Two things come to mind when the legendary rap duo Pete Rock and CL Smooth are mentioned: their incredible chemistry and Pete's mellow, soulful beats, which are symbolic of hip-hop's early '90s golden era. It's no surprise that he started a label. What is unexpected is BBE/Rapster Records releasing two of his "lost" discs. After his split with CL in 1994, Rock launched Soul Brother Records. INI (younger brother Grap Luva, Rob-O and himself) was the first group he signed, followed by his protégé Deda. In their new series titled "Lost & Found," BBE/Rapster drop a double disc set of INI and Deda's debuts ("Center Of Attention" and "The Original Baby Pa," respectively). While neither CD's have been officially released, "Centre of Attention" has been a bootleggers favorite for years. Almost 8 years after creation, here they are.
Think of these two discs as buried treasure found in a time capsule that was filled and sealed in the mid-90's. There aren't any next generation bangers here. These discs are smothered with smooth hip-hop lounge jams that take you back to A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Brand Nubian days. The better disc is INI's. Their voices are soulful and their rhymes straightforward. They ride Rock's melodic beats respectfully. The highlights include the whiny, bass blessed "The Life I Live" and "To Each His Own" featuring Q-Tip. Speaking of the Abstract, "No Words" could easily be mistaken for a few Quest classics. And "What They Say," which samples EPMD's chorus for 1989's "So Wat Cha Sayin'" reminds us of Pete's place in hip-hop history.
Deda's disc also boasts some hot Rock beats, but Deda's vocals just aren't as smooth as INI's, and rhymes like "you definitely on some booger snot shit" and "this shit is pregnant in other words fat" are silly. "How I'm Livin'," with its sexy female crooning and catchy chorus is an obvious crossover attempt and the hypnotic "Blah Uno" is a stand-outs. You just can't help but think that Deda isn't quite worthy of Pete's legendary production dexterity.
These discs offer a taste of Pete Rock while fans wait for 2004's Soul Survivor II, and the highly anticipated reunion with CL Smooth (lord willin'). 2003 has seen a lot of artists emptying out their vaults, and like most of them thus far, these albums certainly deserved to see the light of day. If anything, this album is worth purchasing just for the classic INI joint, undoubtedly one of the Soul Brothers finest top-to-bottom production efforts.