Matching the critical success of their debut EP, All Souled Out, seemed almost impossible, but Mount Vernon, NY natives, Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, did just that and more on 1992′s Mecca and the Soul Brother. Constructed with Pete’s smooth-rolling, soul-tight production along with C.L.’s laid-back, smooth n’ sequential delivery, the full-length debut would be widely acclaimed and deemed as an attested rap classic.
As Mecca reaches its 20th anniversary tomorrow (June 9), XXL reached out to the album’s sound architect, Pete Rock, and took a stroll down memory lane to revisit the process of creating one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Make way for the Mecca… —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)
XXLMag.com: Can you believe that it’s actually been 20 years since Mecca and the Soul Brother’s release? How does it feel?
Pete Rock: Oh, man, it’s unbelievable, bro. [I remember] when Heavy D was here, he used to brag about me, and he was the one who gave me the inspiration. [He used to] say, “Hey, I see somethin’ in you. We got to bring that out.” So now, it’s like a proud father lookin’ at his son.
Does it still sort of feel like the album was released yesterday?
Yeah, because people still go back to it. I’m talkin’ about rap artists and producers [and they] still go back to it and listen to it for ideas. It’s an inspirational album and I’m happy. It flatters me to even see how people can even do somethin’ with that work. I remember when [me and C.L. Smooth] finished the album, it was snowin’ outside and we filmed it. I can’t find the tape right now, but I was puttin’ my equipment in my car trunk and was sayin’, “We finished it!” We were so happy to let the world know that this is somethin’ new and fresh and it’s just goin’ to hit people in all kinds of ways, [and] the music is good. I was very confident at that point.
What was the initial thought process going into Mecca and the Soul Brother?
Just to make a break on the industry. You know, we were a new group comin’ under Heavy D and we wanted people to feel us. If you listen to C.L.’s lyrics to “Straighten It Out,” he was talkin’ about the bootleg situation and how strong that was in the ’90s. [Back then on] 125th St, every block you crossed there was a stream of bootleggers out there sellin’ hip-hop music on cassette. We figured, “Hey, let’s do a concept about that and call it ‘Straighten it Out.’” We ended up doin’ the video on 125th, it was crazy. I’m sayin’ that to say that this was our learning process on comin’ up in the game, and the issues we wanted to address from the streets to listenin’ to music and feelin’ inspired.
You guys obviously had a strong feeling and message behind the record, eventually putting it out as the album’s second single.
“Straighten It Out” was one of the songs that we felt that we had to put up in the forefront and make it a single, so people could learn about bootleggin’. The thought process behind it was [just] findin’ that loop and hearin’ the full song, and listenin’ to it and sayin’, “Wow.” The lyrics to the original record that I sampled it from was deep, so [it was a matter of], “Alright, how can we do this in hip-hop form, and make it deep and make people pay attention to it.” We do our homework over here.
What would you say was your strongest record on the album, production-wise?
“Reminisce” is my strongest record ever. [It was] my best production I believe because of obvious reasons. I [just] lost my cousin Heavy D, and I lost my best friend Trouble T-Roy, so that speaks volumes. I’m emotionally attached to “T.R.O.Y.”
What were some of your fondest memories during the creation process of this LP?
“Straighten It Out” with the video concept of bailin’ C.L. out of jail. I thought we would send a good message [by] beatin’ up a bootlegger and gettin’ arrested. [Laughs.] Because the bootleggers were makin’ money, and takin’ food off of our plate. We work hard. We were workin’ really hard on music and puttin’ stuff out and bein’ consistent with makin’ music, creatin’ the best things we could possibly create.
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