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Most rappers insist on commandeering the spotlight while their DJs chill in relative obscurity. Not so for production whiz Pete Rock, who overshadowed rhyme partner C.L. Smooth in their influential ’90s rap duo. Smooth’s caramelized vocals were as silky as his name suggested, but it was Rock’s mastery of the SP-1200 sampler that altered rap’s sonic landscape. Loath to repeat a single breakbeat, Rock engineers lush layered sounds. The renowned crate digger—who likes to employ James Brown snippets by the dozens—often samples double snare drums or multiple horn sections. For a stirring example of Rock’s beatwork, check Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” occasioned by the untimely death of Heavy D dancer Trouble T-Roy, whose untimely death helped generate the most poignant rap tune ever created for a fallen homie. Rock’s echoing horns, crispy drum kicks, and restrained vocal harmonies are skillfully culled from several vinyl sources, including Tom Scott and his haunting sax. Even Rock’s own words augment the mix; he coolly injects “uh-huhs” and “yeahs,” perhaps unknowingly influencing such cocky personalities as P. Diddy to brand their own works with attention-seeking shouts. Rock’s also grabbed the mike as a rapper, but his lyrics are typically underwhelming, as heard on the 1991 track “The Creator.” Despite some mediocre wordplay, Rock has helmed gems for a who’s who of hiphop heavyweights, including Nas and the Notorious B.I.G., so witnessing the Chocolate Boy Wonder spin live is sure to be a treat. He spins at midnight, Thursday, July 24, at Five, 1214-B 18th St. NW. $10. (202) 331-7123. (Craig Smith)