The Pro Era crew have been pretty hard to avoid as of late. Whether it be the release of their solid PEEP: The aPROcalypse mixtape, or the tragic and untimely death of fellow member Capital Steez, there’s certainly been a lot to talk about, and it seems as though they plan to enter 2013 the way they bowed out of 2012 with the release of a new EP under the guise Super Helpful. Comprising of Pro Era regular Chuck Strangers, Kwame and producer/Joey Bada$$ tour DJ Lee Bannon, the trio come through with a five-track, 15-minute EP of straight-up left-field hip-hop, and it doesn’t take long for you to get sucked into their super-blunted soundscapes.
Opening track “The Help” is one of the more ‘conventional’ tracks on the EP featuring some dusty, boom-bap drums and a hook about smoking weed—as well as the particularly cringe-worthy line “bitches on Facebook/you on Instagram showin’ how you look” (I guess I’ll just never get used to rappers talking about iPhone apps)—but towards the end the drums slam on the brakes, the synths ascend and things take a turn for the weirder. The proceeding song, “Lawns”, sounds like it could’ve been stolen from a dumpster behind Madlib’s studio, with its Quasimoto-esque pitched vocals and funky bass-line, but look beyond that and it’s probably the best track on the EP: a pure stoner jam that is only enhanced by a brief Joey Bada$$ cameo, three switch-ups in the beat and a cheeky Kanye West reference (“I know it’s past visiting hours, but can I get a lick of that sour”).
Elsewhere there is the track “Sumo”, which originally surfaced on the Internet in November last year, and showcases both Chuck and Kwame on top form in terms of both their lyrics and their flow, “Drug Tested”, a hazy, sci-fi-tinged beat with the sub-bass turned up to 11, and “2step (apex version)”, with an infectious, twisted vocal hook and yet another great beat courtesy of Lee Bannon, although by the time you get to the end of The Help you realize that this goes without saying.
Bannon’s work on this EP is sublime; every instrumental fits the bill perfectly and the experimental production techniques are always captivating without ever coming across as novelty or clichéd. Tracks such as ‘Drug Tested’ might be mixed poorly – with the bass far too high in the mix and the vocals far too low, for example – but it only reinforces the DIY ethos of this whole EP, and goes to show that you don’t need fifteen producers behind a track in order for it to hold its own.
They’ve got progress to make for sure, but Super Helpful has delivered the first great hip-hop EP of 2013. This is pure, highly concentrated stoner hip-hop with a particular emphasis on Bannon’s special blend of dusty, hot-boxed boom-bap instrumentals. Pro Era can release as many mix-tapes as they like this year, but if we don’t hear anything else from Super Helpful, then let us declare 2013 over and done with.