The Ten Best Hometown Productions By Large Professor
Large Professor cuts an outside figure in the New York hip-hop scene these days. As a producer who also happens to rap in an endearingly economical manner, he's integral to any overview of hip-hop's storied golden era--he tutored under Paul C, contributed production input to Eric B & Rakim songs, scored a classic with his own group Main Source's Breaking Atoms, and helped kick-start the career of a [then] Nasty Nas when Queensbridge's golden son was still rocking a band-aid over his cheek in promotional pics. But since his late-'80s emergence, Large Pro's solo career has unfortunately faltered, with his intended solo debut The LP caught up in label politics and long-delayed, and his subsequent statement on Matador, First Class, resonating limply at best. As a producer, Large Pro has never caught a particularly pop break either--unlike, say, DJ Premier he's never been handed an opportunity to gallivant with a feisty chanteuse. Instead, he's maintained a dedication to working with grass-roots New York rap talent as if the very idea of cracking the mainstream is absurd.
Large Pro's newest project, the album Still On The Hustle, reunites him with fellow Queens resident Neek The Exotic--a pairing last heard on 2003's Exotic Is Raw set, for which Large Pro handled around half of the production duties. It's a release unlikely to trouble those whose RSS feeds frolic above rap's underground layer, but it's a collaboration that allows Large Pro to continue to dwell in a hip-hop world of his own creation. When I interviewed him a couple of years ago, he was late because he was cycling around Flushing Meadows Park while listening to his iPod--the impression given was that he'd prefer to produce at his own leisurely pace and on his own terms rather than pucker up and play the major-label game. It's a stance that should be applauded. With that in mind, here are ten commendable hometown anthems produced--as opposed to remixed, which would be a whole other lengthy listicle--by Flushing's finest self-proclaimed "live guy with glasses."
Nasty Nas, "Halftime"
The song that kept the otherwise unforgettable Michael Rapaport vehicle Zebrahead in the hip-hop lexicon, this performance put Nasty Nas on the rap map. The lyrics sound like the Queensbridge-raised rapper had finally been given clearance to unleash the battle rhyme he'd been walking around with his whole life, and Nas duly delivers his lines with a stinging viciousness, spitting uncouth venom like, "I rap in front of more niggas than in the slave ships/ I used to watch Chips, now I load glock clips." But as powerful as Nas's words are, it's Large Pro's understated beat--which keeps things bass-heavy and simple, embellishing proceedings only with the introduction of triumphant horns for the chorus bars--that allow the braggadocio to hog the spotlight.
Killa Sha, "Come On"
Having passed away in 2010 due to complications stemming from diabetes, Killa Sha's 2007 effort God Walk On Water remains his grand legacy. Fellow Queens mainstay Large Pro contributed beats to two tracks on the too-often-overlooked project, "Unbroken" and "Come On"; the latter resembles a more boisterous update on the warped production style RZA toyed with on Method Man's "Sub Crazy," although only Large Pro's production breaks funky for the final stretch.
Busta Rhymes feat. Raekwon, Ghostface Killah & Roc Marciano, "The Heist"
A crime-rhyme stand-out from one of Busta's (many) albums ostensibly based around predicting some form of imminent impending doom for the world as we know it, Large Pro's beat cradles a swab of New York's finest rappers plotting "the world's greatest diamond heist." It's a jape that Rae decides to pull-off while wearing a very inconspicuous "velour white" get-up while Bussa Bus plumps for disguising himself as a Hasidic Jew, complete with leaving his "sideburns curly." For a closing comment big Busta adds, "Job well done, fellas."
Slick Rick, "I Sparkle"
Large Professor's remix of Slick Rick's "It's A Boy" remains one of rap's most beloved ever flips, and for a track on the Wild Wild West soundtrack the producer continues to pair the eye-patch-rocking rapper's British brogue with a similarly wistful, bordering-on-melancholy beat. It's a fusion that allows the story-teller-exemplar to coin phrases like "I out-glitter the chandelier" without coming off as arrogant.
Jaz-O, "It's Your Nature"
Everything you want in a beat harvested from Large Pro's '91 vintage vault: tough drums, a monstrous bassline, and a scant snippet of horns for the hook. It's an aptly stripped-down backdrop for Jay-Z's onetime mentor turned long-running and embittered foe to drop accomplished vehicular-based rhymes that include a reference to Brooklyn's Navy Yards long before realtors were trying to hawk out lofts there. (See also: "Hypocritters," from the same project.)