Get Pete Rock on the boards and watch successful projects manifest. In recent memory Jay-Z and Mr. West know what happens when they allow Rock to “let the needle drop.” Besides providing the Throne guys a Curtis Mayfield loop, Rock’s still assembling his own projects. Monumental sees the New York production maestro link up with fellow Big Apple veterans, Smif-N-Wessun, and a bevy of A-list MCs. The assembly reminds listeners that the producer still has plenty of boom-bap magic going into the 21st century.
Monumental’s top half kicks into full gear with Rock’s empowering production that sounds as relevant in 2011 as it did with CL Smooth in 1991. The eponymous track, “Monumental,” gets a harmonic hook from Tyler Woods, as Tek and Steele trade haughty bars. The ominous bass and schizo scratches of “Prevail” allow Wu-Tang warrior Raekwon to shine, while the sparse piano sampling of “Feel Me” provides Bun B the sonic avenue to riff, “it’s just one man, one gun, one clip, one trigger, one second to die and that’s coming from one n***a.” The Memphis Bleek-assisted “Top of the World” capitalizes on an upbeat background that uses an optimistic ethos to cement Monumental’s front seven as the album’s strength.
However, the album’s latter seven tracks leave listeners particularly underwhelmed, as the guest spots dry up and Tek and Steele are left to carry the bulk of Monumental’s lyrical output. Where the two Brownsville rhymers could intersperse concise 16s without dilution on the first seven, they run into undercooked bars and déjà vu repetition. Closer “Time To Say” packs bravado with “whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis/It’s easier to dodge questions than bullets/How I know? Because I been there/And you ain’t been nowhere,” but nothing that’s rewind-worthy. Even the reggae-tinged “Night Time” (featuring Boot Camp Clik partner, Buckshot) under-utilizes a smooth beat with rather listless bars.
Regardless of the mundane verbal gymnastics on the album’s second half, Rock keeps a consistent sonic profile to prevent the album from bombing. The variety of his samples and hard-knock production allow Monumental’s guests and Smif-N-Wessun to pack enough energy to keep the project afloat. It’s not a Pete Rock classic by any means; however, it’s another solid project to add to his already lengthy discography.
Label: Duck Down Records | Producers: Pete Rock