A call back to the Golden Days of Hip Hop, Don’t Smoke Rock is the newest collaborative record from Smoke DZA and Pete Rock. Both now veterans in rap, the two heavy weights put their gridiron creative flows to work and spawn something that is both brand new, but also nostalgic.
Don’t Smoke Rock opens with “Intro,” a track that uses Smoke DZA to describe the past of New York and how this album is going to take you back into a state of the old world. “This motherfucker in ya capsule, this something that only come around once in a lifetime…Last of a dying breed.” The instrumental features a soft piano and what sounds similar to an electronic cell-phone ring before jumping right into the action with “Limitless.”
Featuring some more than flashy instrumentals from Pete Rock, “Limitless” uses symphonic strings and a mix of rapid percussive smacks and hi-hat clicks to make up most of the beat behind the clever verses from both DZA and Dave East from Mass Appeal Records. Also Harlem-based, Dave East delivers the hook of the track and it goes well with the instrumental, including, “There ain’t no limit to this life I’m living, Champagne spilling, bunch of topless women. I wake up like I just got to get to it. I’m limitless, never find something as real as this.”
This is also in tandem with DZA’s two verses where he can proudly exclaim, “Big meals at Frankie & Johnny’s, I tip generous. Ain’t no ceilings for DZA, my shit limitless.” Smoke DZA has a few clever bars here and there but the instrumental is where “Limitless,” can truly shine as it is a valiant mix of a new age boom-bap style of percussion, and a wonderful arrangement of strings that gradually build up until reaching the bursting limit and they are in a full-blown blast. The instrumental then slows down into a ten-second funk loop before shining the famous, “Maybach Music.”
Ricky Rozay starts “Black Superhero Car,” where he explains, “Praying all my niggas live long, pray all my niggas rich forever, you heard me?” Before releasing his verse however, Smoke DZA comes in and immediately starts cracking on the track ripping lyrics about, “I’m from this lil part of Harlem, shit is like Iraq. Young boy barking but his gat bite back, Nigga playing, you will lay, life facts,” and “Money on your head, put your life on the wall.” DZA’s verse then fades into the chorus where he delivers the line, “Big figures way before rap, all black 600 Benz, Big nigga lighting that pack, lay back counting my ends.”
The chorus then lets Rick Ross come into frame with his verse and it was surprisingly uplifting, explaining, “Threw us under the basement, now it’s penthouses and homes. Food stamps and Medicaid raised every nigga I know.” The chorus by DZA comes shining one more time before the popping strings and snares come to a fading, but complete stop.
“Hold the Drums” is the following track and it starts off with more of a gentle beginning with a crescendoing hi-hat rattle and some record scratches. Going true with the track’s title, “Hold the Drums” has almost no percussive bass or snare hits, instead it relies on a piano and upright bass to lay down the flow of the track and features a slick verse from DZA and Royce DA 5’9”. This track is a smooth break from the usual cracking action of the rest of Don’t Smoke Rock, but in usual fashion, the next track is a jump right back to the previous sounds.
Opening with a silky woman’s voice, “Moving Weight Pt. 1” is a quick-witted and stylish approach to a plucked stringed instrumental and a booming amount of bass drums and snare rolls. DZA continues to deliver a fashionable amount of lines varying from, “King of the under pavement, real New Yorker Knick fan when they was under Layden. Underrated under paid ‘em, Nah dog I’m from the money makin’.” To a verse about, “You was in the crib watching That’s So Raven, I’m a known problem. Old Harlem talkin’ buildings vacant.” Smoke DZA manages a way to make his bars flow and keep the beat feeling so powerful when put together in a collaboration. Don’t Smoke Rock is the collaboration album that no one knew we needed.
The following track, “Wild 100s” is the most interesting track on Don’t Smoke Rock”. It focuses on using some outstanding and abrasive string instruments, paired with a smooth kick bass and snare combination. The pair could truly be released as its own piece and stand singular, then when DZA delivers his verse which is an egotistical lyrical spree where he describes, “Hop on a joint with me, it’s manslaughter. Listening to myself on Pandora, run down with choppers not camcorders.” He then delivers a hook where horns kick in and support the lyrics, “Dead in the middle of the wild 100’s, I spit riddles and get wild 100’s.”
There is only a brief pause where the beat starts to slow down and segue into “Last Name,” where everything takes a chilled approach and lets the beat ride out into more of a melodic bass and guitar line focused section. This makes up the primary instrumental and features little hints of Pete Rock where is more of a hype-man to DZA. Smoke DZA delivers a few lines of intrigue but overall the track is nothing too crazy or memorable when compared to the next track, “1 of 1.”
Beginning with a spacious boom-bap New York throwback beat, DZA comes in announcing, “Taped in, whole ‘nother energy. Bo Jack minus the injuries.” Pete Rock is also featured but does not contain a verse, instead he throws in quips behind DZA and works again as a hype man. The surprising section of the track is a feature from Peter Rosenberg who had a sample taken from his birthday concert in NYC where he shouts out DZA, saying, “Make some motherfucking noise for Smoke DZA right now New York. Harlem stand the fuck up.” Quite the way to end the track and launch into “Milestone.”
An ice-cold instrumental with pianos and an elegant boom-bap beat that claps over a spacious backing synth to complete the slick instrumental. DZA then comes right in and quickly passes the torch to BJ The Chicago Kid, Styles P, and Jadakiss who are the guest of “Milestone” and they all deliver some classy sounding verse that fit well over the simple, but well-produced beat. Jadakiss delivers a hopeful bar explaining, “Left the drugs in the hood, took my show on the road. Figured they ain’t never been nowhere I show ‘em.” This then leads to the chorus produced by Chicago Kid where the lyrics, “I’m gon’ hold you down, even when it’s all up, even when it all goes down. I’m around.”
Then there is the final track, “Until Then,” which features Mac Miller. The instrumental is a classy themed bass line running beat that uses a sly hi-hat clasp and a Morse-code like synth that echoes behind the vocals of the track. DZA has says a few verses about, “it’s a vicious cycle science, busy tryna make sense of it.” This then leads into Miller’s verse where he explains, “I live and died at least three or four times before, had my funeral so drop the top and suicide the coffin doors.” DZA then has the hook repeat before letting the beat ride out into a complete switch up giving a shout out to New York and happily explaining, “Don’t Smoke Rocks.”