Peter Phillips (born June 21, 1970), better known by his stage
name Pete Rock, is an American record producer, DJ and rapper.
He rose to prominence in the early 1990s as one half of the critically
acclaimed group Pete Rock & CL Smooth. After the duo went their
separate ways, Rock continued with a solo career that has garnered
him worldwide respect, though little in the way of mainstream success.
Along with groups such as Stetsasonic, A Tribe Called Quest, The
Roots and Gang Starr, Rock played a major role in the merging of
elements from jazz into hip hop music (also known as jazz rap).
He is widely recognized as one of the greatest hip hop producers
of all time, and is often mentioned alongside DJ Premier and RZA
as one of the mainstays of 1990s East Coast hip hop production.
Pete Rock is also the older brother and younger cousin, respectively,
of rappers Grap Luva and Heavy D.
Editors from About.com ranked him as #2 in their "Top 50 Hip-Hop
His first major exposure to the hip-hop audience was in 1987 with
Marley Marl, as a DJ on New York's WBLS radio show "In Control
With Marley Marl." The 17-year-old Phillips was recognized by
the listening audience as the man "puttin' in work", as
he would use double copies of each record to cut up every song he
played, when most New York DJs would only use double copies on every
third or fourth song. Propelled by the growth of his popularity,
he began producing in the early 1990s. In 1991 he joined with CL
Smooth to release the EP All Souled Out.
The following year saw Mecca and the Soul Brother, the first of
two full-length albums, released to critical acclaim and hailed as
a classic by many. During this period, Pete Rock began to produce
songs for other acts, such as "Down With the King" for
Run-DMC and "The World Is Yours" for Nas, as well remix
singles for Jeru the Damaja ("You Can't Stop the Prophet"),
Public Enemy ("Shut 'em Down"), and The Notorious B.I.G.
("Juicy" - the original of which was allegedly based on
Rock's own demo). Pete and CL followed up Mecca in 1994 with The
Main Ingredient. Like its predecessor, The Main Ingredient also received
wide critical acclaim. However, soon after the album's release, the
duo split and went their separate ways, with Rock focusing on production
work for other artists.
In 1995, he formed the group INI, with Grap Luva, Rob-O, and I Love
H.I.M. and released the classic 12" "Fakin' Jax".
The trio recorded an album, Center of Attention(originally named
The Life I Live), which was heavily bootlegged and remained unreleased
until 2003, when BBE Records picked it up for distribution. The release
of this album was coupled with another previously unreleased mid-'90s
Pete Rock-produced album, DeDa's The Original Baby Pa.
In 1996, he appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD,
America is Dying Slowly, alongside Wu-Tang Clan, Coolio, and Fat
Joe, among others. The CD, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic
among African American men, was heralded as a masterpiece by The
 Solo career
While working as a DJ with Marley Marl on Hot 97's Future Flavas
show, Rock was able to forge a relationship with Loud Records, allowing
him to release his solo album Soul Survivor in the summer of 1998.
After being dropped from the Loud imprint, Rock signed with Rapster/BBE
under his own label Soul Brother Recordings. His first release on
the imprint was PeteStrumentals, which was mostly made up of previously
unreleased Rock beats; all recorded between 1990 and 1995 but remixed
and mastered for the 2001 BBE Project. The album did however feature
two additional 2001 songs that featured the vocals from The UN. An
expanded and revisited version of the album was released less than
one year later; three instrumentals had been replaced with three
new songs performed by C.L. Smooth, Freddie Foxxx and Nature separately.
Since then he has continued releasing solo albums including 2004's
Soul Survivor II. In that same year he also produced the bulk of
Edo G's My Own Worst Enemy, as well as a track for the all-girl rap
group Northern State.
Pete Rock returned to greater visibility through a closer relationship
with the Wu-Tang Clan. Their collaborations began with Soul Survivor,
which featured Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon
on various tracks as well as producing a track each for Inspectah
Deck's ("Trouble Man") and Raekwon's ("Sneakers")
respective 1999 albums. Rock continued to work with the Wu on Soul
Survivor II which featured both GZA and RZA. In 2006 he also produced
three tracks for Ghostface's release Fishscale, including the first
single, and Nature Sounds labelmate Masta Killa's second album, Made
Pete Rock has cultivated a relationship with Brooklyn-based Nature
Sounds Records. He recorded the song "The PJs", which also
features Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon and Masta Killa, released on the
Nature Sounds compilation Natural Selection. He released an album
entitled NY's Finest in February 2008, featuring Raekwon, Masta Killa,
D-Block, Redman, Papoose, Slum Village and Jim Jones, among others,
also on Nature Sounds. The lead single from the album is entitled "914" and
features rappers Sheek Louch and Styles P. He is scheduled to appear
on albums by Bishop Lamont, Cannibal Ox, Termanology, Freddie Foxxx,
Royal Flush, Verbal Threat, LL Cool J, JoJo Pellegrino, La The Darkman,
Cormega, R.A. The Rugged Man, and others. He is also working with
DJ/Rapper Doo Wop under the name Tango & Cash (taken from the
film of the same name).
