Photos by Lauren Gesswein
On a clear, crisp night in the heart of Times Square, New York City, Mecca and the Soul Brother, a.k.a. Pete Rock and CL Smooth, made their triumphant return home to treat the jam-packed crowd inside of 42nd Street’s B.B. King Bar & Grill nightclub to their incredible and legendary contribution to golden era hip-hop. This monumental night was sparked off by the legendary Yo! MTV Raps VJ and current DJ on Backspin/SIRIUS-XM Ed Lover. Draped in his black-and-blue NY Giants cap and thick gold cable, Ed talked about the time when the game was about lyrics and praised the artists set to take the stage on this evening. Ed ran through some classic hip-hop songs with the crowd’s participation, creating a real feel-good moment.
Bronx MCs Camp Lo opened up the show with the flair, charisma and lyrical sharpness of seasoned vets, jumping on the scene first in 1995 with a definite spark. The soulful and metaphoric tag-team lyricism kept the B.B. King’s crowd in a frenzy as the duo ran through some of their classic joints like “Luchini (A.K.A. This Is It,” “Black Nostaljack (A.K.A. Come On),” “Coolie High,” “Lumdi” and a few tracks off the recent Pete Rock collaboration 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s Part 2. Their DJ Technician warmed things up before Camp Lo took the stage spinning a few golden era joints, clad in an Infamous Mobb Deep T-shirt circa 1995.
The moment of truth finally arrived shortly before 10 p.m. when the main event began. Pete Rock and CL Smooth have been on tour, and now they were finally home, finally together again in front of their fans of 20-plus years. The Mecca Don CL Smooth wasted no time as the track dropped and he went right into “Return Of The Mecca” off their debut album, Mecca And The Soul Brother. CL had a confident glow about him as he hit each part of the stage acknowledging the love given to him by the adrenaline-charged crowd. CL Smooth continued to entertain and give it back with the help of one the best and most celebrated producer/DJs of all time in Pete Rock.
Before each song, Pete allowed the original track to play for two minutes where the crowd would catch the noticeable sample and lose it as the official song would come on, stirring the crowd into a ruckus. Pete Rock entertained and educated the crowd at the same time. CL never lost a step as he flowed through the legendary group’s classic material “Straighten It Out,” “I Get Physical,” “I’ll Take You There,” “I Got A Love” and “Lots Of Lovin’.” Pete Rock and CL took the time to also salute those we lost such as Pete’s cousin Heavy D (who we just lost last year), Jam Master Jay and Chris Lighty. The Run-DMC respect was also given when CL ran through his verse from “Down With The King.” Not to be regulated behind the turntables (yes, vinyl was the preferred tool choice of the DJs this night), Pete took the mic and flexed his lyrical skills with his own verses from “Soul Brother #1,” “Fakin’ Jax” and the track that introduced the world to the duo “The Creator” off their 1991 All Souled Out EP. The night however, would not be fully complete without the track everyone was waiting for. Just as Pete blurted to CL that the night was great and we don’t really need to do anymore, the crowd yelled out the track and dedication to Trouble T-Roy, “They Reminisce over You (T.R.O.Y.).” They couldn’t leave the stage without performing their signature hit.
It was indeed a special night for hip-hop. It was a well-deserved homecoming for one of New York’s own champions. From money earnin’ Mount Vernon to around the world and back, Pete Rock and CL Smooth laid down a solid foundation and appear not to be done making history. Their sound is still good for the soul.—Derryck “Nes” Johnson