An East Coast producer oft credited with pioneering the synthesis of jazz and rap, Pete Rock has nothing left to prove. His mid-'90s hits include C.L. Smooth's "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)," Nas' "The World Is Yours" and AZ's "Rather Unique." His two albums with C.L Smooth - Mecca and the Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient - are considered East Coast classics. With this outfit eventually torn apart by creative differences, Rock handled production for Slick Rick, Rakim and Freddie Foxxx. He released his solo debut, 1998's Soul Survivor, featuring appearances from emcees such as Kurupt, Method Man, Prodigy, Black Thought, Big Pun and Noreaga.
Rock's sophomore effort, 2001's PeteStrumentals, was issued as the second instalment in BBE's Beat Generation, the same 12-piece series that backed instrumental records by J Dilla, Madlib and Marley Marl. Whilst producers such as Dilla and Madlib favour brevity and variety in their instrumental projects, Rock keeps his instrumentals conventionally long and deceptively simple. Though many new school producers incorporate swathes of microsamples into their compositions, Rock's old school sensibilities lend themselves to looping beats and flipped vocal samples.
Rock quickly released a second edition of the instrumental LP, driven to improve after having heard J Dilla's Welcome To Detroit. The revised album featured a handful of guest vocalists, including posse The UN and onetime offsider C.L. Smooth. In the spirit of celebrating excellence, we're diving into the samples that comprise the second edition of PeteStrumentals.
"A Little Soul"
Despite the title, the opening track, "A Little Soul," is assembled from pieces of jazz and samba.
The track's smooth, brassy refrain, first heard in the opening, is owed to Cannonball Adderley's 1970 rendition of "Tensity," a track penned by famed composer David Axelrod. Axelrod worked as Adderley's producer and collaborator from '64 to '74, and as such, Axelrod himself produced the cover, which was included on The Cannonball Adderley Quintet & Orchestra.
Santiago continued recording well into his 60s, releasing his final album two years before his sudden death. He was 66.
"Play Dis Only At Night"
The second track incorporates a legendary songwriter, a famed singer, a Scottish funk group and a prolific drum break into a quirky, laid back instrumental.
The descending scale the opens the track is taken from the open to Lamont Dozier's "Prelude." That track was included on Dozier's 1977 LP, Black Bach, his third studio album. Despite his extensive solo career, Dozier is best known for his work as part of Holland-Dozier-Holland, one of Motown's most prolific and respected songwriting teams. Together, the group penned tracks such as "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Baby I Need Your Loving" and "Band of Gold."
Though she died aged 31, Riperton has inspired much reverence, particularly for her incredible voice. She's frequently sampled in hip hop, with WhoSampled cataloguing a respectable 327 entries.
The looping guitar lick that first appears at 0:06 is sourced from Average White Band's "Stop the Rain." A Scottish funk and soul outfit, Average White Band experienced mainstream success throughout the mid-'70s with hits such as "Pick Up The Pieces" and "Let's Go Round Again."
The cosmic sound that floats atop the instrumental at 0:17 is fittingly sampled from Dexter Wansel's "Theme From The Planets."
Originally from his debut, 1976's Life On Mars, the track was included on the SBR 510 instalment of Ultimate Breaks and Beats, and has since been sampled hundreds of times by artists as diverse as J. Cole, Eric B. & Rakim, The Avalanches and Dido.
Sampling a veteran jazz cat and a onetime collaborator, Rock makes a curiously funkless yet still fantastic track. In sampling Large Professor, Rock links up with his contemporary for the third time, having previously featured alongside him on ‘96’s “The Rap World” and ‘99’s “World Renown.” The pair would reunite on Tony Touch’s 2003 posse cut, “Out Da Box.”
The recurring vocal sample throughout "Something Funky" is taken from Large Professor's "Funky 2 Listen 2." The record on which that track appears, The LP, wasn't 'officially' released until 2009.
