Review: Pete Rock Live in Barcelona

Pete Rock El Sonido

Razzmatazz Sala 2, 26th November 2015
As the boom-bap tones of local support act Herida Abierta begin to fade out, crowds of bodies dressed in baggy jeans, flat peak hats and high-top trainers begin to shuffle their way in.

This is Sala 2 in the legendary Razzmatazz, one of Barcelona’s best regarded music venues. To some it is a partially derelict warehouse on the outskirts of the city centre, while to the more discerning local it is something of an institution which has hosted many of the biggest names in international music.

Tonight, Pete Rock will take to the decks to provide the soundtrack to another memorable night in the iconic venue. The New York hip-hop veteran is playing his first ever show in Barcelona, and legions of loyal fans arrive with high expectations.

As they amass at the bar, weed smoke drifts in from the terrace and snippets of French and English can be heard over the dull thud of the sound check on stage, blending with the ubiquitous Spanish and Catalan to create a truly Barcelonan backdrop to the night’s proceedings.

Before too long, the man himself steps onto the stage to rapturous applause. His face glowing behind the luminous glare of his laptop, Pete Rock prepares his first track — ‘The Creator’ — which he heartily rhymes over, transporting the crowd back to New York in the early 90s with its pounding boom-bap rhythms and distinctive trumpet samples.

This is a deliberate ploy by Rock to take his fans on a musical journey. In the next hour and a half the producer will play iconic tracks spanning decades and eras from the disco of the 1970s to the funk of the 1980s and, of course, the Golden Era of 1990s hip-hop.

“If you love hip-hop then you’ve got to love soul music!”

Rock makes his declaration over the mic after his first track, before delving straight in to the Beegees and moving on to ‘Dazz’ by Brick – famous among most younger members of the crowd as the sample that Ice Cube used for his outrageous NWA diss track ‘No Vaseline’.

Rock blends all of his selections with the ease that you would expect from a DJ and producer of such pedigree, and his track choice is enough to send his fans into a frenzy at times. Chic’s ‘Good Times’ is followed by two of its musical children — ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by the Sugar Hill Gang and Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’.

A triplet of Michael Jackson songs then gives way to music more in line with what the crowd were expecting to hear — Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, ODB et al. spitting over some vintage RZA beats.

As Rock begins to flex his muscles with the likes of Nas and A Tribe Called Quest, the crowd can sense that the climax is approaching. Whilst Rock’s own reluctant vocal sample rings around the room on Illmatic’s timeless ‘The World Is Yours’, the producer is preparing his last couple of tracks for the night.

A tribute to the late J Dilla is followed by Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s crowning glory – ‘They Reminisce Over You’. The unforgettable loop of that trumpet echoes on until Rock dips the sound to listen to his fans tooting along, joyfully nodding their heads in appreciation of the craftsmanship of one of the greatest hip-hop producers of the 1990s.

As Rock’s bassy New York drawl thanks the crowd, his appreciation is greeted by the delighted cheers and whistles of a city that had waited since the early 90s for him to visit them.

This is an audience that will leave safe in the knowledge that they have just witnessed the most unique lecture on hip-hop history from one of the subject’s foremost luminaries.

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