After releasing the classic Mecca and The Soul Brother in 1992 (I reviewed that here), Pete Rock & CL Smooth would go on to release another classic in The Main Ingredient in '94. However, after that, the two sadly disbanded due to internal differences, leaving a gaping hole in the hip-hop industry that would never (and will never) be filled. Still, no one will forget the lasting legacy that Pete Rock & CL Smooth left on the rap game, as the two projects they put out together will forever be renowned as elite albums that changed the course of the genre's landscape and should be a part of every hip-hop fan's collection.
Pete Rock's production on The Main Ingredient is much more subdued than it was on Mecca and The Soul Brother, as the beats on the album tend to be much lighter and less hard-hitting. The contrast is welcome, though, as who wants to hear two records that sound exactly alike? It is for this reason that it is difficult to compare the group's two works.
Most people (myself included) would probably lean toward Mecca and The Soul Brother as being the more complete project, and, therefore, the better album, but both were outstanding, so who really cares, right?
1. In The House
I said I liked Mecca and The Soul Brother better than The Main Ingredient, but that doesn't have to mean that my favorite song by Pete Rock & CL Smooth has to be off of their debut, as "In The House" takes the cake for me in terms of being their best song. Pete Rock's beat is incredible, and I think he actually outshines CL on the mic on this. Honestly, though, I wasn't paying much attention to the lyrics, as the production just had me mesmerized.
2. Carmel City
I really love the kick drums on this cut. The sample reminds one of a hot summer day by the pool. If you're wondering what the song is actually about, it's one of PR and CL's typical classy ballads to the ladies.
3. I Get Physical
The drums on this sound much more like the type we saw on the duo's debut, as Pete Rock lays down some banging snares along with kicks that knock. The hook on this cut features fairly subtle horns to add some variety. This is really good.
4. Sun Won't Come Out
Remember what I said in my The Sun Rises In The East review about how every producer under the sun (no pun intended) samples Bob James' "Nautilus" at some point? Well, now it's PR's turn. Personally, I think his flip is much better than DJ Premier's. Great record.
5. I Got a Love
Okay; it takes a lot for me to say that I don't like a Pete Rock beat, but I'm saying it here. I just don't like "I Got a Love" one bit, and it has a lot to do with the fact that the vocal sample is annoying. Talk about a poor choice for the album's first single.
Drums, drums, drums. There are the occasional horns sprinkled about the track, but "Escape" is all about...yup; you guessed it: the drums. It's damn good, too.
7. The Main Ingredient
Ehh. I don't dislike this as much as I do "I Got a Love," but this certainly isn't one of my favorite Pete Rock & CL Smooth songs.
The shortest song on The Main Ingredient, spanning three minutes and three seconds. That little fact aside, I'm not too infatuated with this record. The album definitely hit a dry spell over three of the last four tracks. Oh; Rob-O makes the first guest appearance on the project here.
9. All The Places
Back on track. This bangs. The drums are phenomenal, and the quiet, subtle sample is fantastic, not to mention the fact that CL Smooth sounds especially great over this. CL doesn't exactly put forth the kind of scintillating lyrical performance on The Main Ingredient that he did on Mecca and The Soul Brother, but his delivery doesn't skip a beat.
10. Tell Me
The drums are very good (maybe this is where RZA got the idea for his "Incarcerated Scarfaces" beat on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...), and I love how the horns fade in and out throughout. Definitely has a "classic" hip-hop sound.
11. Take You There
This was The Main Ingredient's second single, and it was a great pick. Pete Rock's beat here is incredible and, in my opinion, sounded different than anything he produced prior to this. CL Smooth adjusts to the distinct instrumental accordingly, displaying his usual fantastic flow.
The third and final single of the album, and like "Take You There," it was a wise selection. It's another one of CL's attempts to swoon a woman, and, like always, he manages to make it work without sounding corny. "Searching" exemplifies smooth.
13. Check It Out
Another fairly unique beat from Pete Rock, and it sounds wonderful. The sample may seem a bit busy at certain points, but it still works. The hats and snares will give you chills.
14. In The Flesh
The drums on this sound very similar to that of those on Mobb Deep's "Right Back At You" off of The Infamous. Of course, The Main Ingredient came out first, so if anyone got the idea from the other, it was Havoc. Rob-O and Deda both drop guest verses here, marking the second and final time on the album that guests were featured. Nice, smooth cut.
15. It's On You
I love everything about this track, from the vocal sample to the sampled piano to PR's sick drums to CL's raps. "It's On You" epitomizes what a relaxing song should sound like. Easily one of the best songs on the album.
16. Get On The Mic
You know how I mentioned The Infamous before? Well, Pete Rock's beat on this sounds like it belongs on that album rather than this one; it just doesn't complement CL Smooth very well. It isn't terrible by any means, but I would have picked a much better way to close out the album had I been involved.
I think it should be pretty clear right after the first listen that The Main Ingredient is inferior to Mecca and The Soul Brother, but that doesn't mean this album isn't a classic, as a lot of the songs on here are really good. While the low points are fairly pronounced, the highs of the project significantly outweigh them, making this yet another masterful effort for Pete Rock & CL Smooth.
As I stated earlier, CL doesn't seem to come as strong as he did on the duo's debut, but, fortunately, due to his exceptional flow, you can look past that as a listener. Plus, it's not exactly like CL Smooth laid an egg on The Main Ingredient, because CL on a bad day is still better than 90% of other emcees out there.
As far as Pete Rock goes, he was certainly expanding his horizons as a producer and experimenting with different sounds at this point, as a trained ear should recognize that The Main Ingredient really is a vastly different project than Mecca and The Soul Brother. That's not a bad thing, either, as it is always nice to see a producer demonstrate some versatility, and PR does that on the duo's sophomore release.
You have to wonder how different a third album by these two would have sounded. Pete Rock has evolved considerably as a producer since The Main Ingredient, and it would have been interesting to see how that evolution would have played out on a third effort. Unfortunately, unless PR and CL patch up their differences, we'll never know.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
1. In The House
2. It's On You
3. I Get Physical
4. All The Places
5. Carmel City
I Got a Love