Pete Rock & CL Smooth are a hip-hop duo from Mount Vernon, New York. They made their debut with their 1991 EP, All Souled Out and followed with 1992’s Mecca and the Soul Brother LP. As a producer, DJ Pete Rock (Peter Phillips) tended to prefer obscure soul and jazz sides for sample sources, frequently making use of horn-driven hooks. Lead vocalist CL Smooth (Corey Penn) tended to be philosophical in his raps, and he mostly avoided profanity. Their signature hit was “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”, a dirge for fallen friends—namely Troy “Trouble T-Roy” Dixon, a member of Heavy D & The Boyz, who died in 1990. They were first signed to Elektra Records, managed, and Executive Produced by Eddie F of Heavy D and The Boyz and Untouchables Entertainment who also then managed Pete Rock as a producer. Pete Rock was one of the original three “Untouchables” producers along with Eddie F himself and Nevelle Hodge.
1994’s The Main Ingredient was the follow-up, and they appeared on a string of guest appearances for remixes, soundtracks, and other works. Public Enemy, EPMD, Heavy D and Johnny Gill were among the artists they collaborated with, and they can also claim credit for producing (and performing on) Run–D.M.C.’s 1993 comeback single ‘Down with the King’. Despite all this, the duo failed to go gold on any of their own releases in the 1990s.
Separating in 1995 (shortly after a Sprite TV commercial), they eventually worked together again on a handful of cuts from Pete Rock’s solo recordings: Soul Survivor (1998), PeteStrumentals (2001) and Soul Survivor II (2004). The duo also went on a brief reunion tour as a warm up for their then-anticipated new album, which ended with a show at London’s famous Jazz Cafe. Despite these intermittent collaborations, the pair has exchanged dismissive comments toward each other in separate interviews, disavowing plans for a full-fledged reunion.
Their best-of compilation, Good Life, was released on Elektra/WEA in 2003.
During this period, CL Smooth went on to release two solo albums – American Me in 2006 and The Outsider in 2007. Pete Rock would produce tracks for numerous artists, including CL Smooth’s It’s a Love Thing and Love is a Battlefield from each of his solo albums. Pete Rock had confirmed that among his promised new slew of releases in 2011, that one of the albums would be the third album between himself and CL Smooth, that as of 2012, is still in the works.
A deluxe CD box set of Mecca and the Soul Brother was released on September 14, 2010 by Traffic Entertainment Group. The package includes a remastered CD of the original album, a second disc of remixes, instrumentals and a cappellas, a fold-out poster and a detailed booklet with interviews and insights from Rock and Smooth by Brian Coleman.
In late 2010, the two finally ended their creative differences after 15 years of being at odds with each other. The duo has officially reunited for the sake of hip-hop and are respectfully working with each other again. The death of hip-hop pioneer Guru earlier in the year was a major catalyst which led to inspiring their reunion. They wanted to avoid the fate which befell Gang Starr, in which lead rapper Guru had not been on speaking terms with DJ Premier for roughly seven years before his untimely death from cancer before their differences could be resolved.
While touring in London with CL Smooth in early December 2011, Pete Rock stated that a new album was already in the works and would be released by year’s end, or as soon as it was completed. The album will be the duo’s third album, and the first album since 1994’s The Main Ingredient.