PETE ROCK AND C.L. SMOOTH at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Saturday (February 14). $24.50. 416-466-0313 Rating: NNNNN
Old-school players know it. For new-school fools I might have to break it down for a minute. Pete Rock, in terms of production, is the fucking Michelangelo of the rap. Alongside the other Ninja Turtles of beatmaking - Premier (Leonardo), Dr. Dre (Raphael), RZA (Donatello) - and under the watchful eye of Marley Marl (Master Splinter), Rock helped set a new template for how samples should be ripped, flipped and transformed into beats during the early-90s years of hiphop.
He's famous for his obsession with sampling horns, something I want to ask him about when I catch up with Rock on his mobile phone at his studio in New York City.
"I love the fact that I stressed it more that everyone else," he says. Then, by reflex, he states the obvious: "I like the original sound. There's nothing like the original music. It's all in how you flip a beat."
In 92, alongside long-time friend rapper C.L. Smooth, Rock dropped Mecca And The Soul Brother, a classic album featuring They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.) that is often recognized as the greatest record in the history of hiphop culture. Ever.
Two years later, Pete Rock and CL stepped up to bat again, dropping The Main Ingredient. Then they broke up for reasons that have never been clear.
"We broke up because of the record business. The usual stuff," says Rock, who remains immersed in the record business (he's currently at work on his third solo joint, Soul Survivor 2) and hasn't kept close tabs on C.L. Smooth, aka the Mecca Don, since the split.
"He's been doing music on the side and been involved in various business things. I don't know," Rock admits.
No matter. The man's been busy, doing his beat thing for a wide variety of peoples, from the Fresh Prince to the Wu-Tang Clan.
Late last year, Rock's prowess was reaffirmed with the BBE label's release of two albums originally recorded in 95 and 96, Center Of Attention, by INI, and Original Baby Pa, by Deda. The double disc - completely produced by Rock - is being hailed as the best thing since sliced vinyl. Does he know what happened to INI or Deda?
He has, however, been in close contact with a certain Mr. Kardinal Offishall, for whom he recently produced a track.
"We came together through family ties. We used to bump into each other at functions and just travelling around, and finally we connected. I laid down a beat and Kardinal just embodied my sound."
But there's no one who has ever embodied the Pete Rock sound quite like C.L. That's why, 10 years later, they're bringing back the old magic and bringing it to the T-dot.
"It'll be a good show - a nice lengthy show," says Rock. "Expect us to give our fans what they've been missing."