Pete Rock

Matt Oliver selects all the best Hip Hop cuts, videos, mixtapes and news from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. 

Welcome to Rapture & Verse, the utterly indispensable/highly disposable hip-hop appraisal that has blown its monthly writer’s fee on the Cam’ron range of shower curtains and Mother’s Day cards, when it really should’ve been saving for the white 7-inch edition of Clipse’s ‘Lord Willin’. All the while we’ve been startled by revelations that hip-hop has actually been more influential than The Beatles. Talking of skewed academic logic, Lil John was a speaker at Oxford University this month.

Future samplers of Bob James beware – the source of some of hip-hop’s best moments (Ghostface’s ‘Daytona 500’, RUN DMC’s ‘Peter Piper’) is suing Madlib and Stones Throw for copyright infringement. The Game’s TV dating show ended up in gun-waving chaos, while Lil Kim will no doubt make for similarly compelling view on her own reality show. Best step away from the gogglebox and instead check when Jurassic 5 and Oddisee are in your neighbourhood in September.


‘Against All Authorities’ by veteran agitators Onyx should only be listened to in full riot gear – fight music that creeps its way to a six-track ambush. Compare this to cultish stress reliever ‘Aunty Pearl’s House’, where Paul White turns up to a bleary smokehouse with Eric Biddines. Cause of neck cricks comes from De La Soul’s ‘God It’, a legends-know-best reminder with Nas chipping in on the hook. Then wrap said injured neck in a mink fur so you can match the lolling funk of Grand Daddy IU’s ‘PIMP Intro’, a bit of a guilty pleasure with Marco Polo making music to rock “gators and ostrich” by. Then get humbled by Dylan Owen’s ‘The Best Fears of Our Lives’, a passionate introspection examining the reality of reality in dreamy folk-blues-alt-hop desolation.

Straight-up rat-a-tat freestyles from Papoose on ‘Banned from Radio’, ‘Blackout’ and ‘Get at Me Dog’ shows he’s still got more bars than a chain of prison-themed public houses. MaLLy’s ‘Say My Peace’ is the Minneapolis emcee cracking his knuckles over the mic, completely commanding a beat with a temper resting on a tripwire. Less delicate are New Jersey’s 050 Boyz, bursting through and going for theirs over an instant, posse-shot horn banger asking you to ‘Pay Them No Mind.’ Wu-Tang tales of the unexpected cross the murder mystery of Adrian Younge’s unsettlingly good ‘Return of the Savage’, to Killah Priest fighting the final frontier on ‘Alien Stars.’


Lavishly packaged while feeding uncut hip-hop into both eyes and ears, Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric re-energise Czarface for a second vengeful episode on ‘Every Hero Needs a Villain’. A glorious brawl letting fly with superhero special powers and bare-knuckled slugging, it’s a blockbuster sequel, pipping the original for high octane impacts. Full of body-bagging explosions, car chases, and epic fight scenes between three titans.

Not sure how many people saw this one coming…it’s Pete Rock’s ‘PeteStrumentals 2’, 14 years or so after the original. A clean-cut, layered loop session – not a groundbreaking voyage of flight and fancy, though it reaches out to a plethora of sets and scenarios – its humble alchemy of the funky fresh and effortlessly soulful is at home on both the streets and the beach. Marked by the Chocolate Boy Wonder’s high IQ of samples and kick-snare pressure, this has every intention of scaring off emcees as it rests in your headphones.

Sticking to the word-less script, HashFinger shows there’s nothing wrong with hitting an instrumental straight and narrow; headnodder’s sanctuary ‘Kites’ entwines closing time jazz, slow-handed funk, scratches and samples with the swing of a hammock in a Bradford breeze, equipped to kick like a coffee shop espresso. Instrumentalism in zero gravity from Beatnick Dee, Jaisu and Twiz the Beat Pro examines ‘Space’, a star strider regularly attacked by jitters. A classic exploration of back to the future boom-bap, as comforting as it is intimidating, will leave you wide-eared throughout.

UK grit ground into exotic, sometimes foreboding Indian flavours and colours, Statue Stance’s ‘Nomads Notepad’ is an ambitious culture clash with positive results, with Ryan Amos and Bambu Hands fully engrained in the locale and not just here as postcard-writing tourists. Your appreciation will be for a good cause as well. High Focus’ 5th anniversary is commemorated by Pete Cannon dropping off a generously chunky remix gift bag covering all the label’s top bombers – Dirty Dike, Edward Scissortongue, Fliptrix and Jam Baxter all take the cake on a comp ready for a stupendous number of rewinds after the candles have been blown out.