Though it was recorded in '95 and slated for a '96 release, the project - intended as his solo debut - was shelved by Geffen Records. The album was disseminated via bootlegs, one of which Pete Rock presumably used for this 2001 track.
The track boasts a pitched-down sample of Ahmad Jamal's "Misdemeanor," which enters at 0:14. That song, released on Jamal's 1975 LP, Jamalca, was a cover of the 1973 Foster Sylvers track of the same name.
"For The People"
Crafting an otherwordly sound, "For The People" makes use of vintage psychedelia.
"You Call It Madness" was previously sampled on Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth's "Greenbacks," an unreleased track from 1995, and “Half Man Half Amazin’,” a Soul Survivor track featuring Wu-Tang member Method Man.
The trippy vocals that enter at 0:04 and the ad-lib that first appears at 0:15 are taken from Albino Gorilla's cover of The Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack." The obscure group released a single LP, 1970's Detroit 1984.
Keni Burke's "Risin' To The Top." Burke got his start as a member of The Five Stairsteps alongside his siblings, but left the group to begin a solo career. "Risin' To The Top" appeared on his successful third album, 1982's Changes.
Two samples, which first appear at 0:02 and 1:09, are taken from Mobb Deep's classic The Infamous cut, "Survival of the Fittest."
The sampled lyrics are, in order of appearance, "that old real shit" and "in the mix of action." Both are the work of the late Prodigy, who passed in 2017 after a lifelong struggle with sickle cell anaemia. This condition was famously mentioned in Tupac's famed diss track, "Hit 'Em Up."
The sound effect that first appears at 0:19 is taken from "Beyond Forever," a track by American trumpeter Eddie Henderson. It was included on Comin' Through, Henderson's 1977 LP. The track was written by keyboardist and collaborator George Cables, himself a onetime member of The Jazz Messengers.
Henderson continues to record as both leader and sideman, with Collective Portrait releasing in 2015.
Rock samples a collaboration between Nas and Nature, the artist featured on the track. The pair linked up on "In Too Deep," the title track from the 1999 action film of the same name. The soundtrack featured tracks by Method Man & Redman, Mobb Deep and 50 Cent.
The sample, which appears at 1:03 on "To The Advantage," is sourced from 2:34 on "In Too Deep."
Nas' distinctive voice makes an appearance at 1:10, where he raps "hold the fort down, represent." The lyric is taken from "One Love," the seventh track on his landmark debut, Illmatic.
Based on the memoirs of the titular civil rights activist, the film itself has taken on reverence in the hip hop community, with non-musical samples appearing on tracks by Meek Mill, Ghostface Killah, Common and 2 Chainz. Rock samples the OST again on PeteStrumentals' "Nothing Lesser," and again on 2004's "Tears."
One of the album's smoother beats borrows from a big band jazz record, making for a track dominated by horn refrains.
"Pete's Jazz," despite the title, features little in the way of jazz. Appearances from Gary Burton and Cannonball Adderley are juxtaposed against popular records by George McCrae and Creative Source.
The distinctive guitar riff that enters at 0:16 is lifted from the intro to "I Get Lifted," a track by soul singer George McCrae.
The vibraphone scattered throughout the track is the work of Gary Burton, an influential American vibraphonist. It's sampled from "Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly," the opening track to 1973's The New Quartet.
Burton takes unlikely inspiration from jazz pianist Bill Evans. His four-mallet technique, now known as "Burton Grip," has gone from a curious innovation to a widely emulated technique.
At 0:44, Rock introduces another sample from Cannonball Adderley's "Tensity," from which the album's first sample was also lifted. The recurring horn elements throughout "Pete's Jazz" are owed to The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, though "Tensity" itself was written and produced by noted jazz innovator David Axelrod.
The electric guitar lick introduced at 1:15 is a sample of Creative Source's "You Can't Hide Love." The opening track from the group's self-titled debut, it was most famously covered by Earth, Wind & Fire three years later. This version, titled "Can't Hide Love," reached #39 on the Billboard 100.
