Review Summary: The fearsome duo avoid the "sophomore slump" by further embellishing and expanding upon the sound that made their debut record so prestigious.
With the nostalgic, funky samples of Pete Rock and the verbose rhymes of wordsmith Corey Penn (CL Smooth), The Main Ingredient
is blessed with a stellar cohesiveness and an intrinsic East Coast sound. The pair of Pete Rock and CL Smooth saw their rise to fame with an excellent first LP that was filled to the brim with great cuts, including mega-hit "T.R.O.Y.". Hence, it seemed like a formidable task to try and top or even equal the scope of their debut. But with its slick production and placid vibes, The Main Ingredient
proved to hold its own in the Golden Age hip-hop scene.
The album opens with In The House
, a track that begins with a jaunty bumbling bass sample accompanied with a steady beat, before eventually transitioning into a sultry jam of jazzy melodies and a rhythmic beat. CL Smooth raps about romance and street bravado, but does it with a debonair tone that adds to the soothing vibe of the record. Pete Rock is at the top of his game, fusing exquisite samples and adding his Midas touch to each track. Songs like the titular track and Sun Won't Come Out
have wistful, nostalgic tints, while tracks like All the Places
feature more upbeat hooks and musical backdrops. With Pete Rock's brilliant production, each song sounds immediate, yet has a jazzy ambience complemented by a catchy beat. On album highlight, Escape
, Pete steals the spotlight by being the lone rapper and spitting out some great lines - "Check the verse in the Bible says man shall never covet / But in your life you put nothing above it, you seem to love it / Invest some stocks to clock what's in my stable / Sweating me like Cain sweating Abel, you're unstable".
But if Pete Rock's the designer of the record, CL is its driving force. CL Smooth's complex vocal delivery and charming tone are propelled by his spectacular flow, where he raps about his status and place in the hip-hop scene without sounding forced. His soothing voice and tone magnify the impact of his narratives on street life, be it violence, crime or romanticism. Instead of sounding like a mafioso rapper, he takes the form of an esoteric teacher of sorts. On standout track, Take You There
, he raps, "My whole mindstate gravitates a weapon, making people in the business get a misconception / It ain't hard to the core, it ain't sex on the beach / It's just another plateau that brothers have to reach," dropping espresso for the mind amidst quips and narrative galore.
Perhaps the only flaw of the album's is its staggering duration of over 75 minutes, with only three tracks being under the 4-minute mark. While some tracks progress seamlessly over the 5-minute mark, others saunter on with the same melodies and hooks, and after a while, this formula may grow stale. However, The Main Ingredient
is still an excellent hip-hop record that features impressive raps and beautiful atmospheric jams. And yeah, no wonder it's one of the late J. Dilla's favorite records. Too bad it marked the end of one of the best MC/DJ duos of the early 90's, as it's a seriously enjoyable sophomore release for those who miss hip-hop's Golden Era.
Take You There
In the House
It's On You
In The Flesh