*Initially published by BeatTips on 10/22/08*
By Ivan Rott
Inspired by Hell, James Brown’s double-LP from 1974, the cover of NY’s Finest finds Pete Rock paying homage to a fellow Soul Brother. Owing much of his success to legends like Brown and others, Pete Rock has established himself as one of hip hop’s premier producers and crate diggers. A testament to his longevity in the trade, NY’s Finest finds Pete once again leading the pack as a pioneer making his reemergence. Surrounding himself with a solid lineup of talented emcees, Pete’s latest contribution offers some unconventional choices as well. The Jim Jones and Max B-assisted first track, “We Roll”, will surprise listeners who question the unlikely collaboration. Laid over some smooth Kool & the Gang cuts, Pete’s fingertips channel Jones’ mellow candor, crafting a jazzy journey worth bopping your head to. Other tracks like “The PJ’s” (built atop the same bass-heavy David Matthews sample which Large Professor flipped in ’96 for “The Mad Scientist”) features Wu-brethren Raekwon the Chef and Masta Killa flossing their lyrical swords over Pete’s relaxed soundscapes.
Most of NY’s Finest, is strictly hard-body material waiting to be ripped by raw emcees. Case in point, the song “914” featuring Styles P. It’s a collage of looped horns, grimy and dusty drum knocks and a sample of ESG’s infamous “UFO”. Likewise, Redman comes consistent on the high-energy breaks of “Best Believe”. Other key feature tracks include the heavy horn-accompanied “Bring Y’all Back” featuring North Carolina duo Little Brother, and “Comprehend”, the sentimentally-charged track that features a rock-solid performance by Brooklyn-bred rhymeslinger Papoose.
Primarily known for his production skills, Pete Rock again takes a shot at the mic on roughly half of the album’s tracks. Delivered over the intimidating clicks and clacks of “Till I Retire”, for instance, Pete aims a speculative jab at Kanye West (reacting to Yeezy’s verse on Slum Village’s “Selfish”) while dropping knowledge for the critics: “Y’all niggas hatin’ on the South, cause they getting’ the shine/ I advise y’all rap dudes better get on your grind/”.
Nonetheless, NY’s Finest has it’s fair share of misfires, most notably the reggae-tinged “Ready Fe War”, a blatant and uninspired knock-off of Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock”. Then there’s the disappointing Lords of the Underground collabo, “The Best Secret”, where Pete borrows MIMS’ lines to proclaim: “this is why I’m hot.” And though the album’s two R&B efforts with Rell and Tarrey Torae flow comfortably and smooth, they lack replay value, making them easily dismissible as nothing more than filler. Finally, the awkward and choppy “Don’t Be Mad”, (which was actually crafted by DJ Green Lantern), offers nothing more than one memorable line from Rock: “Don’t be mad ‘cause you not me/ I’m the fucking poster boy for the MPC.”
It would have been a mistake to name the album Pete’s Finest, as its various inconsistencies and filler tracks prove it to be anything but. Nonetheless, the album’s high marks like ‘We Roll’, ‘914’, ‘Best Believe’ and ‘The PJ’s’ speak for themselves. Aptly titled NY’s Finest, Pete’s latest contribution undoubtedly offers some of the best, raw Hip-Hop to come out of The Big Apple in quite some time: and that’s something to be proud of!Music Reviews