“You have to have an ear for this” explains Pete Rock sitting opposite Jesse Thorn during a segment of Bullseye for NPR. The legend delved into his musical roots, inspirations, legacy, processes and how it all made him one of the greatest to ever do it. The conversation was career-spanning, taking us through a childhood of music-loving donned on him by his part-time DJing father, how those early moments honed an ability to mentally chop any record that went through his ears, a sort of preamble to his later years of championing the remix, which he breaks down with scholarly clarity. Then Thorn asks PR to speak a bit to his breakout, era-defining classic “T.R.O.Y”, where things get a bit emotional, as he explains the tributary aspect of it and how at first it was a bit uncomfortable to hear a song he helmed for a fallen friend being played on the radio, but soon learned to celebrate the song and its subject whenever he heard it.
After his golden period, Thorn moves on to discuss his relationship with the late and immeasurably great J Dilla, who had long held PR as his favorite producer, perhaps even his greatest influence musically. But after the two met, it became clear that the student had become the teacher, as PR took a well-known trip to Detroit and stayed with the purveyor hip-hop’s swing for a week and learned his ways live and direct from the the dojo in Ma Dukes’ basement. Real recognizing real in the realest way, sparking PR’s continued pursuit of the perfect sample and its complimentary chop and ultimately, redefining what hip-hop was and could be in one 10-minute session in front of 16 withered rubber pads. That’s how good Dilla was. You can hear the mighty Pete Rock tell all these tales and more on Bullseye below. Grab his Petestrumentals II LP on iTunes today for further listening.