Rap groups can be a sensitive arrangement. What starts out as a cool idea between friends turns into something bigger than anyone’s expectations. Then BS in and outside the industry takes form and the establishment falls: straining relationships between fans and among one another.
Then there are cases where members actually get along, maintain mutual respect and put the music first. The description sets the scene for Pete Rock, Camp Lo and their formation for 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s Part 2. Their alliance may be relatively new. Yet they enjoy a friendship and rapport you’d see among longtime cronies. It’s a cool sight for anyone sore from rap groups falling on hard times.
The following reads loosely but it’s truthful to the session’s feel. The veterans balance jokes, honesty and insight throughout: refreshing for a genre known for housing stiff personalities. Pull up a chair for our memorable Smoking Session with Pete Rock and Camp Lo.
TSS: 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s saw you guys trying to capture the feeling of the early hip-hop movement. What’s the approach this time?
Pete Rock: The difference was, in part one, it was instrumentals over my beats. Part 2 I’m actually involved and produced everything.
TSS: Everything is new?
Pete Rock: Yeah
Geechi Suede: It’s a real first look into the fact that we’re doing an audio movie. Everything from here out, 80 Blocks Part Ten Thousand, it’s all going to be audio cinematic.
TSS: Is it going to coincide with any visual production?
Pete Rock: Visuals, you’re saying?
TSS: Yeah, visuals.
Pete Rock: Yeah, we’ll definitely have something.
Sonny Cheeba: Oh yeah the visuals have to be crazy. It’s gotta look fly. We’re gonna have it look fly according to the song or whatever, gotta keep it all together.
TSS: What would you say is the biggest difference other than the beats? Because, like you said, they were all from previous works just like the acapellas. So what would you say is the biggest difference other than the approach?
Pete Rock: Just me being involved.
Geechi Suede: Yeah and, because of that, he gives the specific details of, coming into Part 2, summing both of them up and getting you ready for whatever’s next. I would say the details are more vibrant this go-round.
TSS: What’s it like working with Pete Rock in terms of studio manner? Is he a disciplinarian or do you guys keep it loose? What’s the creative process like?
Sonny Cheeba: He’s like either one of the two though because he’s going to wake up cats early. But he’s going to wake cats up early with some food: some sausages, some eggs, some pancakes. He’s going to wake you up right, smoothed out.
Pete Rock: You gotta feed the soul to get something positive out of it.
TSS: So there’s some hospitality.
Pete Rock: Yeah, that’s the best way to do an album with an artist. Not every artist is going to come to my house…
TSS: Oh so this was recorded at your house?
Pete Rock: Yeah.
Geechi Suede: We just camp in the legendary basement of the one and only Pete Rock.
TSS: What is it about your house, man?
Geechi Suede: The crates!
TSS: Like I notice, everyone that records for him always records at his house. I always notice that, in your basement.
Geechi Suede: The crates, it’s just, it’s there. The essence of it all is there. The essence of his legend and Hip-Hop is right there. It’s incredible.
TSS: Is it also a comfort zone thing for you?
Pete Rock: It is. I get the best results at home. I know the tricks of the trade and how to treat people to get something good going, and that’s that.
TSS: Pete, I want to focus on your discography for a moment. I noticed that, outside of your work with Camp Lo, CL Smooth and INI, there’s no real pattern to who you work with. What are the main criteria you have when you consider features with other people?
Pete Rock: I don’t know, just try to do something new and different with someone new and introduce them to my music. You know, just basically seeing what’s inside of them. When you’re doing the music it’s expressing the inner soul, so. I kind of tap into that but, when I’m working with people, I go into that.
TSS: Does any of it happen based off of you being inspired and reaching out to people?
Pete Rock: Yeah, yeah, I get excited working with an artist I know I’m familiar with or someone with a tremendous amount of talent. I’m one of those picky producers who want to work with people who I know compliment my music. That’s one of the things I go through and one of the feelings that I feel and I just apply it to the beats and the music.
TSS: And in terms of meeting Camp Lo, you said it happened by happenstance, right?
Pete Rock: Yeah, I was leaving the studio coming to my car. I think they were coming back from the store or something like that and we bumped into each other in the street and started talking.
