A lot of my readers who know me outside of this blog know I'm not necessarily the hardcore hip-hop "head" I once was. I'm more of a music head than a hip-hop head, and unfortunately that sometimes puts me at odds with whatever is left of the underground these days, because musically I think underground hip-hop has only a handful of good artists left.

With that said, I spent last night holed up in a conference room at EMI with some other esteemed hip-hop heads to hear Pete Rock's new album, NY's Finest. I confess, unlike most "heads," I had low expectations for the album. Not because I think Pete Rock sucks or anything, in fact he's one of my personal favorite producers of all time (one of the few I can say I'm a genuine fan of), but the album seemed to come out of nowhere, and I feared Pete might do what it seems like a lot of the older cats do, and just mail it in.

No, no, no. I was sorely mistaken. Pete came with it. It sounded so refreshing to actually hear songs with beefy kicks, tight snare drums, swinging hi hats, breezy horn samples, and groovy rolling bass lines- in short order, that Soul Brother #1 shit. Not little bitchy 808 claps, 3 note synthesizer melodies, and sloppy piano chords that don't even make sense on a musical level. Pete's even got a dope reggae joint called "Ready Fe War." But my personal fave was the joint with Royal Flush, "Questions," where he lifts a sample from the classic film, The Education Of Sonny Carson.

Pete raps on almost every song on the album, and though his flow is definitely dated, it's still good to hear him step in front of the mic more. Another example of producer as artist in 2008. I wasn't all that impressed with some of the artists on the album, I think he could have gotten some bigger names and a better pool of talent, but it's all good.

Check out some joints.

"We Roll" featuring Jim Jones and Max B

"Till I Retire"

"914" featuring Styles P and Sheek Louch

"Questions" featuring Royal Flush