(Photo by Emani Larkin)
Chris Daly‘s mixed jawns usually involve a goodly amount of gin.
It seems highly implausible that his late Royal Badness was thinking of Philadelphia’s beat maestro, Small Professor, when he implored his fans to “be glad that you are free.” First and foremost, Prince’s stellar eighth track from the incomparable “1999” was recorded April 25, 1982, and the diminutive scholar’s latest offering from his Jawns series is only just now dropping. We probably don’t need to speculate on other reasons, but I believe it’s fair to say Mr. Nelson would feel similarly about SP’s “Free,” a seven track quickie made up entirely of funky, soulful samples from the British blues rock band, you guessed it, Free.
While Small Professor takes his namesake from rapper/producer Large Professor, “Free” proves that SP would have been equally, if not better, served selecting a sobriquet based on a hero from the medical profession or perhaps butchery. The Prof demonstrates a surgeon’s precision with his samples, artfully removing the choicest cuts from the samples selected to provide the ultimate conveyance of raw emotion, from the uplifting vibes of “is to be happy” to the frenzied passion of “nope.”
(Side note to self: Doc Butcher would make a bad ass character name when I get around to penning that Western space opera I keep meaning to write).
In between these more frenetic moments, SP explores subdued, relaxed spaces on tracks like, “views from the seven eyed sand,” “unleash the guru on ’em, flutes,” and “fake stimulus package jawn.” Not content to rest there, Small Pro decides to just say fuck it, and rides into the sunset on the plaintive, “whenever your lonely” and the equally earnest “the wifi pw is is assata is safe here,” which may or may not be a wisely named track depending on if you’re trying to leech off the man’s internet.
Small Professor succeeds on “Free” in much the same way he has on the majority of his Jawns series. His are not simple samples and loops. While employing those and other audio chicanery to craft his tracks, SP’s songs work as “legitimate” songs. These are not endlessly played loops that become repetitively tedious after about 30 seconds, but build in much the same way any “regular” song would, complete with crescendos and decrescendos as the mood requires, bridges where they belong, instruments coming into and out of the mix when it fits the groove and anything else you might consider the exclusive purview of live music.
Yeah, you know it’s a beat tape, but nobody would blame you if you thought it was just a particularly soulful band jamming out in the back room while someone happened to hit record in the studio.
According to the man himself, “Free” began as an exercise and palate cleanser while working on his next full LP, which was giving him problems at the time. “This basically was a reminder to myself that I was still good even while (the soon-to-be-released full-length) (which I was stuck on perfecting for a few weeks) drove me crazy as I was trying to finish it.” The results speak for themselves, and they speak volumes.