TSS: Was that the first time you guys met, in that form?
Sonny Cheeba: In that form, but we met downtown-
Pete Rock: – We met downtown a long time ago but we didn’t talk no music then.
TSS: Oh ok, y’all were just kickin’ it.
Pete Rock: Yeah we were just kickin’ it and when we met that night, we went upstairs and I jumped on a song they did with Styles P. called “Smoking Apples.” I jumped on it and then we started talking about doing a project together.
TSS: I remember hearing previously from you guys, if I’m getting this right, he gave you some beats and that’s when the relationship started to form. What was it about the beats that made you say, “man we have to work with this dude?”
Sonny Cheeba: I mean we were already fans and that “99 Bottles?”
Geechi Suede: We allovadaplace!
Sonny Cheeba: I mean, I’m not just gonna say that but, once I heard 99 the madness was just —
Geechi Suede: – I think with 80 Blocks you’re getting something new from Pete, something new from Lo, just some brand new hip-hop we’re building.
TSS: I want to talk about some tracks on the album because I only heard the joint you did with Mac Miller.
Geechi Suede: “MEAGAN GOOOD!”
TSS: Yeah, so just going by the tracklist and the song names.
Pete Rock: Yeah, that’s cool.
TSS: I want to know specifically about “No Hook” because I’m expecting some hardcore rappin’ on that one.
Pete Rock: It’s a hook but I’m just chanting “No Hook.” It’s one of those Pete Rock and CL oldie but goodies. We used the original sample, and I have the instrumental to the original sample, which was formatted perfect for a song. It’s an intro and then he comes on and then Cheeba comes on and then it’s the hook. And then I come in and then it’s a hook and there’s a break where I do scratching. Yeah, and it’s a soul instrumental and that sort of thing. Then they come back in and finish it.
TSS: Ok, next up is “Mafungo” just because I like Mafungo.
Pete Rock and Geechi Suede: (Laughter)
TSS: There’s nothing scientific about it.
Sonny Cheeba: (Laughs)
TSS: I just like the food, man.
Pete Rock: Yeah it is. It’s really good.
TSS: So yeah, what’s that about?
Pete Rock: That’s basically New York life, living. You’re in a certain part of New York, uptown, The Heights where a lot of Spanish people live and-
Sonny Cheeba: It feels like [a] block party like feeling. The come outside type, you know?
Geechi Suede: That’s definitely, definitely essence.
Pete Rock: Looking out project windows, hanging out, chilling-
TSS: Are you using any type of samples that would be kind of popular-
Pete Rock: Nothing popular.
TSS: Nah, I’m talking about popular in terms of music from DR or anything like that.
Pete Rock: It’s definitely [a] Spanish funk groove-
TSS: Yeah that’s what I meant. I didn’t mean popular like Top 40 or anything like that.
Geechi Suede: It captures the essence of NY. Skelsy tops, like I said, the pump open, Italian Icees on the little carts…
Pete Rock: …Snow Cones, you remember those joints?
Geechi Suede: Arroz con pollo, you know?
TSS: And the third, “Don’t You Just Love It?” The joint you did with Ab-Soul. What can you tell me about that?
Geechi Suede: That he did his thing on that, joint.
Pete Rock: He smashed it.
Geechi Suede: He did his thing on that.
Sonny Cheeba: Because Ab-Soul, his thought process is bananas. The way he walked over the beat was great.
Geechi Suede: That beat, man. That beat-
TSS: Was that all in person or did he send stuff in?
Geechi Suede: Yeah-
Pete Rock: They did it first and then Ab heard it and was like, “Yo, what’s up with that one right there?” And he just started writing to it. Because that record isn’t going to have no chorus or nothing. It’s just rhymes.
TSS: Oh so you had the beats already made and you let them rap?
Pete Rock: Yeah, I let them pick the beats out.
TSS: Did you make anything on the spot while you guys were recording?
Pete Rock: Nope, nope.
Geechi Suede: I mean, I don’t know.
Pete Rock: There wasn’t? There wasn’t nothing I made on the spot. All those beats were made. I just sent it to y’all.