Prof – Pookie Baby

5 out of 5

Label: Rhymesayers

Produced by: Prof?

Dang, Prof.  It’s not that he’s exactly matured from release to release – he’s still, as ever, obsessed with crass and zealous boasts about his rhymin’ and sexin’ prowess; with weed; with drinking; with women – and it’s not that his production / beats have exactly changed their game at each point, as I find his early material just as rewarding as his new stuff, but… dang.  There’s something surprising about what he’s doing release to release.  Pookie Baby has a somewhat comparatively stripped down sound against Liability, and it’s initially disarming.  Where’s dat wild partying cat with the nonsense rhymes that are either laugh out loud stupid or ridiculously genius slapdash word smashups?  Where are the sudden aggressive spits or rave-up moments?  There’s the threat, as your ears perk up around the initially released singles, Andre the Giant and No, that’s that’s what this album will be: singles, and that’s a frightening feeling for such a promising rapper.

Andre the Giant and No are great tracks.  Good news: so is every other damn track on this album.  It just takes a step to get the rhythm down, especially if you’ve been mainlining other Prof tracks in expectation of this disc.  (Guilty.)  The beats are more minimal, but they’re dense as hell: pared down to their most innate rhythmic sensibilities and played with varying instrumentation that gives the disc a uniquely raw feeling, like Prof just found a keyboard or some drums and was inspired to write this while you happened to be in the room.  While that suggests a possibility for randomness in the lyrics, the opposite ends up being true: I set aside claims of maturity or evolution, but these are some of the slickest, smartest rhymes Prof has written up to this point, and it seems to go hand in hand with that pared down aspect.  With less guest stars – perhaps there’s less need to make a splash now that he’s established on his new label – there’s less need to rap around them or set them up; narratives can actually make sense (Prof’s a big fan of ridiculous imagery), which opens the door to more serious topics.  I mean, fear not, this isn’t a serious album, but the tone that Prof hit on Liability’s Motel – while maybe not absolutely carried through in its words – reemerges here when the dude sings his freakin’ heart out on several songs, including the excellent Be Around with, surprisingly, a The Voice star, Ashley DuBose.

There were some Youtube extras in which Prof spoke to the meaning behind each of the tracks, and his natural attraction to DuBose’s skills speak to his compositional intelligence… not to mention the way he spoke about his music increased my respect for / belief in his awareness of his balance of stupid and smart; and perhaps therein lies the manner in which the artist is able to continually find new nuance with his music, because it continues to be a manner of expression and exploration for him.  Which sounds like a basic requirement, I realize, but he just sounds damned excited when speaking his mind, and that energy translates on every album, every track.  And on Pookie Baby, stripped of production and guest star extras, we get that energy on an even fuller blast, and a whole slew of tracks which all turn out to be equally viable as singles.