Pete Rock

NY's Finest

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Pete Rock has been a dependable, though not always spectacular or surprising, force in hip-hop since his first records with C.L. Smooth came out in the early '90s. His solo records -- on which he usually acts as producer and MC -- have not always been consistent affairs, but he's been able to release a lot of solid material and establish a particular sound and feel to his kind of beat-making. On NY's Finest, his fourth official full-length and first on the Brooklyn label Nature Sounds, he continues this trend, presenting more of the consistent, professional production and lyrics that he's made his name on. Which means that though there are a lot of good tracks on the album, their similarity to each other and Rock's other work seems to blend them into one another. A few do stand out, however: "914," which features strong verses from both Styles P and Sheek Louch, is aggressive and confident while still remaining inviting and fun; "The PJ's," featuring Wu-Tang's Raekwon and Masta Killa (it was actually already included on the March 2006 Nature Sounds new music compilation Natural Selection) mixes mellow production with the rappers' hard-edged storytelling; "Comprehend" balances Papoose's rough voice with particularly smooth and shimmery beats; and the two-and-a-half-minute "Questions" samples from Miles Davis' famous fl├╝gelhorn line in "Concierto de Aranjuez" as MC Royal Flush spits out threats and boasts of all sorts. But the rest of the songs on NY's Finest (which, interestingly enough, do not exclusively feature New York talent) aren't quite able to define themselves, to distinguish themselves from what's around them. This doesn't mean that's there's anything weak here; with the exception of the out-of-place and trite dubby "Ready Fe War," every track on the album is a well-executed, well-thought-out piece. But because Rock's never concentrated on hooks, the tracks seem to blend into one another, which, unfortunately, tends to make the record drag on from time to time. NY's Finest is a good, solid listen from a deservedly respected member of the hip-hop community, but it's also nothing that will blow you away.

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