Pete Rock vs. Lupe Fiasco: Out With The Old, Out With The New

If you follow Twitter and hip-hop sites over the past few days, you no doubt came across a new song by Lupe Fiasco entitled, “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)”. If you’re like me you intended to ignore it completely because you’re not a fan of Lupe at all. But apparently most lots of people like Lupe for whatever reason. I was going to ignore it but then I read the description and I noticed that Lupe rocked over a sort of refurbished version of “T.R.O.Y.” by Pete Rock and CL Smooth.

Scrrrrrrrrrrr?

Okay, let’s lay it all out. I listened to a recent (like few hours old) radio interview with Lupe Fiasco at WGCI in Chicago, where he explained that he spoke to Pete about remaking the seminally classic record beforehand. That’s nice. I don’t really feel that was necessary but its nice that Lupe felt a need to reach out and respect the elders so-to-speak to get his blessing. So let’s assume that Pete Rock gave his (unnecessary but understandable) blessing to remake the track. Lupe then enlists some producers to remake the record and then he rocks out to it.

Cool beans. He then releases the record and the Internets, who often clamor for Lupe records, go nuts. That’s where we were Monday when the joint dropped.

Then Pete Rock chimes in. I’ll just provide his entire Twitter rant for your pleasure:

No disrespect to lupe fiasco and i like him alot but TROY should be left alone. Feel so violated,the beat is next to my heart and was made. Outta anguish and pain. When it’s like that it should not be touched by no one! It’s so hard for folks to make original music, I possess that, but these dudes are scared of that and this is supposed to be HIP HOP? Man I’m a lupe fan and everything but TROY was my homie man. I think about him and Hev every fucking day!!!! Smh

Who ever Re-created that didn’t do a good job @ all. #nohate.This business can be so lame, sometimes I make beats blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back and still these cats can’t be original to. So untalented and unoriginal. Makes me feel like I’m truly the best that ever did it. Yo hev and t-Roy I love and miss da shit outta y’all. U guys have been violated with no Vaseline. So fucked up this business smmfh!!! And I don’t care who got something to say about it, kiss my.. I’m not flattered @ all. Dat shit is wack, and the producer should be ashamed of his fuckin self. Smh That record is dear to me yo fuck deez niggas!!!! I’m still Dat nigga out here believe it or don’t. Ur ignorance not mine, lame duck bullshit. I think lupe is a great artist, I’m that angry with him but it’s a major label idea. I can feel it. And y’all need to stop the childish games, I’m a fan of lupe and he is a great artist and a great person.

Alright, so that’s where we’ll start.

Full disclosure, I’m a huge Pete Rock fan. He’s probably my favorite producer of all time. And anybody who knows me knows that “T.R.O.Y.” is hands down my favorite hip-hop record of all time. I even spent $30 bucks to have the Tom Scott album that the sample came from, Honeysuckle Breeze, shipped to me from Japan. Hell, the monthly party I throw is called “Reminisce”. Point is, I’m emotionally invested in that song.

[By the way, I only feel comfortable with putting out that sample source, long considered snitching in the hip-hop world, because everybody and their grandmother has posted the original sample on sites. Even though I've seen it online in a few places one, you'll never hear me disclose the sample for Gangstarr's "Mass Appeal".]

Which is why I understand where Pete Rock is coming from. His issue isn’t that the song was made. No. His issue is that the song was remade and it…

…sucks.

The beat is little bit faster and whole lot suckier than the original. They Drake/40′d it up a bit with the filtering, which does exist on the original “T.R.O.Y.” but something about it is just off.  If you’re going to remake a track, but do it only slightly differently, and it doesn’t sound as good, you should probably just not release it. Or try again. Which I think is Pete’s point. You said you wanted to remake the joint, but you did nothing different and somehow made it worse. Either you flip it or leave it alone. Not mess it up. It’s a classic dammit. When they reminisce over you (my God) you’d be pissed too.

