Pete Rock Cried When He First Heard The “T.R.O.Y.” Sample
Though the holiday season is supposed to be a time for festive cheer and happiness, it often turns into a time to reflect on lost loved ones. With the passing of the new year, people tend to reminisce about family and friends who are no longer here.
It’s difficult to translate these emotions of loss and sadness to music, but Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” perfectly captures the melancholy remembrances that often accompany wintertime. Born out the tragedy that befell Mount Vernon, New York native Troy “Trouble T Roy” Dixon — a dancer in Heavy D & the Boyz and a close friend of both artists — the song remains one of the most beautiful rap records ever created almost 25 years after its initial release.
Dixon, who was touring around the U.S. with Heavy D & the Boyz in 1990, died when he fell off of a raised exit ramp outside of a concert venue in Indianapolis, Indiana while he was joking around with other musicians after a show. The senseless loss of life rocked the tight-knit Mount Vernon community, as many people saw Dixon as a local hero with a bright future in the music industry.
“To this day, I can’t believe I made it through, the way I was feeling. I guess it was for my boy.”- Pete Rock
Though CL Smooth and Dixon were close friends at the time of his death, they started out as adversaries in their younger years due to a fight over a mutual love interest. Smooth’s third verse outlines their legendary brawl as he recalls, “T to the R the O-Y, how did you and I meet?/In front of Big Lou’s, fighting in the street/But only you saw what took many time to see/I dedicate this to you for believing in me.”
Despite the fight, the two artists developed a deep mutual respect for one another through their shared love of music. “In the end we became brothers,” CL Smooth said in an interview with XXL. “We became friends and respected each other at the end of the day.”
After Dixon’s passing, it took some time for Smooth to capture his emotions on paper. He had a mental model of what he wanted to say in the song, but it wouldn’t come together until the final hours of recording the duo’s Mecca and The Soul Brother debut. “I wrote “T.R.O.Y.” in ’92,” he said. “It had been in my head but I just couldn’t put it together and [one day] I wrote it right there in the studio and just recorded it… It just took me about an hour to write it, it was the last record [for the Mecca and the Soul Brother album].”
“T.R.O.Y.” also talks about CL Smooth’s lack of a father and his uncle becoming his male role model, but it is clear that Dixon’s death shaped the feeling and message of the song. In addition his powerful verses, loss and sadness can also be heard in Pete Rock’s production. “I was kind of depressed when I made it,” Rock told The Village Voice. “And to this day, I can’t believe I made it through, the way I was feeling. I guess it was for my boy.”
“When I mixed the song down, I had Charlie Brown from Leaders of the New School in the session with me, and we all just started crying.”- Pete Rock
Devastated by Dixon’s sudden passing, Rock sought refuge in his legendary basement studio and massive collection of records. As soon as he dropped the needle on Tom Scott’s cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Today”, he knew he had the perfect sample source to honor his fallen friend. “When I found the record by Tom Scott, basically I just heard something incredible that touched me and made me cry,” he said.
Using a a vintage E-mu SP-1200 sampler, he let his emotions pour into the beat. The reaction in the studio while he worked on the song was an indicator of the record’s potency. “When I mixed the song down, I had Charlie Brown from Leaders of the New School in the session with me,” he said. “And we all just started crying.”
As we near the 25th anniversary of the song’s release in April, it still packs the same punch it did many years ago. When Pete Rock and CL Smooth created “T.R.O.Y.”, they crafted a transcendent record that will continue to stand the test of time and keep Troy “Trouble T Roy” Dixon’s memory alive for many years to come.
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