On their third release overall and second full-length, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth scaled back on the expansive scope of their sprawling first opus, Mecca & the Soul Brother, indeed opting to magnify the main ingredients of their sound: Pete Rock's brilliant production chops and C.L Smooth's complex lyrical delivery. The result is an album that is far more focused, with all the ragged edges and loose threads tied up. It is also just as good as the first record, perhaps an even more satisfying single listen. The Main Ingredient is full of rich, resonant, hypnotic songs -- the production being among some of the most seductive in hip-hop -- that subtly, but absolutely, swing with their lock-step precision. In characteristic Pete Rock fashion, all of the sharp edges have been sanded down, leaving a vibrant and completely lush musical backdrop which seems to have a dreamy nostalgia about it. Old '60s and '70s soul, soul-jazz, and funk samples abound, and the music is dotted with gauzy keyboard washes, hugely echoed bass-drum kicks, milky basslines, and muted horn loops, almost sounding like they are emanating out of water. All of the songs feel immediate, yet they are infused with the sort of roomy ambience that lends to each the impression of a classic tune, evocative of an earlier era, but not one that can be described exactly, and not one to which you can definitively point. As usual, C.L. Smooth is lyrically on point, spitting out intellectual rhymes and narratives that are just as propulsive and engaging as the music. The only negative aspect about the album, then, is that it ended one of the finest hip-hop duos of the first half of the 1990s.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
feat: Pete Rock