Large Professor – 1st Class
What do we remember most about the legacy of Large Professor? Is it for being a key component in the crate-digging, sample enriched production style that defined the golden age of hip-hop? Maybe, it’s how the term “classic” was liberally used to describe everything he touched during the early stages of his career; exemplified by his defining 1991 debut, Breaking Atoms, with Main Source, his contributions to Nas’ magnum opus, Illmatic, and a slew of heavenly remixes (including Common’s “Resurrection”). Or perhaps, it was the way his ascent to greatness was eclipsed after his intended solo-debut, The LP, was aborted by Geffen in 1995; an effort that remains one of hip-hop’s most lauded lost treasures.
Well, it’s really none of the above. What Extra P is most renowned for is uttering the infamous words, which unbeknownst to him at the time, would go on to encapsulate his recording career, or lack thereof on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Keep It Rollin”—-”Queen’s represent/buy the album when I drop it,” a quote almost as much of a jinx as “Main Source Forever” on the Brand New Heavies album. Yet, in an era where Jay-Z has changed the rules and has emcees scrambling to remain “focused man” and it has taken Extra P nearly a decade to fulfill his promise with the much-anticipated First Class.
Though Large P has remained visible as a producer (his recent renaissance can be heard on recent selections from Nas, Cormega, and Non-Phixion) First Class has to be considered a reclamation project. Not only is the Professor making up for lost time, but he is doing it in a vastly different climate that has been unkind to old-school emcees attempting to reclaim past glories. Though true-school fans will appreciate the serious boom-bap affixed to throwback offerings like “Ultimate” and “The Man” (which lazily reprises the same vocal hook that P implemented on Nas’ “Your Da Man”). Large Pro is most effective in Queens lounge mode, as he hones his pimp game over J-Love’s (nothing but bangers lately) caressing flute loop on “Kool” and gets diesel with Nas on the ridiculously smooth “Stay Chiseled”.
Though Large P continues to show he’s still a force to be reckoned with behind the boards; exemplified by the frenetic cymbal crashes of “Blaze Rhymes 2″, his braggadocios topic matter rarely varies. This becomes obvious when Akinyele appears out of the blue to kill a wicked two-minute stanza amid a flurry of memorable one-liners on the self-titled “Akinyele”. Yet, the most memorable guest-spot belongs to Q-Tip on the gothic “In The Sun”. Seemingly inspired, there reunion makes Large Pro a tad sentimental “seeing your face lets me see my own/so I zone/and think about the days we got stoned.” While Tip waxes philosophical, reaching for the deeper understanding that the next sunrise eternally promises “I never thought I’d see the day when brothers pledge allegiance, to a read white and blue that’s waving untrue, yo where’s the forty acres and a mule huh, you’d rather give us Mickey D’s and a two huh.”
Yet, these moving efforts are undermined by a slew of underachieving commercial duds designed to attract the one thing that has eluded Large Pro throughout his career—mass appeal. Where he was once resolute, P’s conformist nature generates a slew of forced crossover reaches; exemplified by the corny “Brand New Sound”, “Born To Ball” and the misguided “On” f/Busta Rhymes where the eloping drum arrangement eerily masks Busta’s breakout smash “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.”
Though his comeback is too bumpy to truly be considered First Class, here’s hoping that Large Pro’s stay will be of the extended variety this go round. After all, there are enough positive moments here to keep any Large Pro fan excited about the future. – Matt Conaway
Large Professor – The LP HHS Rating: @@@@ out of 5
Over the years, while major labels have successfully shaped, marketed, and sold hip-hop music, they have been just as successful at angering the core hip-hop audience through politics and bullshit that has kept some of the most anticipated releases from ever seeing the light of day. Case in point is The Large Professor’s The LP, which was supposed to be released on Geffen in 1995, but for some reason, never ended up happening.
Whatever the reason for the cancelling of Large Professor’s debut album – some say artist/label disagreements (Madd Head, anyone?), others say it got lost when Geffen’s artists jumped to MCA - it was devestating for the longtime fans who yearned for it’s release, especially after he dropped that classic line on A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Mauraders (“Check the album when I drop it”). And speaking of classics, even more so, this was the mastermind behind Main Source’s “Breaking Atoms”, not to mention producting phenominal tracks for Nas, Beastie Boys, Organized Konfusion, Mad Skillz, Akinyele, Eric B. & Rakim, and tons more. He was easily one of the top producers in the game at the time, joining Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Diamond D, Showbiz, and others, defining an era of hip-hop music. Based on achievement alone, he deserved to see his album released.
In retrospect, listening to The LP almost ten years after its intended release date, its easy to see why the album remained in the vaults. Major labels began to realize that hip-hop from the heart didn’t sell. So despite as many classics records there were from Organized Konfusion, Artifacts, and Digable Planets, it wasn’t good enough, especially if lables like Death Row were doing better than platinum. The LP wasn’t a hit record, it was a head record. There was nothing to market to the masses on it – but that’s just what we like about it.
There were a number of great tracks on the album, but ironically enough, Large Pro could not shake the curse of confusion. While half the kids thought that Extra P stood for Extra Prolific, others were fighting over who was the better “Mad Scientist”, as both Large Pro and MC Ren had released the similarly titled singles simutaneously. Similar fate struck his second single “Ijustwannachill”, as De La Soul had used the same beat for “Dinnint” on Stakes Is High (but they couldn’t fuck with Extra P’s horn-section). These factors combined could have easily played a roll in the shelving of The LP.
Regardless, tracks like “The Mad Scientist” and “Spacey” are vintage Large Pro, and are arguble classics to those who enjoyed them during their 12-inch days. “Have Fun” and “Dancing Girl” were smooth, innocent grooves, while “Hard” still bangs with authority. And the crown jewel, “One On One” (featuring Nas), is truly illmatic, which could have easily seen placement on Nasir Jones timeless debut.
In comparison, Large Pro’s debut, 1st Class seems less focused, with Extra P at times attempting to please audiences that don’t really care about him anyway, The LP is his true debut, but one that will unfortunately only be known to future generations as a ghost story. – Emdot Peas
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