Let Me Learn You Something: Small Pro

small-pro

Really wish homie would do more promo pics!

Last year, I noticed this producer cat Small Pro, from Philly no less,  getting all this love from the Magnanimous  Circle of Bloggers who show me love.  You know me–I AIN’T HAVIN’ THAT.  First, I was perturbed.  Second, I was mystified.  Third, I was parched–I had an iced tea and got over that.  But really–who was this dude and why were these bloggers not writing about ME?!?!

After I came back from the shooting range, I decided to listen to Small Pro since he unquestionably had a great marketing strategy, i.e. piss me off by promoting himself every where I promote myself.  I downloaded his American Gangster remix project by Hova titled Crooklyn Gangster, threw it in the headphones, and went for a jog.  Three minutes into his version of “Pray,” I had already written a verse.  Dude was thorough.  And I hated him for it!

Since then, I’ve been able to kick it with Small Pro on the internets, in person, and via text.  Dude loves texting (and candy cigarettes!) and remixing hip hop songs, so I sent him the acapella for my precious “Flow God Zilla” from the mixtape and he knocked it out of the park.  His official debut album Slowbus via Philly grime/electro label Seclusiasis dropped late last year and was one of my favorite instrumental albums of 2008.  His work with Has-Lo has resulted in heaps of critical praise and the beats he keeps forgetting to send me are probably amazing.  It’s time for Small Pro to learn you something!

1.  At what point did you realize music is what you wanted to do?

I grew up in a music-makin-ass family, man…I just ignored that part
of my heritage for the most part until 4 years ago, when I was
dabbling in rapping for a little bit and needed beats; I started
making so many beats that I stopped dabbling in rapping, and the rest
is history.

2.  How has Philly shaped your sound and molded you as a producer?

Philadelphia as a city has had more influence on me overall than the
music that comes out of Philadelphia; the calm serenity of the
Germantown neighborhood I grew up in and now inhabit, the gully
atmosphere of 11th and Synder in South Philly where I spent a year…the
countless hours I’ve spent waiting on the public transit system,
things like that have definitely shaped my sound.

3.  Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?

I look up to my mother and father, first and foremost, and that goes
for music and everything else…both are very wise AND intelligent
people (there is a difference) and both know music like a first
language. Then there’s my younger brother, who is an up-and-coming
jazz drum player here in Philadelphia, I go to his shows with jacking
his latest tricks my only intention. He doesn’t mind though, he takes
it as a compliment.

4.  With everything you’ve learned so far, what do you wish you could have told yourself at the beginning?  Would you have done anything differently?

The one thing I wish I could have told myself at the beginning and
what I would have done differently is to SAVE EVERY BEAT I MAKE…I
remember in my early days I found some really dope samples and sounds
that I just did not have the skills to work with like I feel like I
could now.

5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle with?

Sometimes I think too much into things. I had a beat showcase the
other night and I totally brought the wrong type of music to
play…sometimes people don’t care about ill transitions and set
cohesiveness and 6 bar loops…sometimes all they want is snares that
hurt their ears and bass that shakes their seat.

fhdmedium

6.  Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major record label. What are the first three things you do as boss?

1. The first thing I would do is sign rapper Has-Lo.
2. The second thing I would do is buy my album from the label it’s on
and release it again, this time with more of a promotional push…music
videos, physical copies, a tour..(!)
3. I would start a strictly instrumental hip-hop label, sign my
favorite cats and give them the push they deserve.

7.    What are some of your favorite albums?

Albums that stay in rotation for me are: ATCQ’s “Midnight Maruaders”,
Nas’s “Illmatic“, Jeru The Damaja‘s “The Sun Rises In The East”, Slum
Village
‘s two “Fantastic” albums, “Donuts” by J Dilla, DJ Shadow‘s
“The Entroducing”, Madvillain’s “Madvillainy“, the two Pete Rock and
C.L. Smooth records, MC Paul Barman’s “Pallelujah!’, Babbletron’s
“Mechanical Royalty”, Busdriver and Radioinactive’s “The Weather”
album, “Personal Journals” by Sage Francis, Madlib’s “Shades Of Blue”
and “Beat Konductah 1-2”, “Reasonable Doubt” by Jay-Z (actually every
single Jay-Z album should go on this list…yes, even “Kingdom Come“)…I
could go on for days, man.

8.    What is inspiring your work right now?

Cats like Flying Lotus, Black Milk, Damu The Fudgemunk, Ta’raach,
Madlib, Daedelus…I try to listen to everything, whether it’s
underground or mainstream, hip-hop that is; and also, music from
different countries …(even though I kind of have to for this ‘Music
For Listeners’ class I have in school) I’ve heard some really ill
stuff lately, such as traditional music from Northern and Southern
India, koto music from Japan…music that’s been influencing our music
here in the States for many years.

9.  What advice would you give someone getting into the music business at this time?

I know this going to sound cliché, but it cannot be said enough…be
yourself. Whether you sample or play the banjo, it’s cool to emulate
your idols when you’re starting out, but really being like someone who
is great at their craft means putting your own stamp on what you do
instead of coasting on their techniques and the way they approached
it.

10.    Any words to live by?

There’s a producer named Mahogony, he works for Dr. Dre as an in-house
producer, and in an issue of Scratch magazine he was interviewed and
asked about the process he and his co-workers follow working on the
“Detox” album for Dre. In that interview, he said one of the most
profound things I’ve ever read: “I’ve learned over the years that you
don’t have to come with 100 records or 100 beats, just one good idea…”
Now I live by those words.

****

Thanks to Small Pro for being incredibly prolific and media savvy–anyone can make dope music today but getting it out there is the full monty.  I respect his hustle immensely, and his beats make me want to stick to rapping and blogging sometimes!  And to the best of my knowledge, he’s never sold a beat for $7 via MySpace.  L’Chaim!

SMALL PRO PRIMER

“Identity Crisis” by Aquil (prod by Small Pro)

“Small Pro Beats” by Rashid (freestyle over Small Pro tracks)

Crooklyn Gangster (Jay-Z Remix Album) by Small Pro

“Flow God Zilla (Small Pro Remix)” by Zilla Rocca for the Bring Me the REMIX of Zilla Rocca series at 33jones.com

Small Pro’s MySpace, home of the infinite downloads

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5 thoughts on “Let Me Learn You Something: Small Pro

  1. Small Pro is a genius to me. He turned an album I completely hated (American Gangster) into something I could actually listen to just like Kno (from Cunninlynguists) did with The Black Album. I’ve told quite a few people right here on Broad Street that those two guys are my favorite producers RIGHT NOW (no disrespect to Organized Noize)! They need to produce any future Nas and Jay-Z albums.

    By the way, you produced this one joint that I absolutely love, too!

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

  2. Thanks for reading Vincent! Yeah I don’t associate with run-of-the mill producers. Pro is quietly taking over the undergound! Kno is a cannon too–his remix of “Allure” from The Black Album is one of my favorite beats of this decade and absolutely shitted on Pharrell’s version.

    Which track did I do that you love?

  3. Yo, I’ve been on Small Pro for a while, I’m happy he’s getting the attention he deserves. Also, who’s that guy freestyling? Is that really a freestyle? Its mad dope and rhythmic.

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