Of course the hiphop Internets went ham with some folks claiming Pete needed to shut the f*ck up and others claiming that Pete was right and that some joints just shouldn’t be touched because they’re too classic. And here’s my issue: both sides are right.

See, I understand where Pete is coming from but at the same time, folks remake stuff all the time and rarely does it sound as good as the original. In fact, I can only think of a few times where somebody attempted to remake something that came out as good if not better (K-Ci’s remake of LTD/Jeffery Osborne’s “Love Ballad” comes to mind…WHAT!!! SAY SOMETHING!!!). At least they asked for your blessing. Since you gave it, at that point, you just have to accept whatever comes out. Nobody owns a loop. Nobody.

Further, I do find it somewhat (again somewhat) ironic that a person who made his entire living off of sampling would take issue with somebody doing the same, just not doing it as well as he’d like. I’m aware that Pete is one of the best to ever do it, but I’m fairly certain that there are artists that he’s sampled who weren’t happy with the final product. Especially with his later productions (which definitely fell off), if the artists even got a notice about their music being used at all. I remember reading an interview with Bob James talking about people sampling “Nautilus” and he said the only version he realy liked was RZA’s flip of it for Ghostface on “Daytona 500″. So Pete’s beef isn’t a new one, it’s just…ironic that he’s beefing about a remake of a beat that isn’t even wholly original in the first place. Hell, Tom Scott’s song “Today” is a remake of the Jefferson Airplane song of the same name from their Surrealistic Pillow album (a dope album by the way, white people drug music is way better than gangsta rap/drug music). Point is, no idea’s original. Some stuff is just good. Some stuff is just bad. But it’s all just stuff.

So while Pete has a point, its really that he just doesn’t like what they did because they just tried to recreate his beat and didn’t do a good job at it. That’s a fair point. It’s lazy and unoriginal. Which is what he said. But I have to wonder if he’s listened to much of Lupe’s catalog anyway? Lupe the rapper is phenomenal, even if I think he’s a pretentious douche. But Lupe the beat miner is pretty much on Nas levels of craptasticness. His beat selections often suck at the highest caliber of sucktitude. If there’s any reason to beef, that’s the reason. He should be mad at himself for letting somebody who sucks with the beats attempt to remake  his classic song.

Touching classic records is going to happen so all old school producers and rappers need to just let that go. In every other genre there are standards (hell they’re called standards for cripes sake) that get reinterpreted frequently. Hell, there are at LEAST three different versions of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” has numerous versions even if we associate that song with him. It’s part of music. Reinterpretation happens. But it shouldn’t be noticeably worse than the original if its going to sound similar. Either make it different or just don’t f*ck it up. And Lupe f*cked it up. His lyrics? Eh, passable. I don’t care. But the beat immediately sounded off. No passion. No something. Whatever it took to make “T.R.O.Y.” special is totally missing from Lupe’s record. And that’s why I get the issue with it. But ultimately, it’s one he just needs to let go.

They reminisce Pete. They just don’t know how to do it like you did.

That’s what makes you Pete Rock. Embrace it and move on.

Community, thoughts? Reactions? How many f*cks do you give?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. 4532 BEST PRODUCER OF ALL TIME aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

***Speaking of REMINISCE, you can now RSVP for free entry before 11pm ($10 after) for the June 2nd edition, which just so happens to be the Panama birthday jammy jam!!! If you’re in DC, make sure you come out to party with P…for free!!! And drink for free…reminiscedc.eventbrite.com. Peep the Facebook event notice here!!***

We Doin’ This For.

I’ve got to vent a little, so indulge me.

Michael Jackson told me that I was not alone, but sometimes I wonder…if you know, what it means, to find your dreams come true.

