Review Summary: Pete Rock in his sophomore solo release gives us his best, continuing to drop more of the jazz-heavy, soulful material that represent him and the Big Apple with his fantastic production and sound.
Pete Rock was already a big name in the ever-growing group of hip-hop producers by 2001, thanks to the collaboration with C.L Smooth in the early '90s with their two classic albums in "Mecca And The Soul Brother" and "The Main Ingredient". His place in hip-hop became higher as soon as he collaborated with Nas for one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time with "The World Is Yours" on Illmatic in 1994, which garnered him massive recognition for his jazz-heavy sampled beats. He finally decided to go with a solo music career, with his debut record "Soul Survivor" releasing four years later in 1998. Three years later, Pete would sign with Barely Breaking Even and drop his sophomore record with "PeteStrumentals", the second installment of BBE's Beats Generation series with the late J. Dilla releasing his "Welcome To Detroit" as the first. His second record shows the Pete Rock that everyone in the hip-hop community has come to love and cherish, a man who is much more than just a beat-maker and one who soaks his material in soulful grooves and jazzy undertones. Down-tempo and bass-heavy and one of the purest hip-hop records released, there is without a doubt that the sound Rock brings to the table with "PeteStrumentals" is true East-Coast hip-hop with a jazzy state of mind.
"PeteStrumentals" displays as Rock has done in his previous material the sound that can be identified with only one American city: New York. The jazz-heavy beats he drops especially in the record can only affiliate with the Big Apple, you don't see yourself listening to this and feel like you're in Chicago or in Boston. It's a sound distinctive not only to Rock but to the American metropolis itself, and it's highlighted in abundance in this instrumental album. "Pete's Jazz" sets up the laid-back vibe that is prevalent throughout the entire album, with it's up-front basslines and well-placed multi-leveled horns that of course Rock is infamous for, along with some nice vibraphone use in it. "Walk On By" is definitely one of the best instrumentals on the entire record, with Rock going towards a funky kind of sound with some light scratches while still fronting the smooth, laid-back essence of his material along with the beat sounding errily similar to Drake's "Draft Day". "What You Waiting For" is another highlight of the album, with its steady transition to the jazzy, soulful beats with some more use of the scratches Rock has done in some of his material. It is a very calming track, which Rock is certainly trying to impose on the listener and it is delivered right on the money. Pete goes down a different route with his music in "Give It To Y'All", as he puts away the jazz-heavy backgrounds and renditions that occupies most of the instrumental album. He adds a nicely arranged symphonic sound with some strings attached to it, along with Rock looping his own voice with his "Yeahs" and "Un-huhs". The different type of sound Rock averts to in this specific track is refreshing, but he also does some scratching in it like in his previous material as well as numerous vocal samples meshed up together which works out very well.
"PeteStrumentals" rarely has a track that you can skip, the consistency of bringing in good, relaxing beats in this set of material is what makes Pete Rock stand out among some of the greatest hip-hop producers of the genre. "Cake" is the first of two tracks that feature MCS flowing over Pete's beats, and that is curiosity of the group The U.N which consists of members Divine, Godfree, Laku and Rock Marcino. Their feature in these two tracks are very well-done, with very thoughtful lyricism and classic hooks being the headliner of their feature. "Cake" plays a nice, mellow piano melody with some high keys inserted as well as some use of Pete's scratches and vocal samples, with The U.N killing it on their raps especially on the hook that is easily the best rap set on the track. It felt like these guys were made to essentially rip these tracks, and they do it very well. "Nothin' Lesser" is the second and final track featuring The U.N, featuring more slick rapping from the group as they flow over another fantastic soulful, jazzy beat by Rock along with more of his layered scratching and vocal samplings. The hook done by the U.N member Rock Marcino is pretty cool, again the highlight vocal set from him and the group in this track. It would've certainly been nice to include more tracks with The U.N in the record, but it's alright with that as Pete's other tracks are fantastic all by itself.
The sophomore release by Pete Rock with "PeteStrumentals" is truly overall a musical gem and a definite hip-hop classic, delivering more of the thumping and laid-back grooves that the acclaimed producer is known for. The jazz-laced and soulful production is classic, with easily enjoyable beats that will certainly get you to at least attempt a freestyle or two to the instrumental tracks. The limited guest feature with The U.N is spectacular, with incredible hooks done by Rock Marciano along with the thoughtful lyricism displayed by Divine, Godfree, and Laku. They should've had a bit more of a presence in the sophomore album, but then again if they did it would definitely wouldn't be called "PeteStrumentals". If you're in need of some classic hip-hop records, this one is certainly a record that should be sky-high on your priority list. One of the best instrumental hip-hop albums of all-time, Pete Rock once again continues to throw at us more of the acid-jazz, jazz-fusion, hip-hop laced sounds that is true to not only the legendary producer himself, but to the city it originates from that is the "City That Never Sleeps".