Once upon a time this columnist interviewed Murs, who basically revealed he was on the verge of retirement. That was 12 years ago, and now here’s his umpteenth album, ‘Have a Nice Life’. Still a slept-on, relatable storyteller, ever willing to let listeners in on his personal ups and downs, his craft and craftiness remains on the up. Sonically it spotlights the man sufficiently, albeit with some unspectacular and some over-reaching moments.

If you’ve followed the evolution of Lyrics Born, you’ll be pleased/unsurprised that ‘Real People’ doesn’t hold back on the big band numbers while showing he’s still one of the nimblest and most quotable emcees around. A rollicking good time stands up to hip-hop’s insularities, hotfooting its way across the stage with hard-to-hate pop gloss and invites of crowd participation. Also enterprising and opening itself to audience investment, STS and RJD2 combine for a very bluesy and funkily organic record, with the rhymer slaloming through the latter’s bold licks and pieces that foster his prestigious discography. RJ looks to lure you to a backwater bar with melody and musicality, while STS’s slick vocab has a peskiness that plays up to the music while also playing the game on its own terms.

Should you feel the need to hot-wire a flatbed truck and run red lights galore, head for the sign marked ‘Welcome to Los Santos’, which sends Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs, Ab-Soul, E-40, A$AP Ferg and more to meet a gang of electro-rock/pop ruffians on the command of Alchemist and Oh No. A medley made to reflect GTA’s in-game radio twiddling, it does enough to avoid the use of a joypad. emC, now a triple threat of Masta Ace, Wordsworth and Stricklin, present ‘The Tonight Show’. Strengths in group interplay, beats-and-rhymes standards and a smooth-to-rugged balance, are let down by too many skits peppering the album’s talk show concept. Yet another Canibus LP – his 16th – selects Bronze Nazareth as his latest soundboard. ‘Time Flys, Life Dies’ strains for supremacy, but shows there’s still fire in the belly of the ‘Bus – notably remaking Black Rob’s ‘Whoa!’ – and that he can still pull in a guest and shred a suitable beat.

On the back of some pretty preposterous artwork and an outdated acronym-title concept, Raekwon’s ‘F.I.L.A.’ isn’t without moments of Gambino goodness but doesn’t quite hit the spot, despite fronting up with A$AP Rocky, Ghostface, French Montana and Rick Ross. Still knocking the funk back and standing tall in the Bronx, Camp-Lo’s ‘Ragtime Hightimes’ doesn’t miss a step with Geechi Seude and Sonny Cheeba shoring up their back catalogue and coming in on the blindside of year-round choices.

 Monolith Cocktail

Versed in the ways of the golden age and not budging one inch from jump-up boom-bap and call-and-response throwbacks, Dutch rhymer BlabberMouf is hyped throughout ‘Da BlabberMouf LP’: like Mac Miller reworking the ‘Scenario’ remix or mid 90s Queensbridge 14 times over. A reissue of Lil NoID’s 20-year old ‘Paranoid Funk’ shows Southern swag in its gloomiest light, though the quality of the pressing may have something to do with the unease that’s like the album meeting a watery ending after passing through a sinkhole, grabbing at its gun and groin as it goes.

Mixtapes & VT

Muj’s ‘Beat Tape’ series harvests a prime crop of breaks, funk, 80s pop splices and TV bric-a-brac from Irn Mnky, a rogue visitor to the back of the second-hand shop putting shit together to a Yorkshire tee. He’s followed by Mr Galactus, another maverick arranger of dusty wax piled into a collage of suss funk, shambling rock and instrumental slyness to feed the hunger of those wanting the inside track on raw source materials.

Gruff trap from Ryan Hemsworth on the thrusting ‘Just Rap Mix’ fixes forty minutes of paper chases and rowdy pleasures put on by Gucci Mane, Future, Chief Keef et al, and low-rider schmoozing from Luniz ‘High Timez’ finds sunshine in predictable subject matter. Remi, who is presently scooting around the UK on tour, lays down ‘Call It What You Want’ with kindred boardsmith Sensible J, a flexible seven-track snapshot of the able Australian’s rising stock.

Hark: the reign of Oliver Sudden, Bishop Nehru pushing it, Lee Scott’s blurred lines and MNSR Frites balancing the books.

Words: Matt Oliver 

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