Record Review - 3 May 27 2004

First as MC/production partner with C.L. Smooth, and then — once the duo split following 1994’s The Main Ingredient — as a studio engineer, New York’s Pete Rock has been tapping out the one, uh, one-two with dusty, focused fingers since 1991. Having produced a classic with 1992’s Mecca and the Soul Brother (featuring “They Reminisce Over You [T.R.O.Y.]”), Rock has been held to the blueprint of solid, stuttering drums, massaging bass and airy, aqueous samples that he helped draft. Soul Survivor II is Rock’s latest in a line of prolific productions eschewing digital crispness for a mellow, jazzy weave of ebbing keys, crackle-crusted horns and firm, funky kicks.

While an architect of the New York sound, Rock had to hook up with a British label to get his props. Now he’s knee-deep in a steady flow of albums pairing top-notch MCs with his beats. Rock makes joints rife with rounded-edge roll; bobbing, hand-buffed tracks made for freestyling and listening to over and over. Rock’s street strut moves the MCs along without dictating how they swerve — Kardinal Offishall, Pharoahe Monch, Skillz, Krumbsnatcha and the RZA + GZA flow over syncopated swirl. The only half-steps are Postaboy’s too boastful turn and Dead Prez’s cracked crunk.

Most noteworthy is Rock’s reunion with Smooth, featured on three tracks, two spare, silky and loped out, and the last, “Appreciate,” a piano-borne thanks for more than a decade of reception. Like the finest head-nodding loop, Rock and Smooth’s partnership reaffirms that as much as the means change, the simple, simply good shit remains the shit.<

Pete Rock spins at the Mark Fri., May 28. Call for time and ticket price.