Pete Rock's production style played a major role in the merging of elements from jazz into hip hop music as the subgenre jazz rap. After the duo separated, Rock continued with a solo career that has garnered him worldwide respect within the hip hop community, though little in the way of mainstream success. 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 of rappers Grap Luva and the late Heavy D, respectively.
Pete Rock was born in The Bronx, New York, as the sixth of seven children of Jamaican immigrant parents. His family moved to Mount Vernon, New York when he was seven years old. During high school, he met his future recording partner C.L. Smooth. According to Rock, his father was also a part-time DJ who had an impressive record collection. Rock would accompany his father to a cricket club called Wembley in The Bronx and watch as he spun records for the guests. His first job was as a paperboy in his neighborhood.
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 Rock 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 collaborated with his friend C.L. Smooth to release the EP All Souled Out.
The following year saw the duo release their debut album Mecca and the Soul Brother, which was met with critical acclaim and hailed as a classic hip hop album by many. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth were first signed to Elektra Records and were managed and executive produced by Eddie F of Heavy D & the Boyz. Pete Rock was one of the original three "Untouchables" producers, along with Eddie F and Nevelle Hodge.
During this period, Pete Rock began to produce songs for other artists, such as "Down with the King" for Run-D.M.C. and "The World Is Yours" for Nas, as well as remixing 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 Rock and C.L. Smooth 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 due to creative differences and went their separate ways, with Rock focusing on production work for other artists.
In 1995, he created the group InI, with his brother Grap Luva, Rob-O, I Love H.I.M., Marco Polo and DJ Boodakhan. InI recorded an album, Center of Attention, that was almost entirely produced by Pete Rock, but it was shelved before its release and subsequently heavily bootlegged. It remained unreleased officially until 2003 when BBE Records picked it up for distribution. The release of this album was coupled with another previously unreleased mid-1990s Pete Rock-produced album, Deda's The Original Baby Pa.
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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 also had two additional 2001 songs that featured 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 separately featuring C.L. Smooth, Freddie Foxxx and Nature. He released the album Soul Survivor II in 2004, in addition to producing the bulk of Edo G's album My Own Worst Enemy.
Pete Rock returned to greater visibility through a close relationship with the Wu-Tang Clan. Their collaborations began with the release of Soul Survivor, which featured Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon on various tracks, and produced a track each for Inspectah Deck's and Raekwon's 1999 albums. Soul Survivor II featured appearances from RZA and GZA. In 2006, he produced a song for Ghostface's release Fishscale.
- 1998: Soul Survivor
- 2001: PeteStrumentals
- 2003: Lost & Found: Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics
- 2004: Soul Survivor II
- 2005: The Surviving Elements: From Soul Survivor II Sessions
- 2008: NY's Finest
- 1992: Mecca and the Soul Brother (with C.L. Smooth)
- 1994: The Main Ingredient (with C.L. Smooth)
- 2004: My Own Worst Enemy (with Edo.G)
- 2011: Monumental (with Smif-n-Wessun)
- 2016: Don't Smoke Rock (with Smoke DZA)