Planet Asia has recently claimed that later on in 2009 he will release
a collaboration fully produced album with Pete Rock called "Planet
Rock". On December 2009 Rock denied that, but talked about collabo
projects with Tha Dogg Pound, Camp Lo, Smif-N-Wessun.
Pete Rock oversaw the production of Jay Stay Paid, a posthumous
album by the producer J Dilla, released June 2, 2009, on Nature Sounds.
Lately he has been in Hawaii, working with Kanye West on the latter's
fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In addition, he
and DJ Premier have announced that they are working on a joint album
together, although further details are unknown. Recently in London
he confirmed that Big Pooh & C.L. Smooth will be on his half
of the VS album and he plans on dropping 5 albums in 2011 including
reuniting with C.L. Smooth for a third album & drop his 4th album
on Nature Sounds.
Through the years, Rock has helped to jump-start the careers of
several artists. His first project outside of Pete Rock & CL
Smooth was the hardcore duo YG'z, who released an EP called Street
Nigga in 1993, with four out of the six tracks produced by Rock;
however, they were quickly dropped from their deal with Reprise Records.
His next venture, INI, was a group featuring Rock, his younger brother
Grap Luva, Rass and rapper Rob-O. They released a single, "Fakin'
Jax", through Elektra Records in 1995, before their debut album,
Center of Attention, was shelved by the label. The other two members
continue to record solo material, albeit only sporadically. In an
interview Rock elaborated on the situation:
We finished the album, turned it in to Elektra and they never put
it out, they only put out a single. Sylvia [Rhone] really didn't
cooperate, she didn't break bread with me when it came down to resolving
that. It was all about her changing everything around. She wanted
to change my whole sound. When she said, "You gotta make a beat
like Puffy", I just knew it wasn't going to work out.
Another mid-1990s artist, DeDa, also met the same fate with his
album The Original Baby Pa, although both this and INI's album were
eventually released as a double album package in 2003. Other associated
artists include Meccalicious, who recorded a few songs under Pete
Rock's guidance (sometime around 1997), before disappearing from
the music scene altogether.
Rock has had some success, however, overseeing and jump-starting
the career of hardcore underground favorites The UN, a group featuring
four MCs, including former Flipmode Squad member Rock Marciano. Rock
premiered the group on the single "Nothin' Lesser" from
his PeteStrumentals album, and they went on to release the fairly
successful album UN or U Out in July 2004, featuring production by
Rock, Large Professor, and several others.
 Relationship with CL Smooth
Since their split in 1995, Pete Rock's relationship with CL Smooth
has been highly unpredictable. Although the pair briefly united for
the reflective "Da Two" from Rock's Soul Survivor album
in 1998, they avoided entertaining requests for a reunion album until
2001, when they once again teamed up for "Back on Da Block" from
Rock's PeteStrumentals. In their interviews during this period, it
appeared as though a new album was underway. As Rock would explain:
We've been on tour, we know every rhymer and producer in this business.
We've influenced people, even people we've never met have said that
we changed the face of hip-hop. So we're going to try to do some
The pair went on a short international tour culminating in their
well-received show at London's Jazz Cafe; however, soon after this
they declined to comment any further on the new album, which never
materialized (although Smooth did make three separate appearances
on Soul Survivor II). Eventually, Smooth would confirm rumors of
a rift in an interview with AllHipHop.com, in which he appeared
angry and frustrated with his former partner, saying "I didn’t
ask him to be a superhero" and "I’m not the problem." In
an interview taken in December 2006, Rock ruled out any further collaborations
with Smooth but stated that he holds no grudges against his former
partner. He recently confirmed that he will be recording a third
album with C.L. Smooth.
 Musical style
Pete Rock builds his beats from samples, the majority of which are
taken from obscure R&B, funk, and jazz records. Early on in his
career he would also sample drum breaks such as Black Heat's "Zimba
Ku" for Heavy D & The Boyz's "Letter To The Future".
