Artists: Pete Rock/Smif-N-Wessum
Album Title: Monumental
Label: Duck Down Records
Release Date: 6/28/2011
True hip-hop artists are few and far between these days, and having two of the 90’s greatest vets come together on one album is more than exciting. Pete Rock and his soulful production join forces with Smif-N-Wessun’s straight gully street rhymes to bring fans a project that is truly Monumental. There is no question that this album has 90’s hip-hop written all over it, and maybe the youngin’s can learn something from it (such as the word “swag” does not need to be used in EVERY verse). This is a homage to those who lived hip-hop, who put all their heart and soul into every delivery, no flashing lights or frills necessary.
If you want to get a whole room simultaneously nodding their heads to a beat throw this album on. In the words of Weezy, “Get Off,” the second song on the album “let’s the beat build.” Yet despite having all of the right components from the climbing crescendo to the bellowing bass, the track’s steadiness is obscured by a lack of a dramatic climax. Pete Rock definitely put in his fair share of work on the album, handling all production duties, as well as vocals on numerous tracks including the title track, “Monumental.” Monumental, which hit shelves June 28th, is filled with guest appearances from hip-hop greats such as Bun B, Raekwon, Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, Buckshot, Styles P, Hurricane G, and Memphis Bleek. Yes, Smif-N-Wessun brought out a lot of friends for this one and yes, it gets a little excessive. It’s almost to the point that you forget whose album this is really was supposed to be which is the greatest downfall of Monumental, as Tek and Steele are sometimes outshined by their distinguished guests.
Despite being filled to the brim with features, many are worthwhile. For instance, Freeway joins the crew for “Roses” which has some powerful lyrics about life and death, bringing up the main question, “why we only [give] roses when people are dead. Why not give them roses when they are alive?” Other than “Roses” there are a lot of lyrics throughout the album that really make you think, which is something I haven’t had to do when listening to rap in a while.
Another joint that I couldn’t stop listening to was “Night Time,” which stays exactly on the subject of title and is equipped with Buckshot on the hook talking about “The D’s and the night schemes.” Each member tells their own tales from the hood but it’s Pete Rock’s unorthodox flow throughout the track that I couldn’t get away from. And while the features may be heavy, they add plenty of dope lines, which could be due to each MC feeling the hunger to step up their bars when working with legends like Pete Rock and Smif-N-Wessun. Using a gritty flow, Sean Price throws out the line, “slave master/I sell white girl” on the joint “That’s Hard” also featuring Styles P. Bun B goes hard over “Feel Me,” as his deep voice blends flawlessly with with the dropping piano beat. The sound fusion of pianos, violins, and booming basslines which I thought had been long been lost, is revived throughout this album.
The back and forth rhyming between Tek and Steele sounds so natural like they were born to rap together. On the track “Fire,” the duo goes through a struggle between good and evil, proving they paved the way for rap banter albums like Bad Meets Evil. Although the production lacks variation throughout, “Do It” is far more upbeat than anything on the album and truly stand out. With a more reggae feel, Hurricane G jumps on the track and generates a little appeal for the ladies; but aside from hip-hop nerds like myself, I can’t see many females rocking out to this album.
I think that you need to understand what hip-hop is and where it came from to truly appreciate this album. Unfortunately, the masses are young and misguided these days. Hopefully, Monumental can be used as a teaching tool to the new generation, and show what real New York rapping sounds like. The album makes me want to throw it on a boombox, go sit outside on the stoop in the hot NYC summer and just chill (probably with a 40oz).
Let’s face it – judging an album on a scale of 1 to 5 mics just won’t cut it — that’s more of a magazine thing. After constant office arguments regarding album ratings, we’ve decided to revise our album review process and fairly judge an artist’s work across multiple avenues. At iHipHop.com, we believe every album deserves an impartial review, taking into account both music and cultural relevance.