East Coast hip-hop fans haven’t had a whole lot to be excited about since the new millennium rolled over. Ringtone rap and clap-hop still dominate the Rap Citys and Hot97s of the world, and most New York hip-hop fans seem to be currently focused on what Fat Joe and Papoose did in a hotel room. Needless to say, a new Pete Rock record is a welcome thing to boom-bap enthusiasts. With NY’s Finest, Pete Rock, whose place in hip-hop is alread firmly cememted alongside masters like Premier, may not go beyond expectations, but he certainly meets them comfortably.
The roster of artists featured is delightfully East Coast-centric: Sheek Louch & Styles P, Raekwon, Masta Killa, Redman. The first single is "We Roll," a collab with Jim Jones and Max B, and it sets the tone for the entire record. Though Jones’s overdub style is getting stale ("ger-und!"), the track is both laid-back and on point.
That effortless quality bubbles up throughout the remaining tracks. On “Till I Retire,” the Run DMC sample being scratched is messy in all the right ways. When Rock is in his element, he feels confident without sounding too showy. Even though he seems to be doing the ghostwriter thing (check the liner notes), the vocal tracks still mostly work. At this point, Pete’s voice is familiar enough to simply serve as a welcome sonic counterpoint to his beats.
The two major misses on the record occur as misguided reaches outside of the samples, drums, and raps formula. “That’s What I Am Talking About” is a lame “for the ladies” club attempt, and “Ready Fe War” is a fairly capable but mostly unnecessary reggae/dancehall track. And sometimes the casual tone of the record ventures into just plain lazy: the chorus on “Best Believe” is “Best believe we get high, nigga/ Best believe we get by, nigga/ Best believe we get fly, nigga/ la, la, la, la, la.”
No matter. It’s good to have Pete Rock back in front of the MPC. In the increasingly litigious era of new-millenium rap, its always nice to hear a major release with some loops on it.