Hip-Hop and Hi-Fi: Common x Pete Rock Record Release Event at The Compound

I don’t want to make this out to be too big of a deal. Because it is.

Thursday night I headed into Red Hook, Brooklyn first to visit my pal Adam Wexler at the home of his Resolution Audio Video located in a centuries-old building jumping distance from the Upper New York Bay and within eyesight of Lady Liberty.

Adam Wexler, Principal, Resolution Audio Video

Adam’s new digs are a floor above his old space and this is a big place where lots of hifi deals get done. Resolution AV covers high-end audio, video, and home automation and when I say “high-end” I mean High End. Resolution’s client list is too long to list but includes Atlantic Records COO Julie Greenwald and Bar Shiru, the Bay Area’s first listening bar.

Resolution AV’s hifi lines include DeVore Fidelity, Shindo Labs, Riviera Labs, dCS, Sugden, Leben, Fyne, McIntosh and more. But this visit was a quick hello and rapid tour because the main reason for my Red Hook trip was to attend the Common x Pete Rock release event for their new record, The Auditorium Vol.1, due out next month on Loma Vista, at founder and Creative Director DJ Set Free Richardson’s The Compound.

from left: Set Free Richardson, Adam, Common at The Compound

Like yours truly, Free is a fan of Adam and his wares so he enlisted Adam’s help in selecting and setting up the system for the “Listening Experience” as this event was dubbed in the promo material. The system was fronted by a pair of DeVore Fidelity O/bronze speakers with a pair of JL Audio subwoofers to help fill out the very large and very lovely space at The Compound while the Riviera Labs AFM50 monoblock amplifiers/APL10 preamplifier took care of drive. A dCS Rossini handled the bits while a pair of Technics SL-1210G Grand Class turntables handled the vinyl with AudioQuest cables tying everything together.

The O/bronze were given a lift to accommodate a standing room only crowd and I can tell you it all worked like a charm—this system sounded rich and full and had no problem filling this space with sweet, sweet music. Bravo!

Common and Pete Rock spoke about the record and the process with mutual respect for each other’s talents along with engineer and producer Jamey Staub (who is pictured in the opening photo) before playing the album through. Common and Pete Rock have a long history dating back some 33 years and Common shared. “It’s been a dream of mine to work with the LEGENDARY @realpeterock” in an Instagram post. Respect.

John DeVore of DeVore Fidelity and Common

In brief, Common has three Grammys, an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe and The Auditorium Vol.1 is his 15th full length since his first, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, released in 1992. He has also been active in supporting HIV/AIDS awareness through the “Knowing Is Beautiful” movement and is the founder of the Common Ground Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to empower underprivileged youth to be contributing citizens and strong leaders in the world. Common’s acting career is very active and includes starring opposite Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Eva Vives’s debut feature, All About Nina. Common is also the guy who kicked John Wick’s ass.

Music producer, DJ, and rapper Pete Rock is widely recognized as one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time. His debut EP with CL Smooth All Souled Out was released in 1991 to rave reviews which led to a deal with Elektra Records and their first full length Mecca and the Soul Brother. His discography, which includes solo albums, collaborations, instrumentals, and compilations, amounts to nearly 30 releases.

From Pete Rock’s comment on Common’s Instagram post confirming the upcoming release of  The Auditorium Vol.1:

“I honor our friendship since 91 home slice lol. This was a dream i had for years to come together with you on something! Now we get to show everyone the results after working with each other on our 1st album ever! Man this is exciting my bro 😎 Thank you so much for this @common

Respect.

This event, this place, and these people created an atmosphere so warm and inviting I walked around the entire night with a big smile fueled by some of the best vibes I’ve have the pleasure to experience anywhere. Ever.

me smiling. photo credit: Jana Dagdagan

And these good vibrations extended to an appreciation of the sound of The Auditorium Vol.1 filling The Compound as I overheard lots of people congratulating and thanking Adam and John DeVore for their contributions. I’ll also share that Free is one of the most welcoming people I’ve met and The Compound is a place where music, art, sports, fashion and more seamlessly come together as ingredients in a rich life.

From an interview with Free from Complex:

“I always say the basketball bounces [and] the drum bounces the same way the heartbeat bounces — it’s a trinity effect.”

Which reminds me of percussionist, acupuncturist, herbalist, martial artist, programmer, and professor Milford Graves who was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study human heart vibrations to better understand music’s healing potential. It seems to me that crossing lines and ignoring commonly accepted borders between disciplines is a path to more meaningful outcomes.

Set Free Richardson smiling. His job title reads “Creative Jedi” which makes perfect sense

And while I don’t want to hit this observation too hard, it was a real pleasure, a real treat, to attend an event where music was the star with hifi playing an important but supporting role. Like a hifi show only in reverse.

Common and Pete Rock spoke about the desire to make a timeless record, something that honors the past while being wholly present and “Dreamin’” seems to embody these goals perfectly.

John DeVore, Adam, Common, Free, and Pete Rock

This event and collaboration between Free/The Compound and Adam/Resolution AV is just the beginning—hifi will become another permanent part of The Compound’s curation that blurs lines that should be erased. And if anyone can do it, I have the feeling Free is the man. Another point I don’t want to hit too hard since I’ve been there and done that—this kind of collaborative relationship is to my mind how you grow the hifi audience with music, art, fashion and more leading the way.