Pete Rock. DJ, one of the Three Drum Kings of Beatmaking and the originator of beatmaking’s pormento bass line.
“In the ’90s, even before I came about, Pete Rock was the dude. Everybody wanted to be Pete Rock. When you put the horns in your shit, when you was making beats, it was like, you’re going to copy Pete Rock. I guarantee you anybody that came up around the same time is going to tell you the same thing. After that, you’re like, ‘O.K., I’ve learned how to do a beat like Pete, now, I gotta distinguish myself!’” —Buckwild (from interview in The BeatTips Manual)
If the only thing that Pete Rock ever did was make the beat for Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.), he’d still be in the top five of the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of all time. One of the best beats of all time, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” is a demonstration of everything Pete Rock contributed to the beatmaking tradition in just one beat. A savvy knack for diggin’ in the crates and an incredible ear. A master’s skill for chopping and section arrangements. A knack for turning jazz into soul and hip-hopping the entire concoction. And, of course, the drums.
Pete Rock is one of three beatmakers who I like to call the Three Drum Kings of Beatmaking. (The other two drum kings are RZA and DJ Premier.) I use the “The Drum Kings” moniker to single out Pete Rock, RZA, and DJ Premier, not because there aren’t others with great and recognizable drums, but because Pete Rock, RZA, and DJ Premier created the most recognizable and influential drum styles and sounds in the history of beatmaking. Post-1995, more drum styles and sounds were generated from the roots of Pete Rock, RZA, and DJ Premier than any other beatmakers.
Whatever anyone says about the drums of this or that beatmaker post-1995, most drum styles and sounds (e.g. off-beat, bounce kick and snare, stuttering snare breakdown, sleigh bell hi-hats, shuffles, etc., etc., etc.) can be traced right back to something that Pete Rock, RZA, or DJ Premier originated and pioneered. (Incidentally, there wouldn’t be a distinctively “new” drum style and sound until the early 2000s, when Bink ushered in the big drum and sweep style and sound.)
Bass lines. Of course drums are fundamental. But bass lines is also a category quite critical and special to beatmaking. In this area, Pete Rock is not only a pioneer, in all likelihood he’s an inventor. By 1992, Pete Rock had already originated and perfected his signature chopped pormento (pitch-sliding) bass line. While bass lines might have been used by other prominent beatmakers at this time, none were doing quite what Pete Rock was doing. Not Dr. Dre on The Chronic, not DJ Premier on Gang Starr’s Step Into the Arena, not Q-Tip on A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory. This bass line style and sound was the sole province of Pete Rock, and he exhibited on “Return of the Mecca,” the first track of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s classic second album, Mecca and the Soul Brother. The Pete Rock bass line was also used for “The Basement.”
So crucial was Pete Rock’s invention that many key beatmakers may likely not have risen to their level of esteem were it not for Pete Rock feeding them his bassline. In fact, Pete Rock’s signature bass line became the bedrock ingredient for which J Dilla (debuted in 1996), Kev Brown (debuted in late 1990s/early 2000s) , and 9th Wonder (debuted in early 2000s) — all BeatTips Top 30 beatmakers — would use to develop their own bass lines. In fact, ANYONE today who use the sliding chopped bass line style, whether with samples or bass patches, owes a great debt to Pete Rock above any other beatmaker.
Pete Rock is also a leader in the beat instrumental/producer album realm. His Soul Survior album is a classic that, just like Marley Marl’s earlier producer albums, helped paved the way for future beatmakers to make “placements” for themselves.
Finally, here again we have yet another beatmaker who also rhymed. (This is especially important to point out, because in today’s scene, far too many beatmakers don’t believe that they could also be rappers.) While Pete Rock didn’t rhyme as frequent as some of the other beatmaker/rappers on this list, he was still decent on the mic nevertheless.
The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Pete Rock Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:
SPECIAL NOTE: Listen to Mecca & The Soul Brother and Soul Survivor straight through.
“Straighten it Out” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“Head Rush” – Pete Rock feat. RZA and GZA prod. by Pete Rock
“Respect Mine” – Pete Rock feat. O.C. prod. by Pete Rock
“The Basement” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“Return of the Mecca” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“We Roll” – Pete Rock feat. Jim Jones and Max B. prod. by Pete Rock
“Tru Master” – Pete Rock feat. Inspectah and Kurrupt prod. by Pete Rock
“Skinz” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. Grand Puba prod. by Pete Rock
“PJs” – Pete Rock feat. Raekwon and Masta Killa prod. by Pete Rock
“Monumental” – Pete Rock & Smif-N-Wesson feat. Tyler Woods prod. by Pete Rock
“Mecca and the Soul Brother” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“Tell I Retire” – Pete Rock prod. by Pete Rock
“Lots of Lovin’” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“Questions” – Pete Rock feat. Royal Flush prod. by Pete Rock
“Tha Game” – Pete Rock feat. Raekwon and Ghostface Killah prod. by Pete Rock
“Niggaz Know” – Pete Rock feat. J Dilla prod. by Pete Rock
“Priceless” – All City prod. by Pete Rock
“Mind Blowin’” – Pete Rock feat. Vinia Mojica prod. by Pete Rock
“Strange Fruit” – Pete Rock feat. Tragedy Khadafi, Cappadona, and Sticky Fingaz prod. by Pete Rock
“I Got A Love” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“Rather Unique” – AZ prod. by Pete Rock
“Soul Survivor” – Pete Rock feat. Miss Jones prod. by Pete Rock
“The Creator” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“Ghettos of the Mind” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock
“Can’t Front on Me” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth prod. by Pete Rock