On June 9th, 1992, Money Earnin' Mount Vernon - the Westchester County city just north of The Bronx - announced its latest and greatest duo to the entertainment landscape since the basketball playing days of brothers Ray and Gus Williams and Rodney and Scooter McCray.
Prior to dropping Mecca and the Soul Brother, Pete Rock and CL Smooth made some noise with their EP (Extended Play) project of six songs that was released by Elektra Records in the summer of 1991, All Souled Out.
'91 was a magnificent time to be a fan of Hip Hop music, where the range of the genre was expanding in directions far and wide during a period that many consider to be its Golden Age.
A Tribe Called Quest advised everybody to Check The Rhime, Naughty By Nature introduced the phrase "O.P.P." into the public lexicon, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince delivered their ode to summer fun in the hood, and Tupac and the Geto Boys, along with Cypress Hill, N.W.A. and Dr. Dre, illuminated some of the inner psychological battles within the gangster glare.
Ed O.G. had heads bopping on I Got To Have It, urging people to unite with Boston's dopest flavor since New Edition, while demanding that Black men step up to be fathers to their children. Public Enemy warned us that we Can't Truss It and that we needed to Shut 'em Down. We got our first taste of an obscure rapper from Queens named Nas with his debut on the intro to Live at the Barbecue, while Main Source was Looking at the Front Door.
Chubb Rock was Treatin' em Right, LL was paying homage to the Around the Way Girl, Yo Yo advised not to play her out, Father MC was doing 4U and MC 8 was educating East Coast cats about Growing Up in the Hood out in L.A.
Amid this period of raw creativity and diversity in Hip Hop stepped Pete Rock and CL Smooth.
All Souled Out's offerings didn't blaze at the cash registers or on the Billboard charts, but true students who were captivated by this absorbing music knew that something special was brewing. Little did we know that they gave us some advanced warning with the track Mecca and the Soul Brother, along with the certified underground banger, The Creator.
Album: All Souled Out (1991)
Both of those songs were a preview of the brilliance to come. CL's understated lyrical dexterity jumped out on Mecca when he spit, "You couldn't bag me, boy, with a hefty/ Train like Rocky but still can't step to me/ So take a hint, money, leave it alone/ And play like Stephanie Mills and find a home."
He bragged about being Berry Gordy with a forty, how he never boogaloo'd with Yakub (danced with the devil for those in need of translation), told cats to prepare for a CAT scan and how he was about to turn their brain into Moogoo Gai-Pan!!!
But as nice as he was with his slick flow, the biggest star of the production was the man making these remarkably funky and innumerably layered beats. Pete basically explained his genius on The Creator when saying, "Beats are rough and rugged, Pete Rock is the creator/ Now I'm busting raps while switching cross-faders/ Making sure my sound hits from here to Grenada."
He said he was fortified with soul, that honey's formed a line because he always seemed to capture, with beats made of rupture, rhymes made of rapture!!!
He punctuated that with, "Call me Pete Rock, I make the girls flock/ And if you want a beat like this, I got em in stock/ So, flow with the flow, because you know I'm good to go/ As I proceed to get wreck on your stereo/ Not an imitator, just a crowd motivator/ But, it's time to get wreck with the creator."
And from the moment their first album dropped on this day in 1992, we knew exactly what they were talking about in those earlier preludes.
Upon the very first listen of the Mecca and the Soul Brother album, you knew that you were listening to an instant classic. 25 years to the day of its critically acclaimed debut, it stands among the very best and most important pieces of work in the history of Hip Hop, a true musical masterpiece.
From its opening words, "To know the truth is to know the self, To know the self is to know the Mecca," the album blasted off towards an instant eargasm as CL set out the lyrical smorgasbord to come atop Pete's beats on the first track, which were a ridiculous mix of hypnotic horns and samples ranging from Biz Markie, The Three Degrees and Cannonball Adderley.
When CL crushes the third verse with, "Like the New York Philharmonic, sent to blow melodic/ With the logic I heal like a narcotic/ Put your best to rest, so get your bulletproof vest/ I got the wild, wild west to your chest...", it's difficult to choose between rewinding that opening cut or waiting to see what comes next.
The ensuing track, For Pete's Sake, takes things up another level. Like Pete says in the lead-in, it's so damn funky, like a street junky.
