By KC (Host of You Must Learn)
This space in the past has talked about the weird phenomenon of the sophomore album. Sometimes they couldn’t recapture the magic. Sometimes the artist went intentionally left to avoid being typecast. And sometimes, it was arguably better than the first.
Pete Rock and CL Smooth had made quite a name for themselves with their debut, Mecca and The Soul Brother. Pete Rock was an in-demand remix producer, their song “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” had been lauded by critics and bumped in Jeeps by the hundreds, and they were appearing on soundtracks. It was quite a first couple of years for the duo, until September, 1994, and their release of the single “I Got a Love” made people really take notice. See, there had been plenty of flashes in the pan by 1993. Sustainability was a little more rare. And Pete & CL planted their flag and declared they were for real.
A couple of months later, The Main Ingredient, the second full-length from the group, hits the shelves and makes a lot of people wish they hadn’t written their Best of lists yet. What’s funny is that the Wikipedia writeup says that it was “overlooked at the time of its release.” That may have been true for mainstream press, but hip hop fans knew the time immediately. Pete Rock solidified his style at the time by somehow making a beat that sounded as lush as any AM radio soul station and keeping the drums as street as ever. “I Get Physical’ contrasts a sharp guitar with velvety strings. “Take You There” was the staple 1994 “hip hop with an R&B hook” song that every album had – usually to its detriment – but sounded entirely in place here. “Sun Won’t Come Out” sounds like Roy Ayers should have done it first.
Unfortunately, the group would break up after this album, putting an end to any possible sustainability. They would reunite years later, but never quite returned to this form. But make no mistake, The Main Ingredient is worthy of the “Is Godfather II better than The Godfather?” type of conversation that deals with sequels and second efforts.