Artist: Large Professor
Album: The LP
Rating: 9 / 10
Large Professor is a case study in getting jerked by the music industry. Doing much of the programming for Eric B & Rakim’s “Let The Rhythm Hit Em'” without credit, Pro got his big break when he was scouted by two DJ’s from Toronto, Sir Scratch and K-Cut, looking for an MC to form a group. They got more than they could have possibly hoped for: a talented and versatile MC who also happened to be one of the most gifted producer’s around at the time, one of the up-and-coming new school of wizards beginning to realize just what an SP1200 was really capable of. Main Source was formed, and their debut album (the only one Professor was on), “Breaking Atoms”, has gone down in history as one of the best produced (if not THE best produced) albums hip-hop has ever seen, garnering heaps of critical acclaim and a 5 mic review in The Source when it actually meant something.
However, handling all of the production as well as well as rhymes on the album, Pro apparently saw the least amount of the revenue the album’s sales received. This makes more sense when one notices that the group’s manager was K-Cut and Sir Scratch’s mother; Professor left the group in 1993 (he disses his former DJ’s in ‘Keep it Rollin” off A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders”) for Geffen Records, with a contract for a full-length album.
“Queens represent, buy the album when I drop it” (‘Keep it Rollin”)
THIS is the album P was talking about back then, but most fans have never heard it (or even heard of it for that matter). By 1996, someone at Geffen had decided for whatever reason that the album would be a dud if released, and scrapped it entirely. Two singles were released commercially, one of which had a video to go with it, and the album quietly became the stuff of legend. Luckily, Geffen pressed a very few promo copies of the album before scrapping it, and somewhere along the line a studio engineer or someone involved with it’s mastering got a hold of some master reels, because later on a very poorly mastered vinyl bootleg appeared with most of the albums cuts and a few demo sessions and instrumentals thrown in for good measure (Pro eventually regained the rights to the recordings, as a few advance copies of his 2002 release “First Class” were shipped with a CD-R copy of “The LP”).
Most people lucky enough to have heard this album who bought “First Class” were somewhat disappointed. Not to say Professor is washed up (“First Class” was one of the better albums of ’02, in my opinion), but he was definitely in his prime for this album. Who wouldn’t be? Being signed to a major is (for good or bad) the ultimate goal of most people who get into the biz, and Professor had been waiting for his break for some time at this point.
“So record company man, please give me a push
So I can swing to higher levels of life
Like a kids and wife!” (‘IJUSWANNACHILL’)
Unfortunately Geffen thought otherwise.
Production on this album is top-notch, as would be expected. Pro works the boards on all but one track (‘Spacey’ is produced by Tony Rome), and displays the versatility one would expect from someone on most people’s short list of best NY producers. From spaced-out funk (‘Sunrise’, ‘For My People’) to lounging porch music (‘IJUSWANNACHILL’, ‘Have Fun’) to R & B (‘Dancing Girl’) to party tracks (‘Hard’) to downright weird (‘The Mad Scientist’), Pro does it all with the skill and finesse of a true master.
Comparisons to “Breaking Atoms” reveal that although Pro hadn’t abandoned his trademark sample-heavy style, the beats are more sparse than previous outings, probably a result of sampling legislation coming into effect in the mid 90’s (New York’s “sound” was experiencing this change across the board by 1994). Still, Pro’s tracks are as always creative and fresh, with obscure loops and zany sampling combined with oodles of bass coming together in a beautiful sonic collage. This is probably part of the reason Geffen gave him the boot, unfortunately, as the album is definitely more experimental sounding than most other major label releases that came out in 1996.
Vocals on the album are ably handled by P as well, with a smattering of guest appearances. Neek the Exotic (the guest vocalist on Main Source’s ‘Fakin’ the Funk’) and Vandemator pop up on ‘Spacey’, and a pre-“It Was Written” Nas drops one of his better verses on ‘One Plus One’. Elsewhere though, it is definitely Professor’s show, and although never known as a groundbreaking MC, his rhymes are never sub-par and his flow is engaging, and touching on different topics from track-to-track helps keep the listener engaged. ‘For My People’ thanks the audience that unfortunately never got to buy the album:
“Some people said it couldn’t happen, it couldn’t be done
Settin’ up campaigns to diss from day one
But now I’ve arisen, the coast is clear
So I had to hit you off, your host is here
Standin’ at five-seven, grown to be Large
It’s not about the height, it’s the power of the charge
You get when you listen to this lyricist slash beatmaker
Even though I had to take a long time it was worth it
’cause now shit’s perfect
I feel like new, givin’ up thanks to you
The ones who gave me support when I was caught
In this wack record industry trapped you take a short if you wanna
That’s why I packed up and went on a
Vacation in the ghetto hangin’ out on the corner
The place I know where the (scratch) can’t go
Where we party hard for the dough
Or get the dough so we can party hard
I like to flow no need for bodyguards
So when you see me, I’m peace and love
’cause you helped this brother increase above” (‘For My People’)
A perfect example of a record industry focused more on making dollars than pushing artistic envelopes, “The LP”, a fantastic album by any right, certainly did not fit into the trends commercial rap was following at the time, and Geffen probably wasn’t willing to spend the money promoting an album they saw as “too different”. So I end this review with a recommendation I would normally never suggest: DOWNLOAD THIS ALBUM! P isn’t losing any royalties anyways because it was never released, and the promo’s and bootleg copies usually cost a fortune (if you can find somebody willing to part with their copy). But anybody who is a fan of creative production and raps about topics other than gats and hoes will definitely appreciate this album. Go get it.