April 8, 2008

Pete Rock & CL Smooth - All Souled Out (June 25, 1991)



Peter Phillips and Corey Penn, better known in the filed as their gamer aliases Pete Rock & CL Smooth, are a duo from Mount Vernon, New York, who have earned praise from critics and hip hop heads alike for their jazz-influenced beats (Pete) and their ability to rhyme over said beats (CL). They were known for remixing existing hits for rap and R&B artists alike, until Elektra Records gave them a shot at earning their own audience share.

In a move that I completely agree with but most of the music industry refuses to acknowledge (at least when it comes to hip hop), Elektra Records only commissioned Pete and CL to record a six-song EP, as a way to introduce themselves to America. The sales of the final product, All Souled Out, would then have to justify the release of a full album. (Why, if only most of the rappers in the South were marketed with this blueprint, we may not be wondering why hip hop is as dead as disco.) Pete and CL ran with this opportunity, and the rest is history.

Obviously, All Souled Out found its niche, since if you're still reading this write-up you will have heard of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, from their rise to their eventual falling-out. The breakup of the duo wouldn't happen for several years yet, so there is no foreshadowing on All Souled Out, just the rhymes of a talented guy just happy to get a shot, and the early-but-still-ridiculously-professional beats from who would later become one of the best producers in hip hop, period.

So are the six songs on All Souled Out worth your time? I don't usually like to show my cards so early in the game, but yes.

1. GOOD LIFE
Aah, drums and horns. I like how CL Smooth praises his lady friend's intelligence by mentioning that "you use logic". The song itself has a timeless quality; it's as if Pete and CL could have recorded this song last week (that is, if they were still on speaking terms), and it would still sound exactly the same. This is a good thing.

2. MECCA & THE SOUL BROTHER
Ah, a title track for an album that hadn't even been announced at this point. In contrast, this song sounds clearly dated, but in a "it still rocks harder than anything released in the new millennium" kind of way. Beats like this probably would have saved Pete's solo sequel Soul Survivor II. Also, better collaborators. (Side note: So Vast Aire has a Cannibal Ox reunion track produced by Peter Rockefeller called "Mecca & The Ox"? What the fuck? Isn't Pete supposed to be the 'Soul Brother' of the title? Why else would everyone call him Soul Brother Number One?)

3. GO WITH THE FLOW
It's not a bad song by any means, but I'm not really feeling this one. I suppose it would serve as some great inspiration when I remove my pan flute from its holster and turn all Zamfir on my two readers, but that's it.

4. THE CREATOR
Pete Rock's solo rhyme showcase, on which he sounds like a speedier Erick Sermon, a comparison that you can't really make today. While he's never been the best rapper (indeed, he's usually outshined by any given rapper that appears on a track with him, but be fair to the man, he's a producer first), he holds his own admirably on this track. I believe "The Creator" was a minor hit back in the day, which is hilarious to me, since it's the one song that doesn't really feature CL Smooth.

5. ALL SOULED OUT
Not bad, but not great. Pete and CL would make much better songs later in their respective careers.

6. GOOD LIFE (GROUP HOME MIX)
The new beat sounds much darker, and yet, more optimistic, than the original, even though the lyrics are exactly the same. That said, I prefer this version to the original. I don't have a clue why it's called the "Group Home" mix, though I'm sure it has nothing to do with those two weed carriers who were lucky enough to score Primo beats from the local Goodwill.

FINAL THOUGHTS: All Souled Out sounds like the type of album you listen to while smoking cigarettes while sitting around in a black-and-white hue as the smoke circles you and your friends, while you write your musical dissertation on overt jazz influences on popular music out loud as your friends debate your every thought. Pete and CL easily prove that they are deserving of an album, and their full-length debut Mecca and the Soul Brother would see itself hit store shelves one year later.

BUY OR BURN? A six track EP with four great songs? There's a sixty-six percent chance that you'll love this disc. You can't pass up those odds. Legally. People have been locked up for less.

BEST TRACKS: "Good Life (Group Home Mix)"; "Good Life"; "Mecca & The Soul Brother"; "The Creator"

-Max

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8 comments:

  1. Indeed a very dope debut. The EP idea is great- I chimed in on the Beatnuts review about this too, but it bears repeating. SHOW US YOU CAN HOLD DOWN A EP AND YOU CAN DO AN ALBUM.
    CL takes over the DJ role on "The Creator", and it's kinda neat to think about a song where the DJ and rapper switch roles for kicks.

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  2. This version of Mecca and the Soul Brother is one of my most favorite PR beats and is very slept on. Everyone always says reminsce which is no where near this.

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  3. I think the fact that there are only two comments prior to this one is very telling of the nature of the hip hop fanatic today. It brings a tear to my eye, really. But then again, so does everything on the radio.

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  4. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessApril 22, 2008

    I hadn't commented on this but I'll respond to the bait. Pete Rock is an all time top 5 producer. I'm not too happy with his choices of conspirators on his latest record but the man's catalog is phenomenal. I'm not a big fan of CL Smooth so I'm not nuts about their records together but I don't begrudge anyone calling them classic records.

    In other news, it looks like I've crafted the hater's creed with Max is a cunt who eats homo shit. I wrote that sarcastically but it seems to have struck a nerve among the tomato chuckers.

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  5. CL is average at best MC, he was ok on Mecca and almost awful on The Main, puttin in waste some of the best Pete's production. No surprise they split after.

    EP is mad nice, out of print now and cost a decent amount of cash, worth every penny though. And Mecca And The Soul Brother (song) is one of my favourites and obviously is the best track here.

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  6. AnonymousMay 14, 2015

    I honestly believe that had it not been for CL Smooth's rhymes, Pete Rock would not have any classic songs. In his own words and by his partner's admission, CL Smooth is "the best who ever did it on a Pete Rock track."

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  7. AnonymousMay 18, 2015

    I think of The Creator as a Grand Puba solo. Makes sense since he's the one who wrote all the rhymes.

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    1. That's a reductive way of appraising Pete Rock's production contribution on the song, let alone the project. However, I don't feel that a rapper using a ghostwriter automatically knocks him or her down a few pegs: if we are to treat hip hop as a musical genre, akin to other genres, then we have to accept that a lot of artists in many genres don't write their own songs, and instead focus on the final product as a whole. "The Creator" bangs; so what if Grand Puba gets the writing credit? Doesn't take away from the fact that it bangs.

      Most actors don't write the lines they perform on TV or in film, either; doesn't make their performances any less good (or bad).

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