Issue 43 (2002)
If I were asked to introduce or explain to someone about Large Professor I could easily run through the vast list of accomplishments that include ghost production for hiphop legends as a youngster, recording the classic “Breakin Atoms” with Main Source or how he introduced the world to the likes of Nasty Nas and Akinyele all while influencing a generation of hiphop heads with his unique production style. But if I really wanted to be accurate I’d say this man is true hiphop from head to toe. Throughout the trials and tribulations he has gone through to release a solo LP he still maintains a deep love for this art and culture we’re all apart of and for that I admire him.
What were you contributing to hiphop in junior high school? For most of us the answer would be pretty much nothing and for others it would likely include their early days of breakin, emceeing, djing or tagging, but for Large Pro a.k.a Extra P it was much more. He was busy crafting beats for the likes of Eric B. and Rakim and Juice Crew alum Kool G. Rap. In retrospect its amazing to imagine being able to help shape the culture by working with the top MCs of the day at such a young age, however its equally disheartening when you don’t receive the credit. Where as one would be frustrated at the fact that his efforts were kept under radar due to his ghost production status (having his work under the name of another artist), Extra P simply chalks it up to paying dues.
“Everybody was sort of in the same hood so it was like just coming up I was on my job doing those beats and it stood out. When you do anything exceptionally the word is going to travel and it wound up making it to them [Eric B. and Rakim] and we linked up and it was all good. [But] no matter how hard you try to get in the game and have everything together you always wind up paying dues. That was my form of paying dues. A lot of dudes went through that same thing but that’s how it worked out. That story ain’t original.”
Sadly that story isn’t original, many heads coming up at the time were limited by what they were recognized for and even more so by what they were able to use to create. While producers today have many options in terms of equipment, most of the cats coming up along with Extra P had the SP-1200 as the preferred weapon of choice. The SP had very limited sample time capabilities and with pioneers such as Kid Capri, Marley Marl, Pete Rock, Ced Gee, BDP, and Biz Markie among others all using the same sampler it would seem that the biggest challenge wasn’t necessarily how to be creative within the limitations of the machine, but finding a way to develop your own signature sound and style in the midst of so many talented beat makers working with the same tools.
“I always say it’s not the machine it’s the person,” explains Large Pro. “It’s not the records, its not anything, it’s the person who is putting it in there and their tastes. Everybody’s gonna have their own swing and their own way of doing it. What kinda was my signature thing was just the way I did it. You might have them sleigh bells in there or tambourines but it was all good. It’s all in the feel. To me it’s not the method it’s the outcome. I don’t care what you do or what you use as long as when you press play it’s banging. What you did to get it is all good, you could’ve tapped spoons on the floor, whatever you did as long as the finished product sounds good. There’s really no rules on how your going to produce or at least you shouldn’t try to have any rules or boundaries.”
One of the major influences people credit Extra P with is the Main Source album. The beats on “Breakin Atoms” were way ahead of its time in ‘90-’91 and expanded the boundaries of rap music. Large Pro made his mark by working with rather obscure samples and overcoming the restrictions of the SP to develop an almost prototypical east coast sound. While the group itself was relatively short lived, P continued to impact hiphop soundscapes working with Nas, Akinyele, Busta Rhymes, Common, etc, but it was his statement on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Keep It Rollin” that people tend to remember the most where P declares “Queens represent buy the album when I drop it.” The project he was referring has yet to see a proper release from Geffen Records and that story of shady label politics also isn’t anything new to hiphop.
“Geffen and I didn’t see eye to eye and they didn’t want to put it out,” P bluntly states. “I’m hiphop though so they can’t tell me about it, I was born and raised in this, but your funding it so I can’t scream, kick or argue about what you want to fund but I’m gonna go out here and do what I gotta do.”
After parting ways with Geffen, he was exhausted mentally. He was creating but was being told what was good and what wasn’t by people who didn’t understand the culture or even how he had planned to promote his vision. After being drained by that process a return to making beats was just what he needed to get him feeling good again about the scene and that feeling has translated into this new venture. But with his success as a beat smith, coupled with the problems he has had with labels one has to wonder why even bother releasing another album?
