The Surviving Elements

Artist: Pete RockTitle: The Surviving ElementsRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Brolin Winning

Though some heads were under whelmed by Soul Survivor 2, and the rumored reunion album with CL Smooth seems unlikely at best, Pete Rock comes back strong on his latest release, a fifteen track instrumental collection in the vein of his much-loved Petestrumentals LP from a few years back. The Surviving Elements (BBE) is billed as leftover beats from the SS2 sessions, but in many ways comes off as a more superior effort all around. With no emcees to distract the listener, Pete's production mastery takes center stage, resulting in some of the most undeniably dope, lyric-free tracks to grace speakers in recent memory.

"You Remind Me" starts things off properly, as PR channels Al Green's soulful pipes, subtly weaving them into underwater-style filtered bass tones and busy hi-hat patterns while light strings and organ vamps fill things out. This leads into "Hop, Skip & Jump," one of the nicest tracks on here, an instant neck-bender built on throbbing low-end, grimy cracking snares, and chopped piano riffs. The appropriately titled "Smoking Room Only" sticks with the moody melody and rugged drums formula, somewhat reminiscent of Premier's mellow interludes on the first Group Home album - not a bad thing.

"Marching On" is another slow joint, with low-key acoustic guitar strums and chilled out bells mixed over chunky boom-baps and some seriously thick bass thumps. More chimes come into play on "Standard," which sounds like a clap-enriched update of Royal Flush's "What A Shame, " while the nocturnal vibe of "Midnight And You" benefits from percussive nuances and freaky synth meandering. The album closes with two certified bangers, the anthemic, sax-laced "U Are What U Are," which would sound right at home on any Ghostface record, and "Intrigue," full of punchy snares and rolling piano action.

Despite Hip-hop's ever-changing production styles, Pete Rock has managed to stay not just relevant, but truly on-point, continuing to deliver the rock-solid steez that befits his reputation. After over a dozen years behind the boards, he still makes some of the best beats in the game, without succumbing to the latest trends (sped up vocal loops, hyper-crunk Triton abuse, etc) or merely imitating his previous successes. The Surviving Elements is further testament to his legendary stature as a super-producer for the ages who still has plenty of dope music to share.