Pete Rock
The Surviving Elements


here’s a reason Pete Rock might be your favorite beatmaker’s favorite beatmaker. His (instrumental) music calls out to you in irregular, unexpected ways. Alright, so you’re not a rapper, and your participation in hip-hop culture may indeed be limited to occasionally watching BET by accident. Nonetheless, The Surviving Elements begs you to drop out of med school, sell your impractical stock in nano-technologies, and squash that doomed relationship once and for all. And for what, you ask? So that you may become a reclusive MC-in-training for four years straight, only to obtain the capacity to “spit the truth” over the 15 enduringly charming numbers offered up on this record.

Often times, you can’t take in how good one of Pete’s beats actually is until you hear it without that wretched vocal track. Such is the case with Soul Survivor II, Pete’s 2004 MC-laden full length. One could assume the budget for SSII was quite hefty, considering any album, especially one under the indie hip-hop umbrella, with verses from Slum Village, GZA, RZA, Dead Prez and Talib Kweli would likely require a good six years of routine plasma selling to fund in full. SSII was an enjoyable listen, but the subtle complexities of the music were often hushed by the vocals, high budget as they may have been. Surviving is perhaps a more robust endeavor, since the music is entirely instrumental, fully showcasing the intricacies of Pete’s craft. Oh, and there’s no scratching either. The palette here is unwaveringly barebones. Just remember that’s a good thing.

Now, you don’t necessarily have to be a “head” to know Pete was certainly not the first producer to keep a wealth of soul and jazz samples at his disposal, but he was one of the first to really get it right. (Sure, Premier and Large Professor got there around the same time, but Pete killed it deader.) His sound has been relevant since the day he and C.L. shared a brief stretch in the mainstream as bohemian jazz-rap aficionados. He’s kept his work grounded, changing with the times only to an extent. With the release of Surviving, Pete can nestle his work comfortably into the titty of current trends in production standards fostered by his pupils. (You know the bunch: J Dilla, Just Blaze and yeah, Kanye.) And why shouldn’t he? At the very least, those twerps owe him an evening with a really shapely hooker.

The album kicks off with “You Remind Me,” a five-minute plus sunlit soul banger complete with velvety strings and appropriately warbled basslines. Similarly, “Hop, Skip & Jump” goes the soul route (as does much of Surviving). Halfway through, “Marching On” commences with a hypnotic, calming guitar/vibes loop ŕ la DJ Shadow, then reassures with sharp hats and a bright snare. Rhythmically, “Hip 2 Hip” is on par with more recent joints by Madlib and J Dilla (gotta love those lazy rim shots).

It’s peculiar how good this album is considering its rhyme-ready nature. Every fleeting moment on Surviving will find you patiently waiting for that verse to drop, anticipating it more and more with each passing bar. That verse never comes, leaving you to notice all the sticky hot mess Pete is capable of. And if you’re honestly concerned with the lack of MC guest spots, just steal Adobe Audition and throw some Lil’ Wayne acapellas atop Pete’s ditties like Jesus would do. That’s an order.

Reviewed by: Will Simmons

Reviewed on: 2005-02-28

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Posted 02/28/2005 - 12:32:19 PM by yoshi4:
 i liked ur review. im checkin this one out. peace,y.
Posted 02/28/2005 - 05:57:03 PM by Jank82:
 I think this album may have been released without his approval. Rumor has it, anyway.
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