Few producers did more to define the sound of early 90s hip-hop than Pete Rock, whose two albums with rapper CL Smooth (Mecca and the Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient) elevated crate digging to an art form with their seamless, looping grooves built from smooth horn charts, killer breakbeats, funky guitar licks, and other borrowed bits of old funk and soul albums. Though he's drifted out of the spotlight since, Rock has remained active, remixing everyone from Nas to Janet Jackson to Mary J. Blige and sporadically releasing solid solo albums. Instead of adapting to the prevailing vogue for programmed beats, Rock has continued to plunder dusty old records, though his tracks have grown leaner over time--less silky brass, more bass-and-drum head-nodders. The guest list on his latest effort, Soul Survivor II (Rapster, 2004), is a who's who of hip-hop heavies: Talib Kweli, GZA and RZA, Skillz, Slum Village, J-Dilla, and his old associate Smooth. Notable tracks include "Give It to Ya," a harp-gilded ballad featuring North Carolina upstarts Little Brother, and "Warzone," a thuggish, club-banging collaboration with politically charged MCs Dead Prez that shifts effectively between two irresistible beat schemes. Rock's recent DJ sets have eschewed hip-hop records in favor of the soul, funk, and reggae finds that provide the basis for his meticulously crafted tracks. Mr. Cheeks headlines and Truth Hurts opens. $18.50 in advance, $20 at the door; 18+. Friday, August 6, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Carty.