Small Professor

Philly producer Small Professor may be one of the most phenomenal producers (still) not known to most.  His striking Jawns series of instrumentals dropped via Bandcamp a few years after an exceptional LP release, Slowbus, and gave an attentive few a glimpse into his abilities as a skilled sound-crafter.  The Gigantic Vol. 0 marked the point where we got to hear a full project featuring MCs over his beats.  But that was only a mere prequel to his most dramatic statement to date, The Gigantic Vol. 1.

The intro, “Small Pro Cometh,” introduces the project in a dramatic and climatic fashion, leaving the listener in drastic anticipation after being pummeled by a dark, maniacal barrage of heavy snare hits and well-placed vocal bits from the likes of Black Thought, LL Cool J, and Kevin Hart. Thank god the rest of the album lives up to the hype of this intro!

“(P)ea Gets Off” is the first of the collaborative offerings found here.  The track features Von Pea (of Tanya Morgan) over the straight-ahead production that really gives “Pea” the room to stretch out lyrically.  The follow-up “Chambray” begins and ends rather abruptly but the steady and atmospheric beat is a sonic locomotive to Elucid’s unwavering, steamrolling flow.  The tremendous “Pear Razor” is the first of three instrumentals (not including the intro), and begins with the self-professed “master chopper of all times” explaining the art of chopping and sampling, and challenges all comers.  Containing tricked out Melle Mel vocals from “The Message,” the exceptional “Barefoot Gorilla Baboon Funk” takes the listener from Central Africa back to America’s east coast in less than three minutes.  Featuring Philly MC Random, “Play It By Ear” is a memorable story about a rapper/cashier rapping to a woman in his checkout line who, in the end, wants nothing to do with him because he’s just a minimum wage worker who dreams of a career in rap.  The soulful beat gives way to a nice, melodic change-up mid-song as Radom tells of the date that resulted in his realization that the woman was a gold-digger.  “I said, money is nothing if you lack power, I do more in 24 hours than two Jack Bauer’s...”

“Hare Razor” is a highlight that comes off like soundtrack music playing in the head of a serial killer on the run.  Driven by heavy drums and two cataclysmic guitar licks, the sinister tone of the track is magnified by MC Curly Castro’s performance here; the union is perfect and the film references are genius.  Along the same lines, “Spare Razor” is the most gutter track on the project and features memorable verses from Guilty Simpson and Reef the Lost Cauze.

Throughout the LP, assorted samples and chops are blended masterfully amongst lush and eclectic soundscapes, home to a throng of some of underground’s most talented emcees (thirteen in all are featured here).  Any hip-hop fan searching for freshness, look no further, Small Pro and company delivers it for these entire thirty-five minutes and fifty-six seconds.  And whether it’s chopped James Brown vocals or soundbites from The Spook Who Sat By the Door, selecting the right wordsmith for a beat or just even concocting that beat, a listener can expect two things from this album:  Consistency and quality.

- Julius Thompson