With Monumental being Pete Rock’s first full-length collaboration since the mid 90’s and Smif-N-Wessun’s first full-length since their forgettable Smif-N-Wessun: The Album four years ago, the buzz around this project has definitely been monumental. While some may consider Monumental Smif-N-Wessun’s greatest contribution to their catalog since their debut album, Dah Shinin’, others may see it as a failed attempt by Smif-N-Wessun to become relevant once again. Featuring Raekwon, Bun B, Styles P, Freeway, Sean Price, Buckshot and latest Duck Down Records signee Black Rob, Monumental should be able to satisfy the ears of even the casual Hip Hop listener but may leave the longtime Smif-N-Wessun fans wanting more from Tek and Steele.
Monumental’s production falls nothing short of what we would expect from Pete Rock. Throughout the album, the listener can tell that Pete Rock’s love for his craft and Hip Hop as a whole has not faded in the least. Over the past 20-years, Pete Rock has demonstrated a skill and knowledge far beyond most producers’ wildest dreams. And with Monumental, we get to enjoy 14 tracks of that knowledge laid out before our very own ears. Right from the intro and especially from the title track, Pete Rock sets the pace of this masterly produced project with a gritty “New York” Hip Hop sound. All the way through Monumental, Pete Rock confirms that he has a gift for making a full-length album worth of material that not only caters to each emcee individually but also gives a collective group of emcees a canvas to paint on that seems as if they only have to paint by numbers. With the evidence Monumental displays, it is safe to say that Pete Rock’s production and sample digging is like a fine wine and only gets better with age.
If you come into Monumental expecting intricate rhyme patterns, coded bars or an “Oh shit, did he just really say that!?” moment, then you probably should not have picked up a Smif-N-Wessun album in the first place. Not known for being masters of wordplay, Tek and Steele, like Pete Rock’s contribution to Monumental, give you exactly what you would expect from them. Tek and Steele stick with what they know and what they do best—simple, gritty rhymes without a ton of substance but that content only a couple of Brownsville emcees can give you with a delivery that has you nodding your head.
With only three tracks that do not contain features of the 14-tracks on the joint, it is safe to say that although Monumental is a Smif-N-Wessun album, the guest artists stole the show on more than one occasion. It seems guests like Freeway, Styles P, Bun B and Black Rob realized the significance of the project they were on and brought some of their best bars to the table. Steele and Tek seemed to stay in their comfort zone, which normally is not a bad thing; however, with the long list of guests, there is a need for them to bring it up a notch in order for Smif-N-Wessun to avoid being “outshined” on several occasions. On some tracks like “Feel Me” with Rock and Bun B or “Prevail” with Raekwon, the formula worked impeccably because each artist laid a verse that not only complimented the other artists verse flawlessly but also made the track feel seamless.
Although Monumental is not the Dah Shinin, it is a positive contribution to the Smif-N-Wessun catalog. Tek, Steele, and Pete Rock may not gain a ton of younger new fans with Monumental but they did succeed at making an album that longtime Smif-N-Wessun fans will appreciate. While all the guests on the album is a nice touch, it may have done more harm than good—lyrically—but Pete Rock’s work on the project allows the listener to tune out and focus on his dope production when need be. Without as many features, Steele and Tek could have made a more cohesive album without the risk of being eclipsed on a number of tracks. Monumental may not make a lot of album of the year lists but it will surely go down in the win column for Pete Rock, Smif-N-Wessun, and Duck Down Records.
That’s Hard feat Sean Price & Styles P
Feel Me feat Bun B & Rock