The Score: Pete Rock & Smif-N-Wessun, "Monumental"

Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011 2:35PM

Written by J.Bachelor

Buy Now
  • Monumental
  • Pete Rock & Smif N Wessun
  • June 28, 2011
Hip Hop DX 4.5/5
A.V. Club 80/100
Underground Hip Hop 7/10
XXL 80/100
One Thirty BPM 79/100

Alongside veteran producer Pete Rock, rap duo Smif-n-Wessun are cocked and ready to go as their latest disc, entitled Monumental blasts into stores today.

The collaborative effort is the team's first release since 2007, and is produced entirely by Pete Rock.

In the mid '90s, Pete Rock and Smif N' Wessun represented somewhat opposite poles of New York's burgeoning backpack scene. Pete brought the grooves with his soulful horns and subtly layered tracks, and Boot Camp stalwarts Tek and Steele brought the grime with their no frills deliveries and stone faced street stylings. In keeping with the recent trend of seemingly unrelated golden era acts joining forces, the vets come together to deliver a spirited homage to '90s hip-hop in all its glory. (Okay Player)

Smith-N-Wessun brought out the big guns for the guest appearances, as Styles P., Sean Price and Bun B come through swinging.

The Cocoa Brovaz invite a host of emcees to the party. Freeway appears on the deceptively titled "Roses," Bun B spits over the dark piano stabs of "Feel Me," and fellow BCC member Sean Price makes humorous quips ("Slave master/I sell white girl") on the violin-driven "That's Hard," also featuring D-Block general Styles P. The zenith of Monumental, however, are Pete Rock's backdrops as he is creatively all over the place, sprinkling vintage boom bap with a mishmash of mariachi, rock and even dancehall throughout the album. From the roller rink thump of the Hurricane G-guested "Do It" to the ragamuffin stylings of "This One," a reinvigorated Pete is rather unique.(XXL)

Production credits were awarded solely to Pete Rock, whose resume consists of two decades worth of beat wizadry.

Monumental's production falls nothing short of what we would expect from Pete Rock. Throughout the album, the listener can tell that Pete Rock's love for his craft and Hip Hop as a whole has not faded in the least. Over the past 20 years, Pete Rock has demonstrated a skill and knowledge far beyond most producers' wildest dreams. And with Monumental, we get to enjoy 14 tracks of that knowledge laid out before our very own ears. Right from the intro and especially from the title track, Pete Rock sets the pace of this masterly produced project with a gritty "New York" Hip Hop sound. All the way through Monumental, Pete Rock confirms that he has a gift for making a full-length album worth of material that not only caters to each emcee individually but also gives a collective group of emcees a canvas to paint on that seems as if they only have to paint by numbers. With the evidence Monumental displays, it is safe to say that Pete Rock's production and sample digging is like a fine wine and only gets better with age.(Kevin Nottingham)

Brooklyn rap duo M.O.P. recently cited Smif-n-Wessun as one of their favorite rap duos.

Smif-n-Wessun was just incredible. They rapped like they were high as h*ll and if you wanted to enjoy their music you just had to get high as h*ll and just sit down in the basement and just rock with Smif-n-Wessun." (XXL Mag)

While some critics feel the collaboration disc fails to live up to the heights suggested by the album's title, others praise the throwback feel that fans of mid-90's East Coast rap are sure to appreciate.

Monumental is completely listenable but also completely forgettable. Where fans will expect an inspired collaboration from tenured veteran acts, they will find an effort that ranks at the bottom of both parties' catalogs. The beats are ironically among the worst Tek and Steele have worked with to date, yet given the quality guest roster Pete himself might have fared just as well on the mic. Although it has its moments, "Monumental" is an album of mixtape-level material that would have been underwhelming fifteen years ago and is even more so in 2011. (Rap Reviews)
The two intended primary MCs never get out much of a mission statement, making this more of a grand collaboration between all comers, rather than simply the three names on its cover. Sean P arguably steals "That's Hard" (the album's single) while Raekwon's always smooth flow out-slithers the duo on "Prevail." This isn't to depreciate the pair; they're still perfectly capable of shining alone, as they prove on the eerie, ominous "Fire"; it's the same intensity they've been bringing for years, weaving together a tale of power and murder, seething dialogue such as, "Don't worry 'bout the police, that's just one less nigger on the streets." They simply aren't given many moments to with space to explore their own territory. Still, in the collaborative spirit of Duck Down, the guests ultimately don't take too much away from Monumental. It all could have been a tad grander with a bit of focus, but it's still a refreshing piece of throwback rap, whichever way you look at it.(One Thirty BPM)

To purchase Monumental, just click here.

Preview tracks from the album below:

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