Some hip-hop duos are so good together that it breaks your heart when they separate. For me, this was the case with Pete Rock & CL Smooth. While they each would eventually go on to become well respected solo artists, I can’t help but to recall a time when the “Chocolate Boy Wonder” and “Caramel King” would make great music collectively. It’s no wonder that whenever the beats knocks, I call that track a “Pete Rock!” His signature horn loops along with CL Smooth’s magnetic flow made each song unique and memorable.
In the early 1990s, the hip-hop and jazz fusion were ruling the airways and artists such A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, and Digable Planets were all cashing in on the craze. However, I think that Pete Rock & CL Smooth were one of the best to do it. Whenever I sit down to write a “Reminisce With M.I.S.S.” post, Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You” plays continuously in my head. It sparks an emotion of nostalgia that takes me back in time. If ever there was a rap duo who are worthy of some praise, it’s these two guys. “So Pete Rock hit me. ‘Nuff respect due. When they reminisce over you, my god!”
DJ/ producer Pete Rock (Peter Phillips) and lyricist CL Smooth (Corey Penn) met in high school. Pete Rock’s obsession with obscure jazz and soul samples would prove to be the perfect ingredient for CL Smooth’s philosophical and intelligent rhyme style. In the summer 1991, they released the All Souled Out EP which included the hits “The Creator” and “Mecca And The Soul Brother.” Although this EP would garner little attention, it was just enough to get the duo noticed and the public warmed up for their debut album, Mecca And The Soul Brother.
In 1992, Pete Rock & CL Smooth released the classic album, Mecca And The Soul Brother. Considered by many to be one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time, Mecca And The Soul Brother stood out for Pete Rock’s jazz-laced production, the use of funky horn breaks, and CL Smooth’s mellow and laid back vocals. The album began with an explanation of the “Mecca” as not a place or state of mind, but as a way of life. With tracks like “Lots of Lovin”, “Straighten It Out”, and “”Soul Brother #1”, this album gave listeners the very best that hip-hop, jazz, and soul had to offer. Anyone looking for solid rhymes and fat beats were called to take a pilgrimage to Mecca!
Mecca And The Soul Brother’s stand-out track and one of my personal favorites, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” was inspired by the death of close friend Troy Dixon or better known as “Trouble” T. Roy of Heavy D & the Boyz. Its themes of remembrance, upbringing, and friendship were ones that resonated with many in the hip-hop community. The beautiful saxophone and bass sample of Tom Scott’s song, “Today” added the perfect touch of nostalgia to the track. To put it simply, “They Reminisce Over You” is a shining example of the hip-hop and jazz fusion that took over the airways in the 1990s. The song hit the #1 spot on the Hot Rap Tracks charts and would go on to be sampled, referenced, and even covered by a multitude of artists including Common, Kanye West, Little Brother, and Mr. Cheeks. Mary J. Blige even got CL Smooth to drop a verse on the remix to her 1992 single, “Reminise.” In 1994, Pete Rock and CL Smooth released their sophomore album, The Main Ingredient. “I Got a Love” and “Take You There” were modest hits, but never reached the top of the charts. In 1995, the duo split due to “creative differences” shortly after a Sprite TV commercial.
Although the duo split in 1995, they would eventually work together again on a handful of cuts from Pete Rock’s solo recordings: Soul Survivor , PeteStrumentals and Soul Survivor II. A “best-of” compilation, Good Life, was released in 2003 and a deluxe CD box-set of Mecca and the Soul Brother was released in 2010. In October of that same year, the duo reunited, went on tour, and announced plans for a reunion album. Sweet!
Pete Rock & CL Smooth – I’ll Take You There
Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Straighten It Out (Live on “In Living Color”)
Image Layout: Katrina
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