by small professor
introduction by Dan-O
Before he agreed to write this, I declared to anyone who would hear that my favorite producer of 2020 is small professor. The Jawn Supreme series was the music I always put on whenever I didn’t have a planned listen. I just fell back into how soulful and propulsive it is. BlUu Edwards took me weeks to wrap my head around, and the posthumas Sean Price album he produced (86 Witness) will stand the test of time. What is someone on that level of refined skill and rigorous work rate listening for? Tap in.
small professor picks
Freddie Gibbs & Alchemist – Alfredo: I was listening to “The Realest” by Mobb Deep the other day thinking about how cool it is that Alchemist was doing beats in 1999 that could have come out in 2020 easily. The transition between Gibbs & Tyler on “Something To Rap About” is extremely beautiful & I have no idea what he did there, even knowing the sample source. The chopping on “Babies & Fools” & the way it’s arranged with the vocals from the original finishing off the rap lines sometimes is a trick that isn’t attempted too often, mostly because it’s difficult. This project shows off Alc’s whole repertoire, from the soulful ghostfaceness of “Baby $hit” to the bleak bounce of “God is Perfect”. Zilla Rocca once called Alchemist a production Tim Duncan & I always liked that comparision.
Amani & King Vision Ultra – An Unknown Infinite: I love how NY this album is, spirit-wise but also the Black Moon-ness (if you removed the drumbreaks) of the beats: all eerieness, dust & bass, some hanging out on that line between rap beats & ambient music. This is the only record on this list that features multiple producers, but King Vision Ultra ties together the standouts from my mans-and-nem Ahwlee & Doof (beats with that waltz feel will always be alright with me) with his own joints with some amazing interlude & skit work. My favorite beat might be the one my goat ELUCID raps on, partly because I recognized the sample almost immediately (just would never have did what was done to it!) but also because it took me a while to catch the loop & I love a challenge.
Vic Spencer & August Fanon – Psychological Cheat Sheet: August Fanon is automatic must-hear beats for me, there always seems to more to his joints than meets the ear & I have fun trying to figure out what the f is going on. Like, I have no idea how he came up with the “Scanwich” beat. The “Rehab Resort” beat sits so nicely in headphones. The “Still Plankin” beat is at such an unlikely tempo; same with “Estrogen Juice”, the latter’s drum loop sounding slowed down almost impossibly. When I listen to this project & his other stuff, I hear a beatmaker whose musical knowledge & skills is on an elite level.
Roc Marciano – Mt. Marci: Every album this guy has dropped to date has been a “best produced rap album of the year” contender, his whole style fueling the sonic direction of multiple underground rap labels & squads. The beats here remind me of the time my dad came downstairs while I was playing “glazed” by J Dilla on his living room system to ask if my record was broken. Some of the loops seem to take their time repeating (“Wheat 40’s), while others almost trip over themselves getting back to where they start (“Steel Vaginas”). The “Wicked Days” beat could be on an drone artist’s record & no one would bat an eye. Peep how he drops elements out here & there on “Garbage Pail Kids”; peep how he briefly shows you the original meter of the sample before the beat ‘starts’ on “Crockett n Tubbs”; peep the chipmunk soulness of the title track. Marci is a sneaky wizard-ass bastard on the beats, and it’s time to start making room for him on your all-time producers list somewhere near the top if you haven’t already.
Fatboi Sharif & Roper Williams – “I spit a solar ring, with the feds approachin him/ with a Smiff-and-Wessun at the smithsonian…”; shoutout to Fatboi Sharif. Roper Williams is a quiet master who creates miniature scary ass short films but in beat form. “Xavenstein” is one of my favorite beats of the whole year & it’s got an ignorant @$$ run-time of 37 seconds, which I appreciate very much. The beat on “Stigmata” is ridiculously slow & feels bottomless, the panning of the ghostly voices back & forth creating a hypnotizing effect. Williams can either give it to you with the drums in the background on some legitimate lo-fi & minimalist-ish or in the front with some great unquantized swing & live drum feeling patterns, with tons of eerie & unexpected things usually happening & moving constantly in & out of either stereo channel. “Arsenic” is another personal favorite beat of this year, the slurred piano instrumental radiating a reflective & haunting energy. The sample pitching on “Nasty Man” is just…nasty. There aren’t too many albums from this year that are produced better than “Gandi Loves Children”.
P.S. from Dan
Gandhi Loves Children is waiting for you to buy it
Same with An Unknown Infinite
Alfredo and Mt. Marci are on streaming for you but go to Small Professors bandcamp and dig in!