Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s ‘They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)’ is the song that cemented my love for hip-hop

OPINION: The 1992 single from the Mt. Vernon, N.Y., duo has been my favorite song ever since the first time I heard it. 

American rappers Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth pose for a portrait in July 1992 at a barber shop in Mount Vernon, New York. Pete Rock (born Peter Phillips) on left, C.L. Smooth (born Corey Penn) on right. (Photo by Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

By the time I saw the video for Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” somewhere in late 1992, I was already all-in on hip-hop. I was up on N.W.A. and De La Soul and Eric B. and Rakim and had been enthralled by Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First” video. Rap music spoke to me and was the dominant conversation around the lunch tables of my middle school — Frankfurt American Middle School — in Frankfurt, Germany. We had the requisite lunchroom ciphers with one student beating on the lunch table and the whole nine. What a time to be alive. 

So when I saw the video for “They Reminisce…” I wasn’t expecting to be wowed or moved. I was 13 and had been stealing tapes from my big sister for years. The music, while always bringing something new to the table, had already changed my life. But there was something about the sound of this song, in particular. From the opening sequence, which I’d come to learn was The Beginning of the End’s “When She Made Me Promise,” to the horns, possibly the most famous use of horns in hip-hop history, I was a goner. As soon as the horns opened up, I knew I was listening to something that mattered, that would be important. 

“They Reminisce…” was my introduction to Pete Rock & CL Smooth; in fact, it took me a while to determine who was who. But what I did know is that whoever was rhyming over the beat sounded perfect. The lyrics fit the beat perfectly and well, I don’t even know if anything else needs to be said about the beat for the song, often considered one of the (if not THE) greatest beats in hip-hop history. I remember rewatching the video over and over, not because I thought the video was that special, but because from the moment I heard the song, I needed to hear it over and over. 

When I got back to school, I remember talking to my friends about this song. Some had heard it, some hadn’t. Since this was 1992, I didn’t know the sample or even how to find it. I didn’t have a CD booklet or anything. I just had the video. In fact, it wasn’t until the summer of 1998 that I actually heard Tom Scott’s “Today” for the first time, which is the sample used on the song. Just like I did with “They Reminisce…” I listened to “Today” on repeat for hours on end. 

As soon as the compact disc was available at the military base shopping center, I gave my dad the money, and he bought the album for me, and from then on, that CD traveled with me everywhere. I couldn’t get enough of listening to “They Reminisce…” and that has persisted some 30-plus years later. It is still my favorite hip-hop record of all time, and at this point, there is no way another song is ever going to take its place. While I’d heard music that changed the way I looked at music and represented a version of myself that I suppose I’d been searching for — music that gave language to myself and my peers — “They Reminisce…” helped me feel for the art form in a way I didn’t know was possible. I’ve heard people joke about hip-hop being the love of their lives, and I do think that for many people, that’s true. It’s definitely true for me. I understood “They Reminisce…” in a way that helped me speak to others. I spent years chasing music that made me feel the way about “They Reminisce…” that I did when I was 13, and a lot of songs have come close —The Roots’ “Act Too,” and Outkast’s “Elevators (Me & U)” immediately come to mind. 

But my love for hip-hop was cemented when I first heard “They Reminisce…” and that love has rested in my soul since I was barely a teenager and carried me through my adulthood. I’m sure, if I’m lucky, when I’m 85 and trying to find the music to keep me at peace, “They Reminisce…” will be right there. And as corny as it sounds, hip-hop is the love of my life. “They Reminisce…” made it clear. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.