But they're just getting warmed up. Ghettos of the Mind not only delves into the sinister aspects of growing up in the hood, but CL proceeds to shed some light on other other environmental elements as well, with, "...but you know the ghetto keep ya busy/ A place that when I die it would never even miss me/ Crack vials in the aisles as one pimp smiles/ Dope piles workin' hookers by the miles/ But still my pop's got three jobs to stable/ A family household and food on the table/ So as we pray for all our souls to keep/ Somebody's on the project roof, ready to leap/ I want to stop the pain of the bad situation/ But backwards wisdom I can't afford to give 'em/ Self savior is much braver with the conscious behavior/ Designed in the ghettos of the mind."
Just when you think you've got the arc of the album figured out, the dynamic duo blows your mind and senses into an entirely different direction with the next cut, Lots of Lovin, with its flute-driven, sensuous tenderness and sincerity. It is undeniably one of Hip Hop's best odes to love's butterflies.
Uploaded by MrBrooklyn1919 on 2010-07-30.
By the sixth track, Straighten It Out, you fully understand that the game done changed.
Although it never reached a mass audience or placement atop the music charts, it is a beloved accomplishment near the top of their resume, a warning to folks out there bootlegging their music.
And when you realize how Pete layers the track with drums from Mongo Santamaria along with the soulful samples of Kool and the Gang's Chocolate Buttermilk and Ernie Hines' Our Generation, among others, you find yourself questioning how in the world he put all of those elements together in his head before heading into the studio.
From 1992 Album: "Mecca & The Soul Brother"...[Artist info below]..... Preview & Get the CD or Single songs from the Album at a Low Price here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000002H84/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=vintagehyoutu-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000002H84%22%3EMecca%20&%20The%20Soul%20Brother%3C/a%3E As one-half of the classic-era hip-hop duo Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, C.L.
The tenth track, They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y), is by far their magnum opus. The song transcends, like all of the great ones, into the realm of mystical and musical magic. The opening saxophone salvo is arresting in and of itself. And when the bass drops? Fuhggedaboudit!!!
A tribute to their friend Troy Dixon, aka “Trouble T. Roy" who was a dancer with Heavy D & The Boyz, They Reminisce is a heartfelt look inside CL's life and the love he feels for his mother, family and the strength of his upbringing and true role models. The moral of this incredible masterpiece, both production-wise and in its sincere lyricism, is broken down by CL's simple yet profound line, "I strive to be live because I got no choice..."
FROM THE ALBUM "MECCA AND THE SOUL BROTHER" (1992).
If you find yourself in conversation with someone who claims to be a Hip Hop historian, lover and connoisseur, and they do not include T.R.O.Y. among the greatest individual songs they've ever experienced, please know that you're talking to a fraud.
When reflecting back on the power of the song five years ago, writer Tom Briehan succinctly wrote, "...in interviews, Rock has talked about how he was jumping up and down with excitement when he made the track, and how he and his friends were crying in the studio during the final mixdown. The song itself only mentions T-Roy a couple of times. For the rest of it, it’s CL Smooth giving sharp, clear-eyed memories of growing up poor and black, finding wisdom where other people didn’t see any, blundering his way into adulthood. But even though he’s not a constant presence in the song, T-Roy hangs over the entire thing just because it’s impossible to imagine it existing without him. Sad as it is, the senseless death of a friend is a rite of passage in a lot of ways; I’m not sure you can call yourself a grown-up until you’re forced to wrap your head around it at least once. And so “T.R.O.Y.” finds CL Smooth, a reflective rapper by temperament, in an especially reflective mood, going back to the happy glow of every major event that led to his life. And it’s also just a masterful piece of music, CL expertly winding his conversational delivery through that dizzily beautiful forest of horns."
Mecca and the Soul Brother
There's plenty more to enjoy on Pete Rock's sprawling canvas of remarkable beats, as CL floats effortlessly along with a style that perfectly compliments the instrumentals, all of which could stand alone as Hip Hop classics.
Mecca and the Soul Brother explores such a wide range of topics and ideas - from consciousness to love, from black power to family, from bootlegging to politics, from talking shit to the everyday urban struggle, from hitting some skins to being tender, all the while exuding the very essence of hood machismo.
The album found two young, brilliant artists raised on Jazz and Classic Soul as children at the height of their creative powers in young adulthood. Through an array of orchestral layers, horns, and the blending of so many musical genres, we were gifted with the perfect partnership in Hip Hop storytelling. One was a master of words, the other a genius of modern musical composition.
25 years later, Mecca and the Soul Brother is still an astounding, regenerating breath of fresh air.