The Bigger They Come: An Interview With Small Professor

Chris Daly can play “Gigantic” on his Cricket wireless apps If there’s one issue I take with the work of Philadelphia’s Small Professor, it’s that he creates these...
By    June 3, 2014


Chris Daly can play “Gigantic” on his Cricket wireless apps

If there’s one issue I take with the work of Philadelphia’s Small Professor, it’s that he creates these beauty bangers with the ear of a master, and yet he’s somehow not being spoken of in the same revered tones as any number of today’s “hit makers.” I suppose that’s not his fault in the least, but it still seems like a crime to me.

The beat maestro has an uncanny knack for putting together tracks that are the perfect amount of perfect. Small Pro’s work seems simultaneously effortless, yet clearly and heavily thought out. On Mixed Jawns II, possibly and sadly the final installment in his Jawns series, no track is overworked. Each sound, from the dusty crackle of vinyl, to the boom bap drums, to the vocal/string/horn samples, nothing is out of place. There’s nothing overblown; there are no unnecessary additions; everything fits like a freak’s hand in a fingerless glove.

Think as big as Elon
Think as big as Elon

If you’re into that old school Philly sound, I’m hard pressed to suggest there’s a track here you won’t enjoy. There are, however, a couple that particularly stand out for me. “Me, me, me & timothy,” a fairly straightforward guitar loop over a beatboxing sample and some brushed cymbals already has made it onto a few mixtapes i’ve recently compiled. Equal parts sinister nasty and silly old school, if you’ve got beatboxing on your joint, sampled or not, you’ve got my attention. “Let me drop it like this, let me drop it like this” displays SP’s greatest talent–his ability to start in one direction and turn on a dime–the driving percussion that starts things off gives way to some beautiful strings that somehow blend together harmoniously. I’d say “Gloria from astoria, pt. 0” is what Kanye wishes he still sounded like. Suffice to say, this is how soul samples should be handled. “My momma prolly hear that and be mortified,” utilizing a snake oil evangelist’s take on the evils of “The Wizard of Oz” is the best use of a crazy reverend since Arkestra One’s “Man from the Audience.” And I fucking love “Man from the Audience.”

I chatted with SP recently about this project, and here’s what he had to say.

To my ears, these are boom tastic, dusty bangers simply awaiting the right bars to be spit over them. Is that what you had in mind?

I think that, in general, I try to make beats that can stand on their own or be the canvas for bars. Some beats may lean more in either direction, especially during this series of 10 ‘Jawns’ releases, as the featured instrumentals were never originally meant for any project in particular.

How does an album like this come about? Is there an overriding, coherent process, or is it a matter of these just happen to be some sick tracks you’ve produced recently?

Ok, so this project has a cool (and convoluted) backstory. In 2013, I started working on an epic instrumental project that was supposed to be 80 minutes long, titled “8Tee” ( which has since evolved into something else, stay tuned). If that was not enough, I also started working on two, similarly themed companion piece EPs, titled “8Teen” and “Tenne”, respectively. However, this was around the same time that I was working on the Highway Robbery EP with Guilty Simpson, and so the two EP’s were left uncompleted…until I pulled my favorite tracks from both for the first 6 tracks of Mixed Jawns II.

The second half of Mixed Jawns is comprised of most of what was supposed to be an all trap-style instrumental set called Slowerrrbus, which was started in 2010 after I simply fell in love with Lex Luger’s production for Wacka Flocka Flame’s debut opus, Flockaveli. It was originally slated to drop in 2013, but that fell through for whatever reason. So, when I was compiling songs for Mixed Jawns II, I thought, hey, no sense in having these go unheard.

Do you write these with anyone in mind? “You have to rap like twista on this beat” obviously sounds like you had Twista in mind when you were done.

I do make beats for certain rappers from time to time, but it is with the expectation that if I ever actually gave them that particular beat, they would not like it. I did/do generally make all of my trap beats hearing Rick Ross rapping on them, especially some of the more cinematic ones featured on Mixed Jawns II.

What else should people know about this album? What’s new in the world of Small Professor?

Mixed Jawns II did not end up how it began, but it turned out being one of my dear favorites in the series because it puts my versatility on full display like never before, or at least I’d like to imagine it does. I’m glad that it has been met with a generally good response, because I plan to do much more music that does not sound like what you’d expect to hear from me; I’ve started making some house, drum and bass/jungle, and 2-step tracks, and I’m currently trying to figure out ambient/drone. In other words, I want to be able to quote that vocal sample on Raekwon’s “Guillotine Swordz”:”I’ve learned so many styles, forgive me!”..and mean it.


When you download Mixed Jawns II (and I assume by this point you are/have already), you’ll notice Maya Rudolph graces this installment’s cover. While I forgot to ask whether or not there was a particular reason for that particular choice, upon further reflection, it was the perfect one. Like the SNL alum, Small Pro is a complete package, able to perform numerous characters and styles with the ease of an old pro. No word yet on whether or not he has his own variety show in the works, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

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