew up to my house. They were sleeping on my floor in the basement while I was working on beats in the room. They spent the night…Big Pooh, Phonte, everybody. There were a lot of guys in sleeping bags [laughs].”
"How You Like Me Baby"--Ghostface (2010)
“This is a hardcore hip-hop beat that Ghost turned into a Ghostface record. I can give him any beat and he’s like Mr. Magician."What’s crazy is I made ‘How You Like Me Baby’ for Fishscale, but it didn’t make the album. So Ghost is using it now."
Right now I’m working on my next album for this summer. I’m doing Camp Lo’s new album and Tek & Steele’s new album…the whole thing. And I’m working on Pete Rock Vs. DJ Premier. I love Preemo like a brother. This is really happening. I got a good side of people with me [laughs]. I’m going to keep the artists I have under wraps. That project came together from being on tour with Premier in Japan. We would do a show called Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier where we went back and forth with our music onstage and people would just go crazy. They loved the show. We sat in our hotel rooms and ate dinner and talked about doing an album together for hours. It was definitely something I wanted to do. Me and Premier can round up the best rappers and go crazy with this album. I still love this music. And I love producing.”