Sunday, 7 August 2011

Pete Rock, SMiff N Wessun - Monumental

Pete Rock , Smiff N Wessun – Monumental
Pete Rock is a legend in Hip Hop circles; trained by Marley Marl and second only to DJ premier when it comes to production skills. Rarely does he produce entire albums for artists, in fact his last was 2004’s ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ with Edo G and even that wasn’t entirely Pete Rock produced. However 2011 brings us Pete’s collaborative effort with Smiff N Wessun, Monumental which is released on BCC’s Duck Down label. Fourteen tracks entirely produced by Pete Rock and featuring such guests as; Raekwon, Rock, Sean Price, Buckshot, Styles P., Bun B., Memphis Bleek, Freeway and former Hit Squad member Hurricane G.
The album starts off with a pretty unmemorable intro and then jumps into the title track Monumental which features lyrics from Pete Rock and a a nice albeit simple horns loop over a plodding drumbeat. This wasn’t too bad until the poorly sung hook comes in sung by newcomer Tyler Woods. The singing adds nothing whatsoever to track in fact a nice little bit of scratching for the chorus would have made the song so much better. The lyricists try their best but to me this just seemed like poor attempt to get additional radio plays because it has some singing, whereas all it succeeds in doing is encouraging me to skip it. The next track Prevail featuring Raekwon, which was released as the first single back in September of 2010. This joint is nice, a well made track that features two different beats; one sounding like a typical Pete Rock beat and the second sounding like a Rza beat. Throw in a few scratches for the chorus and you have the recipe for a good tune.
The next track, ‘That’s Hard’ features BCC favourite Sean Price and the most underrated member of the LOX, Styles P. The track is made up of a dark cello loop over a slightly upbeat drum break with nice crisp snares. Lyrics are on point and the rappers all compliment each other well. Although as per usual Sean price steals the show with Styles P coming in a close second but this is’nt a bad things as it makes for a good track. The next joint, ‘Top of the world’ features long-time Jay-Z cohort, Memphis Bleek an emcee I have always felt was overshadowed by Jay’s skills but he is in fact a capable emcee. The beat is one of the best on the album and reminds me of Camp Lo’s beats, who are another group that Pete has said he will drop an album with this year. It’s an upbeat joint with all emcees dropping nice lyrics and ad-libs all over the place; it works well with some nice strings and the upbeat pace of the song.
The next joint is ‘Feel me’ featuring fellow Boot Camp member Rock and Dirty South legend Bun B. This is one of the harder sounding tracks on the album featuring a nice piano loop, a far cry form the horns laden tracks of Pete’s early career productions. The beat is reminiscent of Hell on Earth era Mobb Deep with Rock handling the chorus duties as well as dropping a verse and Bun supplying a trademarked dope verse. Freeway joins the Cocoa B’s for the track ‘Roses’ which is a slower almost marching track featuring a haunting vocal sample but the shouting chorus from Freeway seems out of place with the rest of the track.
Fire is the next track and its one of only three on the album that doesn’t feature a guest. The beat is darker than the typical Pete Rock joint but with more going on than some of the previous tracks on the album. It features a nice piano sample and some other instruments I can’t name combined to sound almost like a late 90s Rza joint. The lyrics are pretty much up to par with what you would expect from the duo.
Pete then tries his hand at a little reggae Hip Hop fusion, something we know that Smiff N Wessun can handle well but its outside Pete’s comfort zone. The track itself is interesting and although clearly an attempt at a slower dancehall riddim it has some strong hip hop influences. Smiff N Wessun easily hold their own with the slight Jamaican tinged rhymes and the chorus and final verse are supplied by Top Dog And Jahdan Blakkamoore. The track works and I have to admit that I actually liked it, obviously don’t expect some deep lyrics this is a dancehall hip hop track and therefore the usual gun talk is rife.
The next joint, ‘Do It’ seems a bit lazy on Pete’s part as he simply samples the classic break The Mexican by Babe Ruth. Although it is indeed a lazy production job the break is still so sick after all these years that it works well and its nice to hear Smiff N Wessun rhyming fast for once. They also resurrect the long lost Hurricane G to drop a verse and unfortunately I can’t say her return adds a lot to the song she simply is there and is neither bad nor good to be honest. The next track, ‘Night Time’ should be one of the best on the album as it features Buckshot and he has always had such good chemistry with Smiff N Wessun but it falls short. The beat is plain and even boring at times, a simple guitar loop over a plodding drum break. Smiff N Wessun sound uninspired, Buckshot provides a boring hook for the chorus and Pete’s verse is well its a Pete Rock verse.
The next track, ‘I’m a Stand up Guy’ features Black Rob over a sinister sounding beat with some nice strings and some horns that sound like they could come off a 70’s cop show theme. I was surprised by Black Rob’s lyrics they were better than I would have expected from the man who brought us ‘Whoah’. In fcat you might think he outshines Smiff N Wessun.
The last two tracks on the album feature no guests and I was hoping that these would be classic Smiff N Wessun joints and although they’re not what I would call Classic Smiff N Wessun they are strong tracks. The first of the two is ‘Go Off’ and it’s a dope track with some nice samples and a decent bit of scratching for the chorus. The last joint on the album is ‘Time to Say’ which is slower track with some nice orchestral strings, paino stabs and a slightly sped up vocal sample that works really well. Their subject matter on this one is more introspective than the rest of the album but it gives us an insight into the minds of the duo. This is a nice mellow closing of the album
On the whole it’s a strong album but in all honesty it should have been better than it was considering the combination of lyricists and producer. To a certain extent it seemed that Pete Rock was unsure of what sort of sound Smiff N Wessun needed and in an attempt to give them a sound suited to their style he dropped too much of his own style. I wanted to hear Smiff N Wessun over trademarked Pete Rock beats but instead I got Pete Rock trying to mae Smiff N Wessun beats (Beatminerz perhaps). Its not a bad album its just not what it should have been. Although fans of either side of the combination will probably enjoy it. If I had to give it a rating out of 10 it would be 6.5 and as my teachers used to say “Must try harder”

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