âSoul Survivorâ Survives

‘Soul Survivor’ Survives

As Vulture celebrates 1998, Vintage Vision unearths the true gem of 15 years back: Pete Rock’s underrated debut

Michael A. Gonzales

by Michael A. Gonzales, November 22, 2013

âSoul Survivorâ Survives

with the bouncers to let me in. But we not only got in, we also got to go backstage and get an autograph. I don’t know where it is now, but that was the biggest inspiration ever.” On Soul Survivor, he sampled Brown’s “Revolution of the Mind” for an instrumental co-produced by MF Doom, and “Da Two” featured a “Funky President” break with CL Smooth on the mic.

In addition to music, Pete also began getting heavy into comic books as a kid. Going every week to the spinning metal racks in the back of a local stationary store, he bought Power Man/Iron Fist, Daredevil, Thor and The Amazing Spider-Man. “I always wanted to meet Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but I never did.” While making Soul Survivor, he often flipped through his massive comic book collection for inspiration.

“A lot of people don’t realize how much comic books and hip-hop is connected. I think of my music like it’s a visual picture [in a comic]. I try to make beats that sound like action.” The year before Soul Survivor was released, Pete Rock met Method Man—another big comic book collector—in Los Angeles when they both co-starred in Erykah Badu’s video for “Next Lifetime.”

“We talked at the shoot, and we both wanted to work together. I promised to do a beat for his joint and he promised to do drop some hot rhymes on mine. It was simple. To me, Wu-Tang reminded me of the Juice Crew. RZA sounded like no one else, and what they did caught my ear like crazy.”

One rapper Pete Rock would’ve loved to have on Soul Survivor was his friend the Notorious BIG. Although Rock has always said that Puffy stole the “Juicy” beat from him, he stayed cool with Biggie. “People started calling my house at six o’clock that Sunday morning to tell me about what happened to Big,” Rock recalls.

“I thought the first person was fooling around, but then I turned on the news. I had made some stuff for him, but it never happened. We wanted to work together, but we never got the chance.”

At the time of the disc was released on November 10, 1998, rap music was going through yet another transformation. Pete Rock was still a brilliant producer, but regular rap radio had moved on to “It’s All About the Benjamins” and the latest from Timberland and Swizz Beatz. Unfortunately, commercial stations were over the sound that was too close to underground.

Fifteen years after its release, Pete Rock’s splendid Soul Survivor remains one of the best albums you’ve probably never heard.

More great reads from Michael A. Gonzales


Related Tags

pete rock vintage vision
Stay in the Know
Sign up for the Ebony Newsletter