“This is what I do,” P bluntly answers. “When people see it they will learn to appreciate it and understand it. When they’ve seen more of it. The only thing they’ve seen of me is Main Source and that was years ago so people are coming to their own conclusions, but once I’m able to mass produce my catalog where I have the support of the label and I can show people my vision it might sit better with people where they will say as an artist I really dig this dude, he’s real ill with how he gets down. I always felt like I needed to do that, to get that across to people especially for the cats that are like P what’s up with a new album.”
Main Source came at a time when the hiphop scene was extremely fruitful, particularly with the quality acts off of Wild Pitch like O.C, U.M.Cs and Lord Finesse, but rap in this day an age tends to be less diverse where any deviation from the standard is almost looked at as sacrilegious if the artist isn’t fully established. But even with the mainstream dominating the airwaves and hungry talented artists forced to populate the underground P still feels it is a good time to be apart of the culture.
“[The scene] is good because it’s a lot of different levels. You got the radio level where you hear a lot of pop stuff, then you got the underground level where you hear the raw dudes. I love it all honestly because its ill we have this foundation. You can’t shit on any one part of hiphop because all of this is us. We built this from the ground with records and if you have anything derogatory to say you’ll only be hurting yourself if you feel like you really in hiphop. So I always take the best or see the good in everything.”
While most true heads will embrace Extra P’s return, many of today’s hiphop fans don’t study up on the past like they should and being that much of his recent work was behind the scenes, they won’t be up on who he is. According to Extra P though it will be the album’s traditional hiphop flavor that inspires MCs to pick up the pad which will entice present day crowds.
“They gonna love it because its that real raw shit!” P exclaims. “They gonna feel it, they can’t deny it. Because a lot of dudes don’t have knowledge of the past its going to have that effect that in 2002 he gave me a feeling of how it was in the past, how it is in the present and how it will be in the future. One thing that I could say progressed is the stuff I do now bangs harder. Even with the chorus, bridges, and a sinfonietta at the end it’s still got a raw feeling to it. It’s just going to give them that hiphop feeling where it’s just enough.”
The full length is titled “1st Class” and is due out in the fall off of Matador Records. Known primarily for its eclectic indie rock and avant-garde electronic artists, Matador has stepped into the hiphop scene of late with releases from groups like The Arsonists and Non Phixon. Chris Lombardi, one of the label heads, went to a show at Sob’s and saw Extra P perform and decided to approach him about doing a project out of respect for his music and respect for him as an artist. That alone was a breath of fresh air and along with the creative freedom he desired it has translated into a perfect situation. With Matador things have gone smoothly and that has led to a comfortable atmosphere in the studio.
“Before I was making songs where I was burnt about the industry but with these dudes its no problem its real cool. They said P we know your credentials. Chris from Matador came to a show I was doing so it was like that respect for me was enough. He was at the show, it wasn’t like he heard through the grapevine or these people told him [about me]. When I learned about that it was good already. Then they said P we just want you to do what you do we damn near don’t want to be there. We just like you as an artist and I was with that because it was like wow finally.”
Fifteen tracks deep “1st Class” is ready for all those starved followers that have been waiting and hoping for a Large Professor solo. “The album has remnants of the past but it’s not as edgy as I was before especially with the industry. With this new joint I looked at where hiphop was today and said “Breakin Atoms” is cool but it’s a more lyrical thing today and I concentrated more on the lyrics and the beat was just the foundation to get my point across. Doing the beats and rhymes is two jobs so I just put up that foundation like aight this is cool let me get on the mic now.”
Boasting guest vocals from Nas, Akinyele, Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip it surely will get some serious buzz this fall, and even if it doesn’t its cool with P. “I consider it a major success already. When I play it I just feel good about it. Regardless what anyone says I feel good about it and that’s what I like. As far as I am concerned we know the storm I had to go through and just putting an album out makes me successful right now.”
Pick up 1st Class when it lands in stores in early fall off of Matador Records