small CHANGE
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small CHANGE

Band Hip Hop Rock


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small CHANGE @ Legends of Notre Dame

South Bend, Indiana, USA

South Bend, Indiana, USA

small CHANGE @ Morseland Cafe

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Chicago, Illinois, USA

small CHANGE @ Abbey Pub

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Chicago, Illinois, USA

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



November 7, 2003


When present, spontaneity is hip-hop's most potent component.

Art critics talk about the freedom of the lines in graffiti. Choreographers marvel at the spot freezes of break dancers. Clubgoers marvel at the off-the-top lyrics of battle MCs and the cuts of battle DJs.

Yet in an age of overproduced rappers, predictable lyrics and hooks, and generally tired themes, many hip-hop heads often wonder what happened to the magnetic impulse.

Chicago's Small Change has found it by following one of hip-hop's lost rules. They just do it.

This isn't to say they don't work. It's quite the contrary. They work together.

As the band sits in their practice space, which doubles as their drummer's crib (the stage is straight down past the bathroom), they try to explain. They say things like, "there's no boss" and "each person contributes" and "we make good music."

But it's only when bassist Kyle Westbrook, drummer Mike Ryan, guitarist Todd Swope and MCs Vitamen D and Jah Safe plug in that clarity slices through cliche.

When Small Change plays there's a raw synergy. The product is distilled hip-hop music. It's early Roots in a samurai fight. Small Change's freedom may be a result of the garage-rock-like origins of the band. Ryan always loved hip-hop and bartered a bass in college before finally getting drums. Westbrook knew D from when D was the bassist/teacher's student at Lincoln Park High School. Safe, who also works with Chicago's Frontline label and will soon be releasing a mixtape "Safety 1st," just loves to spit lyrics. Swope, the silent member of the crew, is the only one with any traditional musical training. As such, he is often the band's spark, showing up to rehearsal with a riff that blossoms into a song.

They build through jamming. Providing grooves that range from airy flights to driving shoves, Westbrook, Ryan and Swope lay a framework to let D and Safe shine.

D is a self-declared devourer of wack rappers, "I burn 'em down."

Safe says he's more of a lover. "I give hugs, then I burn 'em down."

But they aren't only battlers. Their subject matter ranges from women to their dissatisfaction with the current presidential administration.

"If we see something, or we know something, there is a responsibility, as an MC, to let our audience know," says Safe.

For now, the goal of Small Change is letting audiences know the band is on the rise. "It seems that there are a lot of rappers out there who have CDs but they don't know how to rock a show," says Westbrook. "We are trying to build up our audience by rocking shows, before we put out our CD."

Ryan said the band is also trying to work and perform with other bands, producers and rappers in Chicago. "If you have fans and we have fans then we can bring them together to help grow the scene."

For more information visit

David Jakubiak is a local free-lance writer.

- Chicago Sun Times

February 12, 2004
by Jenn Rourke

The five members of Chicago's Small Change each come from different parts of the sprawling city. When they all come together for shows, they say it'slike a Voltron convergence. But Voltron couldn't handle a live crowd like these guys. Hip-hop's Voltron will merge Saturday, February 14 onto the
Hangar 9 stage with opening acts Modern Optiks and Czar.
Small Change isn't your typical hip-hop outfit. In fact, they'd
like to think of themselves as the antithesis to what's out on the scene today. With a living, breathing drummer, bassist, and guitarist, this quintet's sound marries traditional rap with your average rock-band instrumentation.
The group consists of two MCs, Vitamin D. and Jah Safe, bassist
Kyle Westbrook, drummer Mike Ryan, and guitarist/keyboardist Todd Swope. The group came together in a pretty characteristic fashion, with Westbrook and Vitamin D. going all the way back to their teenage years. The rest of
the group was picked up at various friends' houses and recording
collaborations. What's unique, however, is how they formed as an ensemble.
They decided to play together, and, fortunately, the instrumentation lined up well.
"There was no real plot, if [Westbrook] had played a kazoo, that's what it would be," explains Vitamin D. "It was just a vibe."
They also have a great deal of mutual respect for one another.
"Todd is really talented," explains Jah Safe. "He can lay keys as
well as guitar. There aren't a lot of [hip-hop] bands with guitars."
The group says Swope is equally adept at keys and guitar, and jokes
about making him run back and forth during shows. Ryan also gets credit from his band for an unmatched work ethic and drive for precision.
"Mike is a complete beast," praises Westbrook. "Call him perfection. Every time I hear him he's twice as good. That's definitely an inspiration. When I see him killin' it, I have to kill it.." The group has played its fair share of crazy shows in Chicago. One wild show took place at Lucid Studios, the group's "home base" where the mosh pit was unbelievable. Vitamin D. describes it this way:
"You ever seen Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome? That was it, the way I was rappin', I felt like Mad Max."
Yeah, except Mel Gibson probably couldn't spit like these MCs. Another favorite show took place at the Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, which might be an indicator of this group's penchant for partying. Small Change is proving their abilities, racking up some of the best compliments a band can receive.

