Pete Rock is undoubtedly one of the greatest producers ever, but with "Soul Survivor II" even the Chocolate Boy Wonder proves that following up a classic album the likes of the original "Soul Survivor" is a daunting task, even for him. There is no denying that Pete Rock is still one of Hip Hop's best producers. However, there is also no denying that not everyone is fit to rock over a Pete Rock track. Proof of this comes with "Soul Survivor II", where PR goes the underground route by giving questionable emcees such as Posta Boy, Kardinal Offishall & J-Dilla time to shine amongst Hip Hop's elite such as Talib Kweli, CL Smooth & Dead Prez.
While the original "Soul Survivor" featured an amazing lineup of artists ranging from Big Pun & Ghostface to Common & Kool G Rap, part 2 fails to capture the same essence of greatness the original managed to. The more underground feel of "Soul Survivor II" makes the album solid but one that fails to stand up to its predecessor.
While the production is tight as expected, lukewarm attempts from J-Dilla, Skillz, Posta Boy, Kardinal Offishall and Pharaohe Monch make even the best of Pete Rock tracks seem very average. The 106 & Park freestyle champ Posta Boy surprisingly makes an appearance on the album, however, the rookie emcee fails to prove he is worthy of rocking on a PR track with his bland and contrived effort on "Here We Go". Canada's very own superstar emcee Kardinal Offishall also fails to impress with his lyrical blunders on "We Good". As does J-Dilla, who even gets outshined by Pete Rock on "Niggaz Know", which ends up as a waste of a perfectly good beat. And even though many will want to blame the lesser known artists for ruining "Soul Survivor II", some of Hip Hop's most reputable emcees should shoulder some of the blame as well. The mighty Pharaohe Monch and Skillz both disappoint with their average attempts on the album. Skillz hit and miss braggadocios punch lines grow tiresome on the egotistical "One MC, One DJ", while Monch & PR offer a bland attempt with little to no chemistry on "Just Do It".
Even though the majority of "Soul Survivor II" can be considered a disappointment, the dynamic duo of Pete Rock & CL Smooth certainly come through to save the day. The two legends that brought you classic albums such as "The Main Ingredient" and "Mecca And The Soul Brother" once gain reunite for two classic tracks that will have every Hip Hop head jumping for joy. "It's A Love Thing" finds CL rocking over a gorgeous Pete Rock beat reminiscent of their glory days. With a vibe very similar to the classic "Take You There", "It's A Love Thing" will certainly find its way onto a disc full of the duo's greatest hits. But if you thought Pete Rock & CL Smooth couldn't possibly top that, than take a listen to "Appreciate" a stunning dedication to all the fans who have supported the group over the years. As always, its the voice, presence and charisma of CL Smooth which grabs a hold of you and never lets go. "Appreciate" is no different, as its simply a classic PR & CL Smooth track.
Besides CL Smooth, a host of other artists manage to provide noteworthy attempts as well. Little Brother shines bright on the summer anthem of "Give It To Ya'", where Pete laces Pooh & Phonte with some vintage kicks and snares, taking the place of 9th Wonder perfectly. Similarly Pete is also able to duplicate a DJ Premier type vibe for Gangstarr affiliate Krumbsnatcha on the haunting street anthem of "Beef". Staying on the hardcore vibe, Rza & Gza bless The Soul Brother #1 with a lyrical clinic on "Head Rush", shattering all doubts if the Wu could still bring the heat in 2004. Other standout attempts on the album include the insightful rhymes of Talib Kweli on the soulful "Fly Till I Die", the bouncy anti club anthem of "Warzone" by Dead Prez and the typical Slum Village sounds of "Da Villa".
Overall Pete Rock's "Soul Survivor II" is a solid but highly inconsistent effort from the legendary producer. It seems PR paid the priced for gathering a less than stellar lineup of emcees to follow up a classic the likes of the first "Soul Survivor". The same aura and intensity of the first offering just isn't there on the sequel, and instead of a monumental follow up, the listening public is instead treated to a good but disappointing effort. Nevertheless, the album is still worth your attention for the spectacular CL Smooth tracks, as well as attempts from Little Brother & Talib Kweli. It's just a shame "Soul Survivor II" could not live up to the hype of its predecessor. But knowing Pete Rock he will certainly survive this disappointment and make up for it with some classic material down the line.