Creative Source recorded four LPs between '73 and '76, ultimately disbanding in '77.
"Back On Da Block"
The one and only appearance from Rock's mid-'90s offsider, emcee C.L. Smooth, interpolates an early hip hop release and samples Cannonball Adderley's "Tensity" for a third time.
The track opens with the ethereal, otherworldly sounds of Montana. The mononym used by producer Vincent Montana, Jr. for his disco projects, Montana released three LPs between '77 and '79. The so-called "Godfather of disco" died in 2013.
Rock samples "Warp Factor 2," a track from Montana's high concept debut, A Dance Fantasy Inspired By Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
The drums at the open are lifted from The Vibrettes' "Humpty Dump Pt. 1," a much sampled break amongst hip hop producers. The Vibrettes themselves are a mystery: "Humpty Dump" seems to be their only track, released in 1973.
"Back On Da Block" features Rock's third sample of Cannonball Adderley's "Tensity," which has previously appeared on album opener "A Little Soul" and preceding track "Petes Jazz."
Rock inserts Adderley's horns at 0:24, a new and unfamiliar sample despite the much-pilfered source material.
C.L. Smooth interpolates a 1979 hip hop/disco track at 1:07. The chorus, which begins "It was a Friday night...," is adapted from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "Superappin'." The group's first single, it predated their legendary debut by three whole years.
Grandmaster Flash is best known for "The Message," the title track off their debut. It's been sampled prolifically in the years since.
Harpist Dorothy Ashby dominates "The Boss," her distinctive and unique jazz harp licks forming the crux of Rock's relaxing, wandering beat. James Brown and Isaac Hayes, purveyors of funk and hot buttered soul respectively, provide assists.
The opening introduces Dorothy Ashby's jazz harp skills, borrowing from her 1962 rendition of the Duke Ellington-penned jazz standard, "Satin Doll." Ashby's unorthodox use of a harp in a jazz setting helped introduce the instrument to the genre, though jazz harpists remain few and far between. Ashby is a favourite of Rock, having been sampled on a number of tracks.
The horns that appear at 0:18 are a James Brown sample, though it's hard to tell without a hint of his distinctive, much-sampled vocals.
"The Boss" was included in Brown's Black Caesar soundtrack, his first foray into writing for a film. The movie, itself a blaxploitation remake of the 1931 gangster film Little Caesar, was a commercial and critical success. "The Boss" has since been sampled prolifically by hip hop producers.
The track's brief outro takes elements from Isaac Hayes' 1973 cut, "I Love You That's All." That song was originally included on Hayes' sixth album, 1973's Joy.
Whilst "I Love You That's All" is Joy's title track features a much-sampled break, which has appeared in records by artists such as Kanye West, Inspectah Deck, Massive Attack, Jungle Brothers and Eric B. & Rakim.
A warped melody ebbs and flows throughout "Get Involved," a track punctuated by James Brown's distinctive ad-libs and Eric Clapton's subtle guitar.
The instrumentation underpinning Rock's warped turntabling is a sample of "Windy C.," a track by funk outfit, 100% Pure Poison.
100% Pure Poison were a group of musically inclined servicemen stationed in Germany - forging passes and attending a music industry conference, they managed to score a record deal with British EMI. Their sole record, though unappreciated on release, has gained respect in the years since.
At 1:12, Rock samples the titular lyrics from James Brown's "Get Up, Get into It, Get Involved."
Originally released as a standalone single in 1970, the studio version of the track was first included on In The Jungle Groove, a 1986 compilation. That record intended to capitalise of Brown's increasing popularity amongst hip hop producers, an aim it fulfilled: “Get Up, Get into It, Get Involved” has been sampled more than 350 times.
