Other than CL Smooth, Rob-O is probably the strongest rapper Pete Rock ever blessed with a full album of his productions. Of course, that’s small praise when the competition is Deda and the rest of the dudes from INI. Personally, I always found Rob pretty bland, but I’ll listen to pretty much anybody over a Pete Rock track (especially the mid-90’s shit INI was freaking.) After Center of Attention got shelved, I always figured Rob had found a new career; after all, I hadn’t heard anything from him since his last appearance with Pete, on 1998’s Soul Survivor. So imagine my surprise last week when, browsing the stacks at Rasputin, I stumbled upon Rhyme Pro. Less an album than a collection of singles and unreleased tracks, Rhyme Pro boasts uniformly solid production and, on songs like the biographical “Life I Live Part 2,” some surprisingly engaging performances from Rob himself. Elsewhere on the album he’s predictably boring, but at least he’s never irritating like Deda; at worst he kind of blends into the track and you just tune him out. Of course, the main reason I bought this album (well, aside from the $3.95 price tag) were the four tracks by the Chocolate Boy Wonder, none of which I’d heard before. Ostensibly recorded sometime between The Main Ingredient and Soul Survivor, these joints are smooth, laid-back, and jazzy—perfectly suited to Rob-O’s mellow flow (though he definitely gets overshadowed some by the production.) Surprisingly, they aren’t necessarily even the best songs here, as others allow Rob to acquit himself a bit better lyrically over equally solid, if different, production by a handful of lesser-knowns. Interestingly, the album includes two tracks previously released as part of INI’s Center of Attention, an album whose full production is always credited to Pete Rock. Here, however, “Don’t You Want It” and “Wunderlust” are credited to Spunk Bigga and Grap Luva, respectively. Hard to know about that one, I guess, without asking Pete. Anyway, peep the nineties-era Pete Rock tracks below, and if you like what you hear go ‘head and cop the album. Amazingly, it’s still in print.
Stay Away ft. De La Soul (download)
Mention Me ft. Meccalicious (download)
So Many Rappers ft. Pete Rock (download)
Superspectacular ft. Pete Rock (download)