Many of us can (and will) bicker over what might be gained and/or lost by Nas’s upcoming controversially-titled album (so much for December, ay, Def Jam?), but few can argue with the statement he made on “Where Are They Now?”, possibly the stand-out track from his ’06 publicity stunt album Hip Hop Is Dead. There is no pension plan in hip-hop. If you’re lucky enough to get some fame, invest in it wisely. Those early ’90s accolades aren’t worth much more than a spot at Dan Majerle’s Super Bowl party. (Who’d have thought Thunder Dan to be the “block party” type?)
Large Professor’s name was nowhere to be found on “Where Are They Now?”. In a sense, it may not have been out of place on the song — outside of the occasional instrumental LP, production credit and DJ gig, Large Pro doesn’t pop up too often nowadays. And, his claims to fame stem from that same late ’80s/early ’90s golden era of hip-hop that the majority of artists mentioned in “Where Are They Now?” got their names from. If you were to ask Soulja Boy about Large Pro, he’d probably take a break from applying white-out to a pair of black sunglasses to suggest that he drop “Crank Dat Large Pro”.
But, Extra P’s contributions to hip-hop are simply too timeless to warrant him being remembered by future generations based on a name-drop. (“Played out like Kwame and them fucking polka-dots”? Never that!) Large Pro was, and always will be, an integral part of Queens’ never-ending legacy. He was the Main Source back when the Main Source was the Main Source. He let an unknown teenage MC get on record and talk about snuffing Jesus (and, to think, a T-shirt with one word on it had folks up in arms!). Many hip-hop producers (not that I’ve talked to any of ‘em) will tell you that they’ve learned something from DJ Premier, but how many could tell you that they taught him something? Actually, scratch that… how many could truthfully tell you that they taught him something?
Well, there’s at least one in Large Professor. Granted, Wikipedia isn’t always the most trustworthy of sources, but there’s a direct quote from Extra P saying so — and, like they say, you can always trust a man with glasses.
Since Large Pro’s production catalog is not as extensive as other producers we’ve done Beat Drops for in the past, the list of contributors is shorter on this one — joining myself and AaronM is Khal from Rock The Dub (who contributed to our J Dilla Beat Drop earlier this year).
Expect the guest list to be in full effect for our next Beat Drop — Kanye West. And we promise we won’t keep y’all waiting more than 2 months for that one.
From Breaking Atoms
AaronM: My favorite song off one of my favorite hip hop albums, Breaking Atoms. The beat starts with Extra P’s trademark sleigh bells, which fade out and the horns come in. ML pal Dan Love deconstructed the beat for Oh Word a while back. I remember when I read it, I was just staring slack jawed at the screen listening to the samples Extra P used. The way Large Pro cut, looped and stretched the horns on this track is amazing.
Buhizzle: On the Pete Rock Beat Drop from late last year, I mentioned that “Straighten It Out” (off Mecca & The Soul Brother) was the earliest example I could recall of a producer sampling actual vocals from an older, non-hip-hop song. Commentor big oxx pointed out that this track, off Breaking Atoms (which I could’ve made all of my picks from, but that would’ve been a cop-out… an understandable cop-out, but a cop-out nonetheless) pre-dates Pete’s work. Hey, works for me!
Buhizzle: Ignore that “cop-out” comment I just made – I couldn’t resist. This song will never get old.
From Large Pro’s solo albums
Khal: I believe it was J-Live who had a track entitled “Walkman Music”. I wonder if this one gave him that idea – while this would probably sound ill coming from the woofers of your Jeep, me being a NJ Transit rider, this is one of those heavy basslines that is best devoured in your favorite pair of Sony headphones.
Khal: Taken from Large P’s 1st Class album, this is one of those beats that makes you love old Blaxploitation soundtracks. It’s as if P found that loop and just let it breathe. Nas on this instrumental? Total murderation.
… and the rest…
AaronM: Early Large Professor production, around the time he was still with Main Source, and allegedly co-produced with Kool G Rap during their brief production partnership. The super raw drum break and that smooth sax and piano combo fit G Rap’s horror stories of NY to a tee. The beat sounds a bit primitive compared to Main Source’s 12’’s released the same year, but “Streets of New York” shows a kernel of genius waiting to fully develop.
