A Conversation with The Mecca Don of Hip Hop – CL Smooth



He has gone by the monikers of Caramel King, The Mecca Don, C.L. and El Presidente just to name a few, but to those who need no formal introduction to this hip hop pioneer, he known simply as CL Smooth.

Corey Brent Penn Snr aka CL Smooth has trail blazed the hip hop emcee game since 1989, when the rapper / producer hailing from New Rochelle in NYC burst onto the East Coast hip hop scene collaborating with the likes of pioneers AZ, the late Heavy D and of course his partner in crime, DJ / Producer Pete Rock. The latter having amassed an impressive and inspiration 25 year pairing hip hop has created, CL Smooth and Pete Rock are the quintessential vanguards to the values to the foundations of real hip hop. Foundations that birthed celebrated hip hop tracks such as TROY ( When They Reminisce), Back on The Block and It’s a Love Thing to name a few on the repeated playlists of every hip hop lover, introducing us to the vocal stylings of an emcee that weaves the art of storytelling with the true poetic justice of a Pete Rock beat.

CL Smooth is a humble, intelligent, hardworking and undeniably gifted wordsmith in this hip hop game who still remains as real and true his passion today as he always has. Possessing as enviable flow that has awarded him one of the genres most respectable rap sheets, CL has also spent many years away from the very industry that birthed him during the 1995 split of him and Rock, making the pair explore different paths of their brotherhood and careers.  During his hiatus CL spent time with his family, loved ones, working of various solo music projects “American Me” released in 2006 and collaborating with the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff on his Magnificent mixtape series and rather interestingly enough developed an interest in climate change and become a vocal opponent of Proposition 23.

Getting the opportunity to speak to a wise soul like CL Smooth I was instantly struck with his sense of ease, gratefulness of this career he has been blessed with and humble with all he has achieved and still has to experience in this current chapter of his life since reuniting with Rock and about to take his first visit and tour in Australia this March. Thanks to Delta Bravo and associates, Mecca and The Soul Brother are set to perform the hits that shaped their 25 year hip hop reign on their first tour down under, I got to chat to CL about his hip hop journey to date, what Aussie hip hop audiences can expect from a Smooth and Rock live show and how he consistency, vision and a grateful heart has ensured his legacy in this game stands the test of time!


Hey CL, how are you doing today? So excited to know that you will be performing in Australia soon…. What can we expect from your show with Pete Rock?

Hey Ms Hennessey I’m doing great thanks, very grateful and blessed for this life I have been given and happy to just spend my days enjoying my family and my music you know. Yes I am excited as well about coming to Australia as this will be my first trip down there and I have heard nothing but amazing things about your country, so Pete and I just can’t wait to come down there and vibe with the people and experience all Australia has to offer man.

As far as this show is concerned you can expect a long trip down memory lane as we will be taking way back so I hope the fans see and feel what 25 years of friendship and musical creativity can achieve…. and just to enjoy the show is really all I can ask. I am just so grateful my passion for hip hop has brought me this far and I’m loving the ride.

You have been in the game for a minute now, since 1989 representing the East Coast and collaborating with pioneers such as AZ, the late Heavy D and of course Pete Rock. How would you describe the hip hop that birthed you to the hip hop of today ……? Is the machine still the same or has the game changed?

Well nothing stays the same hopefully, you want things to evolve and broaden and mature and hopefully the genre has done just that over the years. I mean the hip hop of today is very different to when I first started given the fact that the industry itself is so over saturated and there are just so many artists that you have to cipher through and so many outlets to find the good….. you just have to dig a lot more for it now than you needed to in my generation you know what I mean. There is great music out there but now you just have to search for it, and that’s ok as there will always be artists that bring something different to the game. However back in my day when a new artist dropped, the attention and drive for that artist from the hip hop fan was a lot more concentrated due to the fact that we didn’t really have an over processed market or the technology to create beats and sounds that hip hop can today, at such a rapid pace. I’m just grateful Pete and I still have the fans, original and new, that love and want the hip hop we create, and as long as there is a demand for that real sound, we are happy to supply.


As a pair you have both created amazing, life changing hip hop such as When They Reminisce (TROY) and It’s a Love Thing to name a few. How would you best describe the connection you and Pete have?

I would best describe it as something you live your childhood with, it’s a beautiful experience being able to relive your childhood with someone you can create amazing things with musically and that’s what Pete is to me. We have put things together creatively and forged a kinship and brotherhood that really has stood the test of time, even during our time apart. Coming from the early stages of my creative career and getting to work with Pete from the very beginning has truly been a testament to our brotherhood and friendship and is something I am truly grateful for. This tour being our 25th anniversary is important to not only us and our creativity but to our fans and those that have supported everything we have done creatively for that long so we really cannot wait to just bring our vibe and good hip hop to Australia and share with the fans down there and enjoy this experience, and I get to do it with my soul brother.


Be sure to catch CL Smooth and Pete Rock as they kick off their Australian “Mecca & the Soul Brother” 25th Anniversary Tour on Weds 8th March in Melbourne, with dates in Sydney, Adelaide and Perth ending on Sat 11th March.

Limited tickets still available at: www.itdeltabravo.com



Always Hip Hop

Ms Hennessey

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