Reminisce On Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s Mecca & The Soul Brother 25 Years Later (Video)
On June 9, 1992, two men from the outskirts of New York City paired up to form an MC-producer duo that remains the benchmark for any pair eager to leave a mark on Hip-Hop. Pete Rock and CL Smooth of Mt. Vernon dropped Mecca and the Soul Brother, a powerhouse debut LP that’s home to arguably one of the finest pieces of Rap music, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” as well as a host of other tracks showcasing Pete’s innovation behind the board and CL’s silky smooth lyrical prowess. At the time of its release, as expressed by Ambrosia for Heads in the past, “the bond was strong, and the skies were limitless for a crew that complemented each other, and channeled the Soul of yesterday in lyrics and beats. A Top 50 release, the guys were ready for the mainstream, and joined acts like Gang Starr and The Pharcyde in bringing something different to hit-savvy Rap fans.”
Tomorrow (June 9) marks the 25th anniversary of the timeless classic, an LP whose signature sounds continue to influence and inspire. Years ago, Complex produced a standout mini-documentary on Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s hallmark masterpiece, “T.R.O.Y.,” and it will give any Hip-Hop Head chills. In it, Soul Brother #1 and the Mecca Don discuss the song’s importance, not just in its being an homage to fallen comrade Troy “Trouble T-Roy” Dixon but also its significance to Hip-Hop’s so-called “Golden Era.” But first, the two discuss meeting each other, with Pete Rock saying of his future collaborator “I heard him rap, and he had a distinctive voice. He didn’t sound like anyone. I was mesmerized by his voice.”
That voice is, of course, a major contributing factor “T.R.O.Y.”‘s beatified status, a quarter of a century since its release. At the 3:16 mark, Pete reflects on the success he and CL were reaching with the release of their debut EP, All Souled Out. “At the time, we lost a very close friend of ours,” he says of Troy. CL brings viewers back to the day he met Troy, explaining they met “during one of the great fights out of Mt. Vernon.” As two men squabbled on the street, CL says the experience brought he and Troy close together. “We understood what it was to be forgiving, to be loving, to be compassionate. And to have some brotherhood” (T to the R-O-Y, how did you and I meet?/In front of Big Lou’s, fighting in the street/But only you saw what took many time to see/I dedicate this to you for believing in me).
At the time of his death, Troy was on tour with Heavy D & The Boyz as a dancer. His death was the result of a freak accident, in which he fell 20 feet after attempting to jump onto a ledge. “That was one of the worst days of my life, because Troy taught me the streets,” remembers Pete. “I don’t know how I did it, but out of depression came that song,” he says of the classic tribute record. CL adds, “I wrote the music without the music. It was music in your head, but it was no music you were particularly listening to. And then [Pete] put the music on, and I was in the booth, doing what I do. And we paused for a minute, and he was like ‘you know, I think we need to really take this session and just chuck it away. Let me build something around what you just said.'”
It’s then that CL goes into his specific memories of creating the version of “T.R.O.Y.” we now know and love. “The very next day, we had a session, and [Pete] came in with Tom Scott.” “It just came to me,” says Pete of the inspiration fueled by the Tom Scott sample. “You know how a kid gets happy after receiving candy from a candy store? Well, it was like that. I just kept adding the candy and the cherry was the actual horn riff that you hear.”
Others involved in the documentary include Talib Kweli, Jarobi, and many more.