PRO - Black Out

Who is Pro? That is what I thought when I first received his album for review. I know Christian rap is a marginalized genre within the larger Christian subculture, but I’ve usually heard something about an artist before they hit the airwaves. Not the case with Pro. For me, he has literally come from out of left field.

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Let me state this is plainly as possible: Pro is, quite possibly, the best Christian rapper I have ever heard. Now, you have to understand. I’ve heard, reviewed, and interviewed a lot of Christian rappers in my time. Lecrae. Trip Lee. Grits. The Ambassador. Frontlynaz. I’ve heard a great deal of music. So, when I say Pro is the best I’ve ever heard, I do not say this lightly. What is truly impressive about this is the fact that his album “The Blackout” is a debut record. Think of the album as the perfect meeting of the minds—a work that boasts the lyrical theology of Reach Records, the social consciousness of Kanye and Mos Def, and the delivery of 50 Cent and Dr. Dre. “The Blackout” features more of a West Coast vibe for sure, utilizing a lot of the sounds popularized by Suge Knight, Dre, and Snoop. There is a good mix of bangers, slower ballads, and the ever-popular “bangallad”—a mixing of the two.

The album opens with the braggadocios track “Birth Of A King,” which answers my first question, “Who is Pro?” Generally, I’m not a fan of Christian rap that focuses on how awesome the rapper is. The distinguishing mark of Christians who rap ought to be their glorification of God, not the glorification of themselves. However, Pro has struck a balance of acknowledging the gifts God has given him and the [good] pride that comes from enjoying utilizing those gifts in a manner that benefits those around you. “That Real” establishes the socially-conscious side of the album, calling into question the reality of the world that many rapper present to the world and the hood. Pro spits,

“Where all the guns at?/I ain’t heard a glock pop/I walked through ya hood and I ain’t never been shot/And all that talk about you hangin’ where the dimes be/I seen your baby mama/Man she ain’t a dime piece/Where that advance money?/Show me just a little proof/And if you a deal, Mother Goose signed you/Because you specialize in fairy tales very well/We see through you homie/That’ll never sell…” The delivery here is the perfection one would expect to come out of Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. Pro raps flawlessly over the slick and ominous beat.

“Let Me Know” and “Shut It Down” feature guest spots from eYe-Q and Pettidee, respectively, and continue the forceful yet party-ish vibe established early on. “Without You” features Coko Korrine singing lithely over the chorus of this ballad which features a nice Spanish guitar carrying the beat and light piano in the background. This is where Pro proves he is a professional with production and prowess far beyond what a debut artist ought to have at this stage in the game. Korrines vocals are great and will remind listeners of Out of Eden’s Lisa Kimmey. “Bring It Back,” featuring Willie Will, is an appropriate ode to when rap was a true form of expression. Consider it Pro’s proverbial Brown Sugar—when he first “fell in love with hip-hop.” The following track “I Bet He Lying” is much like “That Real,” but is even more cutting in its indictment of fake rappers selling a picture of success that doesn’t actually exist and only hurts the listener. An uncredited emcee who sounds just like 50 Cent in the second verse is the best part when he says

“Everybody’s a baller, everybody’s a hustler/A million dope dealers and everybody’s a customer/Everybody’s a pimp, everybody’s a gorilla/He don’t pay that homie, everybody’s a killer/When the microphone’s off and the camera on pause/Let’s still keep it real/What about ya’ll?” Other notable tracks include “Bet I Bounce Back,” “Yeah,” and “What I’m Working Wit.”

The theology here is subtle. Pro doesn’t rap Paul’s thirteen letters or come hard with a doctoral thesis over beats. Pro certainly gives credit to Christ for who is and what he is able to do, but his rap seems more informed by his Christian worldview than anything else. That is translated by a clear-cut mission to dispel myths of urban pop culture and inject the truth of Christ into the mix. I can live with that.

Pro is the new kid on the block with the chops of a 10-year veteran. Do not sleep on this.

Label: C.L.E. (Christ Like Entertainment)

Release Date: November 2008

1. Intro
2. Birth of a King
3. That Real
4. Let Me Know feat. eYe Q
5. Shut it Down feat. Pettidee
6. Without You feat. Coko Korrine
7. Bet I Bounce Back
8. Where You At feat. Brothatone
9. More feat. Dorian Lee
10. Hate Me More feat. Kingston
11. What I'm Working With
12. Bring It Back feat. Willie Will
13. I Bet He Lying
14. Hot in Here
15. You Know the Deal
16. If I Don't Wake feat. Soul P
17. Yeah