Loaded with nostalgia and eschewing flamboyance, two of hip-hop’s golden-era prodigies—Boot Camp Clik faction Smif-N-Wessun and production virtuoso Pete Rock—have united to deliver the decades-in-the-making Monumental.
With Pete relegated to the beatsmith role—showing up to rap on only a pair of tracks—the Cocoa Brovaz invite a host of emcees to the party. Freeway appears on the deceptively titled “Roses,” Bun B spits over the dark piano stabs of “Feel Me,” and fellow BCC member Sean Price makes humorous quips (“Slave master/I sell white girl”) on the violin-driven “That’s Hard,” also featuring D-Block general Styles P. The zenith of Monumental, however, are Pete Rock’s backdrops as he is creatively all over the place, sprinkling vintage boom bap with a mishmash of mariachi, rock and even dancehall throughout the album. From the roller rink thump of the Hurricane G-guested “Do It” to the ragamuffin stylings of “This One,” a reinvigorated Pete is rather unique.
The problem with Monumental, however, is its overabundance of guest appearances and its somewhat dated sound. Tek and Steele invite way too many people to the party and have only three tracks to themselves. While longtime fans will have their appetites whetted, what would have been hailed as an instant classic if it had come out during the two factions’ respective primes in the mid-nineties, Monumental is now a novelty project that’s a reminder of a past glory. —Meka Udoh