#1 Instrumental Hip-Hop Album of 2012: *Cool Story, Pro* by Small Professor

On a hazy weekday afternoon circa 2005, during my occasional routine of MySpace “window-shopping” for undiscovered emcee talent to book on upcoming events, my attention was jolted by the name of a young, Philadelphia-based producer known as Small Professor.  My initial reaction, ignorantly misguided by his avatar of a vague, low-res ‘Wheelchair Professor-X’, was, “Okay, so is dude a paraplegic and/or scientist moonlighting as a beat-maker?  [Why else would someone justify such a bold appropriation a hip-hop pioneer’s namesake?]  …Whether an expression of homage or a convenient opportunity for self-deprecating humor, I better hear some BEATS.”

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Within minutes, my apprehensions dissolved in the echoes of Small Pro’s “Jamal Gray” instrumental (first track on the mix from link).  Its sublime harmony was most impressive for how perfectly it catered to Jamal Gray, aka THE LAST EMPEROR, our (coincidentally) mutual favorite emcee.  In the following seasons, Small Pro’s gift for absorbing specific techniques from a pack of influences and retrofitting them to a heavily melodic style.  Turning away from overdone 808’s and synths that suffocate the soul/funk/jazz elements inherent to Hip-Hop music built distinguished resume of contest victories and concept-based remix projects, plus instrumental collections, complete with irreverent titles and eccentric imagery, all of which amassed critical acclaim online for their musical vision and cohesive presentation.

…As the timeless saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  For the forward-thinking Small Professor, the value of a melody is quite the same…  Since the early-2012 release of his Gigantic, Vol.1, MC compilation album, Smalls has continued to harvest his fan base through Bandcamp with a trilogy of sequels to 2011’s reliable Jawns instrumental projects, setting the tone for his latest musical evolution, Cool Story, Pro

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Cool Story, Pro is not a drastic departure from its preceding releases, but it’s much, much more than an arbitrary collection of great hip-hop beats.  Best appreciated when played in its undisturbed entirety, each chapter of the glowingly soulful, 25-track opus is coupled with implicit titles like “She’s The One (I Think)”, “Signs”, and “Get Over It Already.”   The titles, as complemented by the dreamlike ambience, moody drums, and emotional vocal samples that weave throughout them, guide the listener through a kaleidoscope of all the sentiments that highlight the timeline of a romantic experience.  To me, Cool Story, Pro could play as the beginning-to-end cinema soundtrack to a love story that needs no dialogue… and subsequently wins ‘best movie’ at the Sundance Film Festival.

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