"Somebody said, we don't sound like anybody else. That's always
good to hear," says Jah Safe.
They also once received the creative acclaim that the group sounded like "Roots in a samurai fight."

The MCs say they draw their lyrical inspiration from life experiences, past, present, and future. They also credit young, up-and-coming MCs for displaying the kind of energy that reminds them why they rap, but more important, demonstrating the mistakes to avoid. "You can learn from anything. It's just about how you input it," says Jah.
A slightly unhealthy devotion to actress-comedienne Janeane
Garofalo also serves as poetic motivation. Both MCs come from different early experiences as artists. Vitamin D. says he began writing his material, but finally got the groove of freestyling.
"I had to start freestyling out of force, but then they say, 'He's
still spittin' rhythms,'" he explains.
On the other hand, Jah began as a freestyler and was challenged to
write his rhymes. "I was forced to write. We had a talent show [tryout], and we didn't make the talent show, but I had to write a couple joints."
The MCs say they keep their stuff witty or funny when they can, and
often come up with stuff that borders on ridiculous.
"We are completely ridiculous in everyday life," Vitamin D. explains.
But the rappers warn against bum-rush rap battles. "Freestyling does not mean battle, you do have an option," says Vitamin D. "This is where a lot of things go wrong. Don't just run up on us. You will get decapitated."

Musically, the group almost unanimously cites Stevie Wonder as an influential icon. But in terms of musical taste, Small Change is all over the board, listening to everything from Björk to the Israeli Philharmonic to System of a Down.

Westbrook says of his bass influences, "My number one influence is Jane's Addiction, then the Jimi Hendrix Experience. That's what I listen to for technique, and those bassists aren't known as bass gods." He respects those
bassists because of their simple melodies, as opposed to a fancy slap-bass showmanship.

The band is dedicated to rehearsing and coming together with all kinds of ideas. There is a camaraderie in the group that has held it together and drives it to create and experiment with even more new sounds. A Small
Change performance won't blur into one long track. Every song has its own flavor that sets it apart from the others. The fans are insane about Small Change, too.
"We get a ton of... crazed fans. Imagine Gandalf the Great when he
was sixteen, if he'd dropped out of wizard school and did heavy drugs,"
says Vitamin D. Their fans, they say, are very important to them, and they are appreciative of any support.

When asked why their Carbondale show is worth going to, they
collectively reply, "Jesus is gonna be there, and Tom Berenger, Brian
Dennehy, and Al Sharpton on bongos! The show is gonna be completely ridiculous."
Kidding aside, Small Change promises this show will be better than ever because each week they improve.
"Every single week we get tighter and tighter and the sword swing
gets more official," says Westbrook.
The promise to pour out a fusion of live music and energy should
entice people to the show. They say it will be an awesome chance for Joe College to just get crazy and cut loose.

