“They chasing a hit, I’m chasing legacy.”— Smoke Dza
I was actual sworn to secrecy about the existence of the much hyped “Don’t Smoke Rock” all the way back in January 2016. However, I wasn’t provided with any preview content, so I had to wait it out with the townspeople for this gleaming piece of New York street art. I use the word art purposely–and unapologetically–as this project is drenched in organic dopeness that can’t be bought. Like most of the best collaborative producer/MC projects we’ve heard over the past decade, Don’t Smoke Rock stemmed from a song that worked so well the two (Smoke Dza and Pete Rock) decided to see how deep the rabbit hole goes; spoiler, it goes deep [pause]. What it’s culminated into is a thirteen-song ride on the East Coast side of things with a cast of guests that commands respect–from MMG capo Ricky Rozay and Detroit bar-god Royce Da 5’9 to Dza’s fellow Harlemite Cam’Ron. Of course, those are amongst a host of others.
The intro sets it up as a stark contrast the gentrified [Harlem, New York] of today. Rather, it’s a reflection of the gritty streets that were visualized through street-tales by fallen greats like Big L. Production wise, Pete Rock sounds as hungry as he did when he dropped PeteStrumentals back in 2001–he looks refreshed and re-focused. Two of my highlights remain the singles that dropped with the pre-order, “Limitless” with Dave East and “Milestone” featuring Jada, Styles, and BJ The Chicago Kid. There was also a certain level of dopeness hearing Wale over PR production on “Show Off.”
If you’ve been sleeping on the Kush God, this project is the epitome of what the five fingers said to the face–a yank at the collar and an assertion of dominance. He understandably has more to gain from this pairing, even if the sonic-marriage seems leveled out. He’s managed to awake a sleepy giant who produced a monster record from intro to soulful outro; I’d be shocked if this album wasn’t considered a career-highlight, even years from now. “New York City, make some noise for your sounds.”