The jarring guitar that enters at 3:11 is taken from one of Eric Clapton's most famous tracks, "I Shot The Sheriff." It was originally included on 461 Ocean Boulevard, Clapton's second solo album, which featured both originals and covers. "I Shot The Sheriff" was one of the latter, originally penned by Bob Marley.
The first of two appearances from rap posse The UN, "Nothin' Lesser" features samples from JAY-Z, Gang Starr, Ohio Players and a mid-'70s film soundtrack.
The vocal sample that opens the track is taken from JAY-Z's "Bring It On," a track off his legendary debut, 1995's Reasonable Doubt. The voice in the sample belongs to guest emcee Jaz-O, who mentored Jay through the early '90s. His 1989 single, "Hawaiian Sophie," marked Jay's first appearance on wax.
The sample mentions the UN by name, making it a perfect refrain for this guest laden track.
Rock also sampled the track on 1995's "Nasty Scene," a track from Deda's unreleased album, The Original Baby Pa. The record was released as a part of the two-LP compilation, Lost & Found: Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics.
The instrumental trill at 1:01 is lifted from The Education of Sonny Carson OST, previously sampled on Rock's "To My Advantage." The track, "Please Be There," was composed by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and features vocals from Leon Ware.
Rock samples three moments from the track: the sound effect at 0:28, the brass at 0:35 and the strings at 1:34. They appear throughout "Nothin Lesser."
The track closes with a sample from "Pain" by the Ohio Players. An Dayton-based funk group, Ohio Players experienced their biggest successes between '74 and '76, releasing albums such as Fire, Honey and Skin Tight.
"Walk On By"
An instrumental named for the Burt Bacharach track of the same name, "Walk On By" makes extensive use of Isaac Hayes' 12-minute cover version.
This track takes its title - and central sample - from Isaac Hayes' "Walk On By," a 1969 cover of the Hal David and Burt Bacharach standard. The twelve-minute reimagining is the opening track to his sophomore album, Hot Buttered Soul. Hayes was encouraged to record a sophomore effort after Stax Records, his label, lost their back catalogue to Atlantic Records. The album is now considered "an undeniably seminal record," indispensable to the progression of soul music.
The drums throughout "Walk On BY" are lifted from a break in Daly-Wilson Big Band's "Dirty Feet." The track was taken from their second album, 1972's The Exciting Daly-Wilson Band, which was released during their brief, financially-motivated hiatus. The group found a commercial sponsor in Benson and Hedges, found a new singer in Marcia Hines, and took off on a series of international tours, releasing another six albums before disbanding in 1982.
At 0:47 in "Walk On By," a vocal sample brags that they're "bringing much terror in your era" This voice belongs to golden age hip hop legend Big Daddy Kane.
It's lifted from his verse on "Rhymin' With Biz," a track featured on his debut record, 1988's Long Live The Kane. The song found Kane sharing the mic with Biz Markie, who would release his most enduring hit, "Just A Friend," the following year.
The upbeat synth riff that appears at 0:23 is taken from D Train's "You're The One For Me," the first track on their self-titled 1982 debut.
The track was a huge hit for the post-disco outfit. D Train refers to the collaboration between singer James "D Train" Williams and instrumentalist Hubert Eaves III, though the former used the name for his subsequent solo career.
Freddie Foxxx, the featured artist on "Mind Frame," is a rapper from Long Island. Starting his career in the mid-eighties, Foxx skipped a planned meeting with up-and-coming DJ Eric B., which led to the young producer linking up with NYC rapper Rakim and forming one of the most influential hip hop duos of all time. Despite this, Foxxx's 1989 debut was produced by Eric B., and he's enjoyed a three-decade music career.
The horn hits that open the track are taken from Isaac Hayes' "Driving In The Sun," a track off his 1974 Truck Turner OST.
Hayes starred in the blaxploitation film, released as part of a double feature alongside Foxy Brown. Some of Hayes' Truck Turner soundtrack appeared in Tarantino's Kill Bill, in keeping with the director's reverence for exploitation films.
