Producer Pete Rock (Peter Phillips) and rapper CL Smooth (Corey Penn) are a group from Mount Vernon, NY, known for their legendary use of jazz and soul samples mixed with pensive rhymes. They first met in the early ‘90s while attending Mount Vernon High, establishing themselves early on as a duo destined to make the hip-hop history books. Pete Rock was taken under the wing of DJ Marley Marl at New York City’s WBLS, eventually earning his own airtime and catching the attention of Heavy D’s DJ Eddie, who introduced the pair to various record labels in New York City. Following Pete Rock’s co-produced four tracks off Heavy D & the Boyz’s sophomore album Big Tyme (1989), he and CL Smooth used that momentum to release their debut EP All Souled Out in 1991. From jump, the duo carved their own lane by juxtaposing Pete Rock’s signature horn blares and renowned ear for obscure soul and jazz samples with CL Smooth’s knack for waxing philosophical yet effortlessly profanity-free lyrical delivery.
The duo’s 1992 debut album, Mecca & the Soul Brother, gave the world their best-known single, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.).” Met with rave reviews, the project was praised as one of the greatest rap records of all time. Following critical acclaim, the pair scored placements on soundtracks for films Menace II Society, Who’s the Man?, and Poetic Justice, as well as collaborated with Mary J. Blige for a remix of her track “Reminisce.” In 1994, Pete Rock & CL Smooth reunited for The Main Ingredient, a project that would later become the legendary duo’s last album together. After splitting in 1995, both artists went on to nurture solo careers and would later reconnect for occasional tour runs and public appearances. The year 2003 saw the release of their compilation record, Good Life: The Best of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, further fueling the demand for a proper reunion. In 2010, the death of hip-hop pioneer Guru acted as a catalyst for them to reconcile their creative differences in a new way, with the duo promising fans new music was in the works. The group promises a new project by the end of 2017.