Things come about in abstracts for ProbCause. The Evanston, Ill., native, who is in the process of wrapping up a MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has become known around his city for pointed lyricism and careful collaborations. On his latest project, The Recipe Vol. 2 he seeks to have his message stimulate eyes and ears alike while pulling from all corners of burgeoning the Windy City scene.
The Recipe vol. 2 is a departure for the Psalm One protege-an exploration of blending separate aspects of himself and those around him into one cohesive project.
As a kid growing up in the north Chicago suburb of Evanston, Prob began taking daily rides south on the Purple line towards the city to graffiti. New to the culture, he quickly discovered the inevitable link between graffiti and hip-hop.
“I think that has always been a thing for me, trying to figure out how to combine music and art,” said ProbCause. “With this album I did individual visual art for all of the songs on it.”
Crammed into a small stall amongst a catacomb of artist spaces off of Monroe St. in the loop is Prob’s work. As he describes different tracks from the latest installment of The Recipe, he shows off his original visual components.
Hanging from the white walls, the paintings vary from abstract meanings to sports motifs. Pointing at one of an old-school basketball player he smiles, “Phil Jackson in the old days”. Probcause may be from Evanston, but he can appreciate a strong mustache like any naturalized Chicagoan.
The complex drawings pair with each track and evoke the mood and theme of the overall piece, acting like a road map to his latest project, one that takes the listener on a trip around his adopted hometown.
Prob has added a smattering of features, playing on his Chicagoland roots on the second installment of The Recipe. Enlisting the help of artists big and small, young and old-the list of features include a who’s who of local artists such as Chance The Rapper, ShowYouSuck, Psalm One, Martin Sky, Legit, The Palmer Squares, Eryn Koehn and Augie The 9th, among others.
Koehn, who provides one of the surprising appearances on the song “Motivation” relished the opportunity to work Prob and be part of such a multi-faceted album.
“It was awesome working with someone who I’d known about for years. He’s an amazing artist and I feel lucky to be a part of a project like The Recipe Vol. 2 that is able to pull from so many different sides of this scene,” said Koehn.
For her part, veteran Chicago MC Psalm One has seen Probcause grow from the young paint-covered teenager into the cultured, lyrically-conscious artist he is today.
“Prob and I have known each other for a long time. I would say pretty soon it will be creeping up on a decade, because I remember crashing on his couch when he was studying in Boston and I would come through there on tour,” said Psalm One. “He’s a real artist and a good person so I expect him to keep growing as both. As soon as someone improves they have my respect, and I’ve seen Prob constantly improve.”
When asked about the name of his next project, ProbCause is quick to note that while Volume One was met with positive reception, the next installment brings together an assortment of Chicago flavors that come together for a “three course meal”, also the name of one of the first singles off the project with Chance and the bona fide chef himself, Action Bronson.
“My goal with The Recipe was that I kept adding a lot of ingredients. There’s a lot going on in Chicago across all genres and I want to embrace that and work with as many different artists and producers as I could,” said ProbCause.
As Chicago has produced an impressive line of successful artists over the past two years, those around the city have pointed to a recent openness to collaboration as a key to the bubbling Midwest scene.
At his listening party for The Recipe Vol. 2 July 12 on the near west side of Chicago Prob addressed a packed room, stating: “I wanted to capture this moment in Chicago music.” The slew of local features big and small, along with an impressive video with Chance The Rapper for “LSD” by Elijah Alvarado do just that, embodying the essence of the collaborative nature of the young Chicago scene.
While the mix of sounds and styles certainly puts Prob and his latest release firmly in the eye of the storm that is Chicago hip-hop today, it is the subtle messages throughout the album that comment on the current state of the city that makes it at once endearing to anyone who has been to a show at Reggie’s or hung out at Jugrnaut for a day.
Touching on everything from violence to the sudden break up of Chicago trailblazers Kids These Days, Prob is able to craftily navigate tender subject matter while delivering a meaningful, lasting message about the state of his city.
Prob is a patchwork of Chicago and the recipe he’s cooked up on his latest release demonstrates the kind of forward-thinking multi-genre music that has come to embody the city again recently. By employing a multitude of sounds from the city both big and small, along with a creative visual addition, ProbCause has been able to create a complete project that is able to stand alone.
“I’m going to continue making music I feel strongly about now and hopefully the work speaks for itself,” said ProbCause. “I’m happy I’ve made so much music and so much art because I feel like people can look at that. I’ll live through this stuff if I die tomorrow.”