Small Change is used to diverse crowds at all of their shows.
"Cats' moms [are] there or their uncles, and everybody's live, even
if they're not throwing 'bows, you're gonna find something that you like," says Westbrook.
The group claims that there is something for everyone, even those
who aren't hip-hop fans. They've even played at an Irish pub. Their energy, they say, will suck you in.
- Carbondale Nightlife

The local hip-hop group Small Change has been performing since 2002, but the new self-released EP The Rock Sauce Sessions is its first recording. The cuts are tight and confident, with a no-frills "live" sound (just guitar, bass, drums, and two MCs) and a coiled-up tension in their rangy, boinging beats. - Chicago Reader

In the spirit of the Roots of local favorites Abstract Giants comes small CHANGE, a hip hop band with a hot sound. While they’re made up like other bands with a drummer bassist, a guitarist and a couple of emcees, the groups sound is all its own. Oftentimes funky, sometimes chill, and sometimes angry, small CHANGE is a group of talented artists who have a variety of musical influences. Those who criticize hip-hop because of it’s lack of instrumentation have no argument when listening to small CHANGE. Music lovers of all genres will be able to appreciate the funk, rock, reggae and jazz influences in the music. The often downtempo instrumentals complement the different rap styles of the groups two emcees Vitamin D and Jah Safe, whose rhymes are as eclectic as their musical influences. They can flow conscious hip-hop with the best of them, yet they can have a distinct street feel in some songs. Their raps range from lyrical and flowing to hard hitting and confident. Bottomline: this will be a hip-hop show tha no hip-hop lover should miss. This is Nargile’s late show on Friday and will begin around 10pm., after the Greedy Loves and Adam Schmitt rock show. - The Hub - Champaign Urbana

Probably the only band that can live up to its own billing as "a
ridiculously dope live band," this hip-hop quintet got its name when it
decided to undergo a "small change," eschewing turntables and sampling in favor of live instrumentation. The change couldn¹t be more effective for releasing the band¹s infectious and furious beats. Blessed with two of the best emcees in the city (Vitamen D and Jah Safe won the 2004 and 2005 Rhymespitters battles, respectively), small CHANGE is one of the best groups on the Chi-town hip-hop circuit. They will be playing this week as a part of the "Rhymespitters II" video release party. The video will be screened first, but be prepared. When the tape ends and small CHANGE begins, it'll be lights out.

- John Thompson - The Chicago Reader


The Rock Sauce Sessions (EP) (2004)
The Chicago Drop Compilation (2004)
Boom Bap Compilation Vol. I - (2005)
The Chicago Drop Compilation (2006)
The Arbuckle Sessions (EP) - forthcoming

tracks from both the Rock Sauce Sessions and the Arbuckle Sessions are in rotation in Los Angeles at KXLU and KPFK.



Small CHANGE encompases the soul of Curtis Mayfield, the funk of Fishbone, the power of Rage Against The Machine, the chemistry of Medeski, Martin & Wood, the energy of Jimi Hendrix, the jubilation of Outkast, and the showmanship of James Brown with the lyrical skill of Rakim, the heart and determination of Kanye West, and the genius of Nas.

Small CHANGE has an incredible chemistry in which there is no specific band leader. Everyone contributes equally to the writing and composition of the music, allowing each individual to challenge and express their own ideas within the collective. This magical chemistry is immediately apparent when hearing the band live. It is at a live show that a fan can experience the talent of the artist first hand, and the artist can connect through shared excitement with the audience, and there's no doubt that the live band invigorates the often anticlimactic rap show.

With a vast array of influence and and abundance of ability, the obvious comparison to The Roots does not do justice to the band Small CHANGE. The marriage of live instruments and hip hop music has only just begun, and if The Roots are the Honeymooners, then Small CHANGE is the Simpsons!

While The Roots blazed the trail for live hip hop through the nineties, they began expanding the boundries of the music and building a reputation through touring. With the emergence of rap/rock bands such as Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit & 311, the boundries continue to strech. These bands tapped into hip hop by adding rhymes to their heavy grooves, but Small CHANGE is working backwards from this as the band is fronted by the lyrical genius of Vitamin D and Jah Safe, two battle tested emcees that have been immersed in hip hop culture their entire lives. This gives the band the freedom and ability to weave a tapestry of musical influence in their sonic soundscapes and continue to explore the fluid boundries of music while remaining centered under the umbrella of hip hop.