I’d argue that few people in America are having a better few days than Chicago’s ProbCause. In the past week he arrived home from a nationwide tour with dance duo Cherub, released his latest project WAVES via SPIN and graduated with his Master’s degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Not bad.
On the opening track to the 27-year-old’s latest project, the MC recites: “where I’m on, I might not come back home” and that mentality is understandable. There comes a time in any successful Chicago artist’s career where they inevitably must choose between staying and going; the call of the coasts is real. But few put on for their city as vehemently as Prob, whose 2013 mixtape The Recipe Vol. 2 was an amalgam of the varying sides of the Chicago Hip-Hop landscape. Even so, having performed two years in a row at North Coast Music Festival, with several national tours under his belt, ProbCause seems ready to make the leap to a larger stage.
Already established as one of the more talented lyricists in town, Prob opened up the production end of his sound, which allows for a multi-dimensional experience that includes tracks like the Fortified Songs-produced, bassline-heavy “Ego Trip.” Where his last work was chock-full of features, WAVES is a more personal look at Prob. He is more assured on this album, rhyming “sold my soul for plenty of this/and now I don’t know if I want any of this/but it’s way too late for an identity shift” on “One of a Kind.” It’s the realization that he’s reached unforeseen heights with enough hubris to understand it’s not always going to be everything he imagined.
While WAVES may be a wholly ProbCause experience, it is not without its well-timed features as well. At a listening party last year for The Recipe Vol. 2, Prob told the crowd in attendance, “I wanted to capture this moment in Chicago music.” He then went to work with Eryn Allen Kane, Auggie The 9th and Martin $ky, among others. This time around it’s again lesser-known, but sure-to-blow locals like Donnie Trumpet, KSRA and Fluffy, bookended by stalwarts like Twista and Psalm One who give WAVES an accurate scope of Chicago’s scene today.
If nothing else, ProbCause makes music perfectly fit for summer, a treat for those of us who braved the Midwest’s blistering winter. Upbeat and full of the Windy City’s influence, WAVES is a proper continuance on the trajectory already established on his previous releases. And the past year has seen ProbCause graduate several levels, so it will be interesting to see the kind of ripples his waves make.