Review Summary: Contains a true hip-hop classic in ‘T.R.O.Y.’ but little else.
There have been several MC/producer duos in hip-hop, most of the time it’s an outstanding producer who gets an adequate MC to rap over his beats, this is one of those instances. Coming up under Marley Marl, Pete Rock met up with CL Smooth and together they released the EP All Souled Out.
Along with Gang Starr’s DJ Premier and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Pete Rock was one of the pioneers of hip-hop/ jazz fusion, something that is on full display on their debut Mecca and the Soul Brother.
Right from the start, Pete Rock’s soon to be legendary production skills are made apparent on Mecca and the Soul Brother
mixing jazz, R&B, soul and reggae samples in seamless fashion, along with his trademark horns. The best known song from Pete Rock and CL Smooth is obviously ‘They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)’, dedicated to the memory of one of Heavy D’s dancers. Dedicated crate-digger Pete Rock used an incredible saxophone loop, which works as the hook for this song. Fitting the vibe of the song perfectly are CL Smooth’s, well, smooth,
laid-back vocals, making this track one of the finest that hip-hop has to offer.
‘Lots of Lovin’’ may be the low point of the album with R&B singers doing the hook and CL Smooth’s corny lyrics, this track seems awfully misplaced on the album although that’s not Mecca and the Soul Brother
’s only problem. With sixteen tracks and at a running time of nearly eighty minutes, Mecca and the Soul Brother
runs way too long, although Pete Rock’s production keeps things interesting, CL Smooth’s monotonous flow wears thin over the length of the album. Thankfully, after ‘T.R.O.Y.’, things pick up a bit with Pete Rock’s kid brother Grap Luva busting a freestyle as the intro to ‘On and On’. Grap makes another appearance on the posse cut ‘The Basement’, which also features a spot from Heavy D as well as a better-than-expected verse from Pete Rock. ‘The Basement’ is backed by a brilliant horn and vocal sample from the well known reggae song ‘Bam Bam’, that make this track a true highlight.
In 1994, Pete Rock and CL Smooth released Mecca and the Soul Brother
’s follow-up The Main Ingredient
after which they parted ways. Pete Rock went on to become one of hip-hop’s best and most respected producers, working with Common, Method Man, Redman, Nas, Slick Rick and Rakim along with an endless amount of remixes for other artists; meanwhile, CL Smooth predictably faded into obscurity. Noticeably dated, Mecca and the Soul Brother
provides a few great moments but has little replay value.
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