Filed under: Food Rap,Interviews,Rap Veterans,The 90's Files,Web Work
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Pete Rock loves his food. So much so that he’s never let a pesky phone interview get in the way of his looking after the needs of his stomach. Back in 2008, while I attempted to extract some slivers of information from him for a cover feature for Hip Hop Connection magazine, the Soul Brother # 1 proceeded to chow down on an entire order of Chinese take-out while he fielded questions, noisily chewing into the mouthpiece like a bored boom-bap bovine. Six years later, I catch him between flights en route to Australia to play a series of club dates with DJ Premier, and the lure of the airport food lounge proved too much before he’d even made it halfway through my allotted ten minutes. Nevertheless, he did share a couple of interesting tidbits about his early days, which is what we’re here for anyway.
Robbie: Who gave you your DJ name?
Pete Rock: My cousin gave me the name. He started calling me “Pete Rock” and I liked it. I’ve had that name since I was seven years old.
Seven? How old were you when you first messed with a turntable?
Probably around three. When I started scratching was about seven, but I was always into the records that my father collected and always tried to play them on the record player at home.
How important is the deejaying aspect to your career?
I always loved deejaying at parties, it gives me a sense of who I am and how I started in the business. It keeps me grounded, so that’s the main reason why I do it.
What are some of your best memories of working on Marley Marl’s In Control radio show?
Riding down from my hood, downtown to Manhattan to the city – big lights and the place that never sleeps – to DJ something that I loved doing from my bedroom. I was lucky enough to get a job with Marley Marl through Heavy D, that was the main thing. Without those two guys I wouldn’t have been heard of, or it would have took me longer to come out, so I’m very grateful.
That must have been a great place to develop your production and remix skills with all the ‘Special Mixes’ you guys would drop.
I was playing a lot of breaks and cuts on the radio at that time, and everything that came out in that era, like Special Ed and Chubb Rock, when they were all new artists. I was playing De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest and a lot of unknown artists. Doing ‘Special Mixes,’ remixes, bringing my drum machine there and taking accapellas and playing them over a beat that I made – we used to do all that stuff, it was fun.
Can you speak on the importance of James Brown to you personally?
I met James Brown when I was seven years old. My mom took me to a concert in Mt. Vernon, New York. He came and performed and me and my younger brother met him. My younger brother was six and I was seven and we met James Brown. It was crazy! When we met him I think he passed something on to me. I wasn’t the same after I met him.
Do you agree that James Brown is the foundation of hip-hop music as we know it?
James Brown is definitely the creator of hip-hop because he’s the creator of “the one” and the snare hit, and the one and the two. “On the one” – that was important to him, and he wanted people to know how that’s done and what he was listening to in his head.
What’s your best memory of Heavy D?
That he’s my cousin and I love him to death, I miss him daily, and it’s always tough losing family. But he’s there in spirit and he’s going to live on through his music.
Originally written for Acclaim Magazine.
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