Remix albums can be hit or miss. On one hand, they give (often unheralded) producers the chance to get creative and showcase their skills by crafting beats around vocals from more prominent artists than those they would normally produce for. Jay-Z, for example, released acapella versions of both “The Black Album” and “American Gangster,” leading to a flurry of remix albums that combined Hov’s lyrics with samples ranging from Led Zeppelin to Marvin Gaye to music from “The Godfather.” On the flip side, there are times when I can’t help but cringe when a producer tries to remix a classic song and ends up tarnishing the original. Thus, I was initially skeptical of Small Professor’s “Gigantic, Vol. 0”, a prequel release to his upcoming album “Gigantic, Vol. 1,” even after I read of his critically acclaimed Jay-Z remix album “Crooklyn Gangster.” While none of the artists remixed on “Gigantic, Vol. 0” are anywhere near the level of Jay-Z, after checking out some of the original tracks I questioned whether Small Pro would be able to come up with something innovative and fresh.
Before diving into the remixes, though, it’s worth noting that there are a handful of original Small Pro-produced tracks on “Gigantic, Vol. 0.” The first of these is “Welcome to Holodeck,” featuring Curly Castro and Zilla Rocca, which comes after the album’s intro track that samples dialogue from “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” The creeping piano keys and dark pulsing strings make for a very sinister beat, similar to music one would expect to hear accompanying a movie scene where someone is being chased or followed, and the chorus, beginning with “Welcome to the Holodeck/ Bring your dreams and nightmares,” reinforces the ominous feel. Curly Castro and Zilla Rocca appear again on the equally menacing “The Broken Language Homage Makers,” alongside Has-Lo, spitting rhymes such as “The sling blade runner, the grape guzzler/ The two shots of henney to numb ya, pull a slug from ya” over the piercing horns.” Perhaps the most polished original track, though, is “Wrecking Crew Meets Legendary Crew,” where Che Grand and Euclid join Curly Castro and Zilla Rocca on the guitar-driven instrumental. Each emcee spits a ferocious verse, but Che Grand takes the cake with his opening lines “All my riddles is full of gems/ CrÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me, another rhythm for me to rule again/Tendencies of a hooligan, with a ghoulish pen.”
Overall, the original tracks are somewhat of a mixed bag, with one or two standouts and one or two songs that are somewhat harsh on the ears, and the real focus of the album is the remixes. Small Pro maintains the hardcore vibe of the original “This Ain’t Love” by Deal the Villain with a heavy drum loop, but the pulsing aggressive piano keys soon grow repetitive and don’t quite mesh with Deal’s delivery. On the remix of the Black Milk-produced “F.A.N.S.” by Phat Kat, though, Small Pro adds more of a soulful flavor with a crooning vocal sample to complement the uplifting grand piano. Next, Small Pro uses one of the most sampled drum loops in history – James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” – to give Kane Mayfield’s “Wreck” a much more upbeat feel, complete with aggressive and pronounced horns to complement Kane’s hardcore delivery. Finally, Small Pro goes toe-to-toe with Black Milk once again with a remix of Elzhi’s “Deep,” and while the beat is admittedly a little too sparse, with just a simple guitar pluck laying the foundation, it allows Elzhi’s rhymes to be the star of the show, as he spits:
“I’m the bell ringer, shell slinger
Hidin’ bodies till the smell linger
Until they pale as Renee Zellweger
When El sting ya
You feeling like the brail finger
Searching for the line, I’m first you stuck in last
Rappers now suckin’ ass
Full of new school niggas I wouldn’t fuckin’ pass”
While there are certainly a handful of quality tracks on “Gigantic, Vol. 0,” overall I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed with Small Professor’s remix skills. Several of his beats are overly simple, often to the point where they become repetitive and tedious, and simply don’t bring anything new to the table. Small Pro’s remix of “Deep,” for example, seems mediocre at best after hearing Black Milk’s original version, which has a smoother, more authentic feel. Maybe this is an unfair comparison, but I found it difficult to listen to the remix more than a few times before reverting back to the original, and the same can be said of several of the other remixes throughout the album. In fact, the tracks I enjoyed the most were some of the original cuts that Small Pro produced, such as “Wrecking Crew Meets Legendary Crew,” which, outside of “Deep,” features the best rapping on the entire album. It remains to be seen if Small Pro can step his game up on his upcoming album “Gigantic, Vol. 1,” but until then listeners will most likely breeze through “Vol. 0” without much of an afterthought.