The deep piano that plays alongside the horns at 0:06 is taken from another Truck Turner track, "A House Full Of Girls."
The track was also sampled in Boogie Down Productions' "Duck Down," the second single from the outfits final album, 1992's Sex and Violence. Truck Turner was Hayes' third and final soundtrack, following Shaft and Three Tough Guys, the latter of which featured Hayes as a lead.
The melody that fades in at the close comes courtesy of Earth, Wind and Fire.
Rock samples "Power," a track from the group's 1972 album, Last Days and Time. That record was the precursor to the group's first commercial success, 1973's Head to the Sky. “Power” was first sampled on Organized Konfusion's 1991 track, "Prisoners of War,” and Rock’s sample of the track was followed by Mac Miller’s “BDE” a decade later.
The penultimate track reunites Rock with both The UN, the rap group featured on "Nothin'Lesser," and Isaac Hayes, the legendary soul pioneer sampled on "The Boss," "Walk On By" and "Mind Frame."
The soft piano that underpins The UN's verses is lifted from Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Rap I." The opening track to his fourth studio album, 1970's ...To Be Continued, it features Hayes monologuing over the calming piano.
The closing track features no identified samples. It finds Rock announcing acknowledgements over a brief, relaxed beat. He shouts out featured artists The UN, record label Barely Breaking Even and classic NYC studio, Greene St. Recording. Greene St. was likely where Rock recorded the non-vocal cuts, all of which were originally recorded in the mid-nineties. Greene St. Recordings shut down in 2001, and Rock's shoutout pays a timely tribute to one of his favourite studios.
Released at the close of Rock's most legendary decade, PeteStrumentals is a tour through the talents that helped make him one of the most essential producers of the ‘90s. Unfettered by the necessary presence of emcees, the instrumental format gives Rock a chance to experiment more freely, which he does by sticking to convention. In keeping his instrumental cuts upwards of four minutes, Rock works himself into a hypnotic groove that few new-age producers can conjure. Layers slowly accumulate, pushing back and forth against each other in simple-yet-compelling waves.
Even within Rock’s extensive discography, this album has its own unique identifiers: Isaac Hayes, for instance, is sampled five times on the record, with his work appearing on “The Boss,” “Walk On By,” “Cake” and twice on “Mind Frame.” Whilst Rock has never been averse to a Hayes sample, Petestrumentals remains his only record which features more than a single appearance from the Stax legend. The record also contains three of Rock’s seven career samples of jazz legend Cannonball Adderley, borrowing exclusively from his 1970 rendition of David Axelrod’s “Tensity.”
A long awaited sequel, PeteStrumentals 2, was released on June 23, 2015. Another instrumental exploration of jazz rap, it was Rock’s first instrumental hip hop album in a decade. Like Petestrumentals before it, the sequel received general acclaim. That album features just one Hayes sample.
The years since Petestrumentals have seen Rock largely shun the solo route, electing instead to immerse himself in collaboration. His most recent solo record, 2008’s NY’s Finest, was solo in name only: the aptly-named project featured some of New York’s most legendary emcees, including Sleek Louch, Styles P, Little Brother, Lords of the Underground, Raekwon and Masta Killa. He collaborated with ‘90s contemporaries Smif-N-Wessun on 2011’s Monumental, a late career LP from the Brooklyn duo, and more recently linked up with more recent New York emcee Smoke DZA for Don’t Smoke Rock, a critically acclaimed Renaissance-throwback.
In the two decades since Rock helped perfect the art of jazz sampling, he’s remained a fixture on a scene that’s often tied to youth culture and transient talents. He’s done so not only by perfecting his craft, but by aligning himself with a truly timeless subset of hip hop: jazz rap. Whilst Rock’s albums largely continue to explore the sounds and palettes of yesteryear, it says something that such exploration remains both fresh and compelling. On Petestrumentals, Rock simply continues to pursue his own brand of production excellence, building his significant legacy one admirable release at a time.