Dr. Dre’s 2001 vs. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s Mecca And The Soul Brother. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Dr. Dre’s 2001 and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s Mecca And The Soul Brother are two 1990s albums that are brilliantly produced, and complemented to perfection on the lyrics. From across the country, these two works were commentaries on where two acts were at the top. As the reclusive D-R-E was redefining his legacy on his terms, Pete and C.L. saw an open lane in Hip-Hop, and owned the space. One of these albums is six-times-platinum, while the other carries no plaques. However, on any Saturday night, at nearly any venue where Hip-Hop is played, Heads will likely hear jewels from either. You decide which plays on in the “Finding The GOAT” challenge (click one then click “vote”).
2001 by Dr. Dre
Following 1992’s The Chronic, no Hip-Hop artist faced more pressure for a sequel than Dr. Dre. Before sequels were even a Rap cliche, the Compton, California producer began rolling up tracks. However, just like his pivot to a solo career, label woes and controversy delayed the work. By 1999, however, Dr. Dre was settled. He had established his own Aftermath Entertainment, built an ensemble of producers and musicians at his disposal, and signed a Rap-Pop juggernaut in Eminem. Although plans for calling an album Chronic 2000 were snatched away by his former Death Row family, Dre took solace in a much less treacherous industry than he’d dealt with over the last decade. Thus, 2001 was a sound odyssey, taking Dre’s reputation for switching styles up to a whole other dimension. The symbolism and iconography of 2001 follows The Chronic. “Still D.R.E.” established that while non-violent, and a family man, Dre could still pick up Snoop Dogg and The D.O.C., burn trees, and go low-riding through Southern California. Similarly, “The Next Episode” enhanced a weeded rhyme routine from the earliest Death Row days into an orchestral anthem—replete with samples, but this time David Axelrod in lieu of P-Funk. With nearly all of The Chronic players out of their former contracts, the song fed the masses something they’d missed for nearly five years, and built upon the chemistry. Additionally, Dre reunited with MC Ren, and properly addressed the grief surrounding the death of Eazy-E (and his brother Tyree).
While 2001 and its predecessor share many attributes, sonically, they are vastly different. At a time when Southern Rap’s influence was paramount, Dre swapped dirty pan drums and ’70s Funk kits for booming bass hits. The doctor’s sophomore set was clean, polished, and expensive sounding. “Xxplosive” was a Gangsta Rap laser show, “Murder Ink” was a trunk rattling homage to Halloween, while “Bang Bang” and “What’s The Difference” were massive studio creations. Dre’s effects at his disposal were growing akin to those of George Lucas, the creator of the very opening sequence Andre Young used on this go-round. Dre’s fanatical revisions and ear for quality were apparent. This album showed the maturity of a 34 year-old, but also his refusal to put down the pot, the porn, or the passion for Rap. Dre reflected on his younger days, but let Em’, Snoop, Knoc-turn-al, and Xzibit go there more viscerally than he did. It may have taken longer to prove it than he would have liked, but 2001 was Dr. Dre’s legacy chip to be one of the GOAT producers and album-makers.
Album Number: 2 (solo)
Released: November 16, 1999
Label: Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, January 2000; certified platinum, January 2000; certified 6x platinum, November 2000)
Song Guests: Eminem, Snoop Dogg, MC Ren, King T, Xzibit, Mary J. Blige, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, Devin The Dude, Hittman, Tray Deee, Defari, Six-Two, Traci Nelson, Ms. Roq, Eddie Griffin, Mel-Man, Charis Henry, Time Bomb, Kokane, Knoc’turn’al, Jake Steed, Rell, Tommy Chong, The D.O.C., Ian Sanchez, Colin Wolfe, Mike Elizondo, Preston Crumo, Sean Cruse, Camara Cambon, Scott Storch, Taku Hirano, Jason Hann, DJ Pen
Song Producers: (self), Mel-Man, Lord Finesse
Mecca And The Soul Brother by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
After one stellar EP (All Souled Out) for those in the know, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth proved their place among the masters in Mecca And The Soul Brother. At a time when Rap was basking in its “hardcore” era, Pete and C.L. presented a soulful, insightful, and incredibly satisfying album that fit in headphones, the car, and block party barbecues. The two delegates from Mount Vernon and New Rochelle, New York, respectively, found a seamless synergy together. Songs like “Straighten It Out” captured a gleeful era in music, and synthesized it to knocking Hip-Hop sounds. Pete knew the hard-to-reach samples, and arranged drums as well as any producer in the genre. For his part, C.L.’s buttery voice and conversational flow made the presentation seem natural. “Soul Brother #1” and “Act Like You Know” were songs that focused on what Blackness meant in 1992. The two artists encouraged Heads to avoid the “Ghettos Of The Mind,” and focus on “Lots Of Lovin’.” Like Kendrick Lamar 20 years later, Pete and C.L. knew how to gain access to any listener’s ear, and they made sure to always say something. However, unlike some of their peers, the group was never preachy in verse or theme. They loved sex, coolin’ out, and making music in “The Basement” while on a higher path.
Mecca And The Soul Brother has a sound that showed a great intersection of music’s past and future. The album was heavily informed by Jazz and Soul, while arranged in a way that was a clear break from the likes of Pete’s Future Flavors radio partner, DJ Marley Marl. New York, sample-driven Hip-Hop was headed in a new direction, and extracting different moods than just B-Boy certified Funk. Perhaps the album’s tenderloin, in lyric and sound is “They Reminisce Over You.” A dedication to Trouble T-Roy of brethren Heavy D & The Boyz, C.L. Smooth takes Pete’s blanket of Jazz Soul and rhymes meditatively. The song, in title and message, salutes a friend. In doing so, the record becomes a tribute all can use, and a song of reflection on family—especially Black Family, and sticking together. Somehow, with its horns, heaviness, and hurt, “T.R.O.Y.” is a club song that inevitably moves bodies then, now, and 20 years from now. This is what Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth did so masterfully, especially on their most heralded work. Mecca And The Soul Brother is the kind of album that feels like a book, given to loved ones to steer the course of their thinking.
Album Number: 1
Released: June 9, 1992
Label: Elektra Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #43
Song Guests: Heavy D, Grand Puba, I.n.I. (Rob-O, Deda & Grap Luva), Adofo Abdullah Muhammad, Terri & Monica (Terri Robinson & Tabitha Brace)
Song Producers: (self), Large Professor, Nevelle Hodge
So which is the better album? Make sure you vote above.