Pete Rock Shares How Biggie & 2pac's Murders Led Him to Bridge East Coast & West Coast Hip Hop
Pete Rock, the legendary hip-hop producer, told his story on TV One's Unsung series on Sunday (March 27). The episode followed Rock as he moved from the Bronx to Mount Vernon, New York. There he made magic in an underground studio on Hillside Avenue affectionately known as The Basement.
The Basement was a hip hop creative hub, similar to Outkast and Goodie Mob's Dungeon in Atlanta. There were many celebrities who came though the modest home in Mt. Vernon, including Nas, Will Smith, Busta Rhymes, The Notorious B.I.G., and LL COOL J. This is where Rock really developed his skills as a producer, DJ, and MC.
Rock's life was forever changed in 1990 when Troy Dixon died in a freak accident while touring with his cousin Heavy D. The tragedy spawned the 1992 Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth classic "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y. )," which pays tribute to the fallen musician. The song was taken from the pair's sophomore album Mecca and the Soul Brother, which boosted their careers to epic heights and soon, Rock became a go-to producer.
As a songwriter for Nas ("The World Is Yours"), Run-DMC ("Down With The King") and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince ("Something Like Dis," "Code Red"), Pete Rock was on top of the world, but the murders of 2Pac and Biggie rocked Hip Hop to its core. They also helped Rock bridge West Coast and East Coast Hip Hop with a 1998 collaboration called "Tru Master", featuring Kurupt and Wu-Tang Clan's Inspectah Deck.
“Once I established myself in the game and made relationships with people and with artists and stuff, anytime I would meet an artist, we always talk about working,” he explained in a recent interview with HipHopDX. “So I thought the perfect opportunity after all of that stuff was going on was to come together with the coasts and just show love. That’s all.”
“I always have respect for the West Coast. I probably was the only DJ in New York playing West Coast music at the time when The Chronic came out and all that stuff. I distinctly remember playing The D.O.C.’s record when that came out first. People would think it was dope because a good ear knows good music.”
“That’s it, period. It ain’t about a person’s personal. It’s the music. You know what I mean? And then it was a cover of that Foster Sylvers record [1973’s ‘Misdemeanor’], which I loved since I was a kid. It was pretty dope to me.”
Upon being asked whether Biggie and 2Pac's murders were catalysts for "Tru Master," Rock answered, “Yeah, It was 1998. Anytime I went to the West Coast, I always showed love and respect and got it back. So I feel like that’s very important when you’re going to another side of the coast and you’re stepping in a different arena, because you don’t know anything or any type of culture they do and you have to learn about where you go, everywhere you go.”
On the Unsung episode, Rock talked about never buying into the West Coast-East Coast rivalry saying, "I never believed in East and West Coast beef." As a result, he was able to work with anyone - whether it was Compton's Most Wanted rapper MC Eiht or Method Man.
He owes a lot to his father, who was also a DJ growing up. If he stopped his son from building a mini-studio in his family’s home, The Basement might not have become a music mecca.
“He had a lot of records around and the basement was off limits,” Rock explained. “I couldn’t possibly have any space with all the records that he had. He was serious about his space. He didn’t play.” Rock instead took his records to a friend's house and the rest is history.
“I did a party next door to a friend of mine’s house and I brought all my records over there and equipment over there and I did a house party, which was pretty crowded that night,” he recalled. “It was a good party. It was such a good party that I just left my stuff over there at my friend’s house next door and just never took it out of there. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t.”
“Then I started working on my career with Heavy D. And he was already working on his career and I was just under his wing. But he believed in me and he believed that I had talent and we worked on that a lot with each other. And then the stuff was still down there in the basement. And I just made it a little home place for me to make music.”
He hasn't stopped making music since discovering his true passion 30+ years ago, except for a brief hiatus. In the doc, he notes that at 7 a.m., he wakes up to make beats, sometimes until midnight. There is no surprise then that PeteStrumentals 4, the fourth installment of his ongoing series of instrumentals, is set to release on March 31.