Pete Rock heavily used the E-mu SP-1200 as well as the AKAI [S950]—later
moving onto using the MPC—for his productions. Pete Rock tends
to use the samples as palettes for his beats, chopping (cutting the
sample into smaller parts), filtering (altering the frequencies of
the sample), and layering several samples, often within the same
song. While this technique was applied long before Rock (on De La
Soul's Three Feet High and Rising or the work of The Bomb Squad for
example), Rock's work is distinctive for the way in which he uses
samples to achieve a hazy, droning effect. He is also noted for his
resonant basslines, horn samples, and gritty sounding drums. His
beats often sound as though they were being played from an old vinyl
record; he samples many of his sounds straight off these records.
Another trait of his, more so in the earlier part of his career,
is the way he uses horn samples to supplement his grooves. With perhaps
the most famous example being "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" (on
which he uses a horn sample from Tom Scott's "Today"),
Rock has also used horns on several other productions such as "Straighten
It Out", Public Enemy's "Shut 'Em Down", Rah Digga's "What
They Call Me", and A.D.O.R.'s "Let It All Hang Out".
Along with Gang Starr, The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest, Pete
Rock played a large role in the fusing of jazz and funk music into
Hip hop. The aforementioned "Reminisce..." withstanding,
Rock used many jazz samples on his album Mecca and The Soul Brother,
such as Cannonball Adderley's "Country Preacher", for the
song "Return of the Mecca", or "Capricorn" for
the song "In the House" from The Main Ingredient. Pete
Rock's heavy use of intro and outro beats has also been widely influential.
To introduce feature songs, he often plays a short instrumental excerpt,
completely different from the rest of the song. Aside from their
role as transitions, these are widely regarded as a way of displaying
his large collection and as a challenge to other hip-hop producers
to identify the records that the breaks come from. Mecca & the
Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient use intro/outro beats on nearly
every track to great effect, and the tradition continues to the present
on Rock's recent releases.
"Another Pete Rock Remix" is Pete Rock's trademark catchphrase,
heard on countless singles which he has remixed. In addition to Hip-hop
artists he has done remix work for artists from other genres such
as his 1995 remix of "Before You Walk Out Of My Life" for
R&B singer Monica. In 1992 he collaborated with Mary J. Blige
on the What's the 411? single "Reminisce", which utililized
the same sample from his own single "T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce
Over You)". Rock claims to have done several high profile remixes
which remain unreleased including one of Madonna's "Secret".
He also claims to have produced the original beat for The Notorious
B.I.G.'s "Juicy", and that it was recreated by P. Diddy
and Poke (of Tone & Poke fame), without consent. However, he
was invited to produce the remix, which utilizes the same sample
as the original - Mtume's "Juicyfruit". Although he
received no official producer credit, he made the original demo beat
for A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)", which was
then recreated by the group for the album The Low End Theory.
He remixed Public Enemy's "Shut 'em Down" and "Nighttrain",
in the same day, starting at 12pm and finishing at 12am.
Up until 2003, he created all of his productions on the E-mu SP1200,
thereafter using the AKAI MPC2000XL. He also has a collection of
about 90,000 records and looks for records at least once a week.
Pete Rock was one of 9 artists who participated in thetruth.com’s
Remix Project, where he remixed the Sunny Side song “Magical
Pete Rock has had a considerable impact on a number of record producers
who have emerged in the hip hop scene since the late 1990s. Many
critics have compared newcomers to him, generally favorably. Perhaps,
most notable among these comparisons are the late Detroit producer
J Dilla, and North Carolina's 9th Wonder, both of whom have worked
with Rock during their recording careers. Several of the comparisons
stem from the fact that these producers have created the bulk of
their productions out of samples, as well as the warm, mellow, and
exuberant undertones apparent in their work. Pete Rock himself has
added validation to the comparisons with J Dilla by stating "he's
the only producer in this game that was just as serious [as me]."
Many other producers, including Kev Brown and Kanye West, have also
found themselves compared to Pete Rock, with the latter glowingly
referring to himself as "the new version of Pete Rock" on
Slum Village's "Selfish" from the group's 2004 album Detroit
Deli (A Taste of Detroit). Pete Rock has acknowledged
his relevance to these artists, releasing an instrumental record
with 9th Wonder (Class Is in Session), as well as recording his own
remix of West's "Heard 'Em Say". Rock himself has named
his main musical influences as being influential hip hop producer
and close friend Marley Marl and legendary soul musician James Brown.
Main article: Pete Rock discography
* Soul Survivor (1998)
* PeteStrumentals (2001)
* Lost & Found: Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics (2003)
* Soul Survivor II (2004)
* The Surviving Elements: From Soul Survivor II Sessions (2005)
* NY's Finest (2008)
* The Surviving Elements: From Soul Survivor II Sessions (2009)