“…frustrated, irritated, sometimes I don’t know myself I be too numb, to feel something sometimes, so I dig deep…” ~ Khujo Goodie, “Thought Process” Soul Food

There’s a lot of discussion about hip-hop being dead and what not.  And generally, the usual suspects – the Soulja Boy’s and Ying Yang Twins and any other largely Southern ringtone rappers – are trotted out as culprits in the murder.  And a lot of times, people are right.

However, if hip-hop is dying, the same folks who complain about the Ying Yang Twins are the very people wielding the icepick and stabbing ninjas over and over and stealing their tagless Hane.

I present to you Exhibit A:  Pete Rock was DJing in Washington, DC, on Saturday night.

A maximum of 30 people showed up.

Motherf*cking 30 people.

This ain’t Pete from up the street who stays stuck off some rocks.  This is legendary hip-hop producer extraordinaire Pete Rock, the man who produced “T.R.O.Y.” , my favorite song in hip-hop history.  The beat alone should be at or near the very top of any discussion of best beats of all time.  In fact, if you disagree with that last sentence and claim to be a hip-hop fan just walk slowly to your medicine cabinet, take the whole bottle of Advil and one yourself.

And for good measure, VH1 should go kill itself too for putting this song at #90 on their list of Greatest Hip Hop Songs of All Time.  Songs listed ahead of “T.R.O.Y.”?  At #50 Lil Wayne ” The Block Is Hot”, at #16, Missy Elliot “Get Ur Freak On”…then again, this list included L’Trimm “Cars With The Boom” so um, yeah.

You lost one, one; lose some to win some.

Not many people know this but DC is a hotbed of underground hip-hop.  We have so many underground producers and rappers here its amazing that nobody’s really hit the big time.  And all of them are influenced by the work that Pete Rock has done.  Did any of them show up?

Nope.

Amazing, especially considering that Pete Rock being in town means an appearance by Grap Luva, Pete’s younger brother and former member of the group I.N.I., who is about the best host you’ll ever have at a party.  Not only is he a cool cat he has stories for days and tells them all.  On the mic.  And Grap rolls with the hip-hop contingent in DC.  And yet, no one.

It was literally two turntables and a mic.  One bad DJ on the set.

Those 30 souls who graced the nightclub on Saturday night were truly treated to a lesson in hip-hop history.  Hell, I run the club and didn’t shut anything down until nearly 4am because Pete felt like spinning and Grap felt like telling stories.

“Whether it’s 10 or 10,000, we’re gonna give them a show.”

The Champ says that the hip-hop community doesn’t do a good job of honoring legends and largely, that’s true.  In fact, the only time anybody really pays tribute to a legend is at an award show or now on VH1.  If you think about it, the only time most of us get to see legends anymore are when they do shows.  And really, I wasn’t expecting 1,000 people this go around.  But not even 100 people in DC wanted to see Pete Rock?  And it ain’t like the event wasn’t promo’d.

As a hip-hop fan, a real hip-hop fan who still managed to love the new stuff these days to include the Jeezy’s and T.I.’s of the world, it really frustrated me that one of the greatest producers of all time in hip-hop was in the building, in DC, and largely, nobody gave a flying squirrel sh*t.  Everybody loves old-school hip-hop and R&B…but yet, we were empty.

And that just lets you know that hip-hop is either already dead or its currently being murdered by the very people who swear to be upholding “the real.”

Basically, it’s like the ninjas who don’t vote complaining about “their” candidate losing the election.

Go Obama and f*ck you if you’re part of the problem.

Thank you San Diego for letting me get that off my chest.

Goodnight and goodluck.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P

P.S. For all those individuals in Atlanta, I’ll be one of the hosts for a party at Sabor Lounge this Friday in Atlanta for Morehouse’s Homecoming.  If you’re interested in getting on the guestlist (free admission before 1130pm), email me at panamadjackson@gmail.com and I’ll forward you the information and see you there…VSB P is returning to the A to turn that motha out…

*Doing Hammer Dance*

Holla at a playa when you see me in the street trick.