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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released May 26, 1992 | Rhino

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
It would have been hard to match the artistic success of their debut EP on a full-length recording, but Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth did just that on Mecca and the Soul Brother, and they did so in the most unlikely way of all after the succinctness of All Souled Out -- by coming up with a sprawling, nearly 80-minute-long album on which not a single song or interlude is a throwaway or a superfluous piece. Granted, 80 minutes is a long stretch of time for sustained listening, but the music is completely worthy of that time, allowing the duo to stretch out in ways that their EP rendered impossible. Again, the primary star is Pete Rock's production acumen, and he ups the ante of rock-solid drums, steady cymbal beats, smooth-rolling bass, and fatback organ, not to mention his signature horn loops. C.L. Smooth is the perfect vocal match for the music. He is maybe one of the few MCs capable of rapping a fairly credible love song, as he does on "Lots of Lovin'." "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)," a tribute to friend and Heavy D. dancer Trouble T-Roy, who was accidentally killed, packs a poignant emotional weight, but it is Smooth's more direct and conscientious -- and frequently autobiographical -- side which ultimately carries the album lyrically. The songs are connected and the album is propelled forward by Rock's quick, soul-tight interludes; these are usually bits of old R&B and soul tunes but sometimes they're spoken pieces or spontaneous, freestyle sessions. These interludes provide a sort of dense spiritual tone and resonance in the album that is not religiously based at all, but fully hip-hop based, emerging from the urban altars that are the basements and rooftops of the city. © Stanton Swihart /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 18, 1994 | Rhino - Elektra

On their third release overall and second full-length, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth scaled back on the expansive scope of their sprawling first opus, Mecca & the Soul Brother, indeed opting to magnify the main ingredients of their sound: Pete Rock's brilliant production chops and C.L Smooth's complex lyrical delivery. The result is an album that is far more focused, with all the ragged edges and loose threads tied up. It is also just as good as the first record, perhaps an even more satisfying single listen. The Main Ingredient is full of rich, resonant, hypnotic songs -- the production being among some of the most seductive in hip-hop -- that subtly, but absolutely, swing with their lock-step precision. In characteristic Pete Rock fashion, all of the sharp edges have been sanded down, leaving a vibrant and completely lush musical backdrop which seems to have a dreamy nostalgia about it. Old '60s and '70s soul, soul-jazz, and funk samples abound, and the music is dotted with gauzy keyboard washes, hugely echoed bass-drum kicks, milky basslines, and muted horn loops, almost sounding like they are emanating out of water. All of the songs feel immediate, yet they are infused with the sort of roomy ambience that lends to each the impression of a classic tune, evocative of an earlier era, but not one that can be described exactly, and not one to which you can definitively point. As usual, C.L. Smooth is lyrically on point, spitting out intellectual rhymes and narratives that are just as propulsive and engaging as the music. The only negative aspect about the album, then, is that it ended one of the finest hip-hop duos of the first half of the 1990s. © Stanton Swihart /TiVo