It seems hip-hop and Chicago have an off and on relationship. The city experiences intermittent popularity amongst mainstream hip-hop fans. In the mid to late 1990s the city was well known for acts like Common, Crucial Conflict, Do or Die, and Twista. Oddly enough, though those acts never fell off or took a break the city slipped into the background for a few years. Back now, thanks mostly to Kanye West, Chicago is experiencing a resurgence in popularity with established artists like Twista selling well and new acts like Shawna creating a buzz. Top 40 hits aside, there also appears to be a talented underground scene emerging from the city of wind with crews like the Single Minded Pros leading the way.
Though relatively unknown in mainstream or underground hip-hop scenes, Single Minded Pros are poised to change that with their debut production LP “From Now On.” The album sports a heavyweight line up of MCs that includes Kool G. Rap, Louis Logic, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Akrobatik, and Pacewon among others. Though not necessarily the focus of the album, the MCs definitely represent to the fullest on most of the tracks. J.U.I.C.E. drops three straight ill battle verses on “Dumb Hot.” Kool G. Rap kicks his usual street tales like only he can on “U Know I’m Wit’ It.” Louis Logic mocks the generic club track on “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with hilarious lyrics. Overall the album is lyrically sound, being a compilation it lacks the cohesiveness of a true album but once again that isn’t the point of this LP.
On the production side of things, Single Minded Pros do a great job of providing the emcees with a proper background to wreck the tracks. The press release touts that the crew’s goal was “to make custom tailored songs for each artist” and while press releases tend to exaggerate in order to sell a product this one hit it right on the money. Single Minded Pros are good producers and they can and do make music that fits each artist very well. The aforementioned J.U.I.C.E track features a driving bass heavy track that makes your head nod but is still simple enough to allow the lyrics to really shine through. “Feels So Good” features ill vocal and musical samples that infuse the track with a jazzy and playful feel. “U Know I’m Wit’ It” is the perfect track for Kool G. Rap and is as grimey and street as can get with an eerie string sample that would make the Rza envious. “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” could almost be considered an underground club track with its up-tempo beat and dirty bass melody. Almost each track could be showered with equal praise throughout the 17 track LP. The only somewhat lackluster tracks come towards the end of the CD. “Chicago Emcees” sounds almost too simple with only the drum track and a bass riff providing most of the music. “Torture Chamber” is an ambitious and creative effort but the result doesn’t quite work out as well as it could. Single Minded Pros take a minimalist approach to the beat again with only the drum track and two samples that sound like something out of a sci-fi flick. It’s an interesting idea, but the samples used tend to distract from Akrobatik’s verses rather than improve them.
The one aspect of this album that stands out the most is the way Single Minded Pros are able to craft music that fits a specific MC and the way they keep each track different and fresh. They definitely have more than one trick up their sleeve and are not afraid to take a chance. “From Now On” is a very solid album that showcases the talent of this production crew very well. With efforts such as these, Single Minded Pros will surely reach the ears of not only underground emcees and fans but could very well find their way into the ears of mainstream fans around the country. While other Chicago emcees and producers have been attacking the mainstream with a barrage of hits lately, Single Minded Pros have been quietly preparing themselves for the second wave to hit. That time has come and with “From Now On” the crew shows that they are ready for the big leagues and willing to do their best to keep Chicago on the map this time around.