AaronM: Akinyele’s debut Vagina Diner was entirely produced by Large Professor, and this is probably the highlight of a very dope set of beats. The downbeat bassline and sluggish vibes provide the ideal backdrop for Ak to flex verbally. The upbeat horns and frantic scratching by Rob Swift on the chorus provide the perfect counterpoint to the verses.
Khal: One of the things about Extra P that I love is that his beats are not cinematic, but they put you in a certain state of mind. I mean, this is a solid mid-tempo affair, which not only allows the MCs to just coast on it, but this is also good track to cruise in your whip to, with or without a dutch or some brew.
AaronM: As Tip puts it, “Extra P hooked the beat, and kids it feels luh-huh-ovely”. The beat starts with the stuttered guitar sample and just melts into a lovely Roy Ayers loop. It’s pretty much a straight loop with drums, but what drums! Q-Tip, Phife Diggy and Large Pro himself flow beautifully over the laidback beat. (Side note: In retrospect, Large Professor’s line “Queens represent, buy the album when I drop it” in his verse is kinda heartbreaking. It would be 8 years before his debut solo record The LP was released as a promo bundled with online orders of his 2002 album, 1st Class.)
Buhizzle: The “da-da-da-da”’s in the chorus fill in for the Michael Jackson “Human Nature” sample, which is more pronounced during Nas’ verses – two different sounds that complement each other so well. Though producers nowadays are arguably more adept at crafting beats out of looped samples than the beatsmiths of yesteryear, many songs are based around a successful loop (i.e. the “Human Nature” sample, which is a musical goldmine), and not much else. Kudos to Large Pro for not limiting himself here.
Khal: Another woofer killer. And a fucking Michael Jackson sample to boot?!?! One thing I love and miss today is collabos between Nas and Extra P. While Nas and Primo seem to mesh well, and many would like to see N.A.P.U., I would personally like to hear them drop a LP with strictly Nas raps over strictly Large Professor beats.
Khal: The sleigh bells in this one over that monstrous bassline always got me open. This is one of those perfect “show your skills”-tracks – there’s no denying how perfect of a session-cut this is. Nas murked this, and I bet you guys heard Cage murder this beat as well (check out the Farewell Fondle ‘Em compilation for that one) – just shows how diverse MCs can still sound equally ill over a choice banger.
AaronM: One of two Large Professor remixes of the Common classic on the “Resurrection” 12’’, this is by far my favorite of the two. He keeps the original song’s drums and chorus and adds a low-pitched horn sample and a gorgeous piano loop. At 1:30, Com rhymes over just the bassline and drum break. Pure dopeness.
Khal: I really just love the way he flipped that piano sample on this one. Perfect example of that boom bap from the mid-’90s.
Buhizzle: Large Pro never had a signature sound such that, as you soon as you heard a beat, you’d react like, “Yep, Extra P did that!” You’d probably think someone else produced it at first – in the case of “The Heist”, likely RZA or one of the Wu-Element producers – but, when you came to find out that it was actually Extra P who produced it, you wouldn’t really be surprised. Having preceded so many great hip hop producers, Extra P can do what so many of them do, and just as well. (Side note: don’t sleep on Anarchy – the 2 tacky video singles are probably the worst songs on that album.)
Khal: Aside from “Ether”, this is my favorite cut off of Stillmatic. This beat screamed old school – not only did that call-and-response from the bass and the keys kill me, but that tempo was a bit faster and dares you to stay still. I imagine that once Nas listened to this, he immediately switched to a Slick Rick role, and decided to tell a story on this one… one of my favorites.
Buhizzle: Just as P’s work on “The Heist” was reminiscent of a Wu record, here, Extra P throws some kicking drums over spacey sound effects more in tune with some MF Doom or El-P-type shit. I don’t know if I’d call Non Phixion’s The Future Is Now slept-on, since, when it came out, pretty much every underground head was loving it, but considering that Non Phixion is no more, and the album features beats from Large Pro, Primo, AND Pete Rock (and MF Doom, while his name is on topic), it’s definitely a hand-me-down record that future generations may never think to check for.
Buhizzle: The way the synths sound over the first 3 seconds, it feels like some poppy R&B-type shit is about to kick in – of course, looking at the song title, and the MCs involved, clearly that’s not the case. Realistically, though, Extra P’s production here is sonically appealing enough to have been the backdrop for a R&B track, but I’d say that the fact that the beat doesn’t have to beat you over the head is what makes this song go that much harder.