Even if he hadn’t been the producer of famous underground rap group Main Source, even if he hadn’t worked with rappers from Kool G Rap to Mobb Deep, and even if he hadn’t helped mentor legendary producer DJ Premier, Large Professor would have earned his reputation for one discovery he made in the early `90s. On a track he produced for the Main Source, “Live at the BBQ,” the world was introduced to a young MC from Queens named Nasty Nas, soon to be shortened to just Nas. A few years later, Large Professor would contribute three tracks to Nas’ debut album, Illmatic (you may have heard of it). Large Professor still keeps busy DJing and producing, and this year sees the release of a new album, Main Source, an album very similar to GZA’s Pro Tools in its imbalance between rhyming and production.
Anybody that remembers the clanging sleigh bells of “Halftime” and the glorious saxophone over synths from “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” knows that Large Professor is capable of fantastic beats, and Main Source confirms that right off the bat. “The Entrance,” starting with a scrambled-up mélange of noise, morphs into a stinging guitar solo over thumping drums, with a well-delivered rap by Large Professor making for a fantastic start to the proceedings. Elsewhere, “Pump Ya Fist” boasts energetic horns, R&B shouts, and wicked scratching, “Ru Dope” gives Jeru Tha Damaja a jazzy, mellow flavor to wrap one quick verse around, and album closer “The Hardest” sounds like something straight out of the mid-90s hip-hop heyday, with buzzing, heavy bass and mellow synth lines rolling in and out. The entire album has a laid-back vibe throughout, with Large Professor showing off his talent like a painter using his entire palette; the beats sound like the same man made them, but they don’t sound the same.
Of course, there is a reason that Large Professor is more well-known for his work behind the decks than on the mic, and it comes into play throughout Main Source. His fine flow on “The Entrance” notwithstanding, Large Professor’s rapping on the album ranges from nondescript to occasionally painful (“Sewin’ Love” proves that he is no Big Daddy Kane). Wisely, he seems to know his limitations, and there are a number of well-known rappers throughout the album to drop their own rhymes, with Big Noyd and AZ providing the best guest turns. And there are moments, like on “Hardcore Hip-Hop,” where the beat is strong that all LP has to do is show up to create a real bangin’ track. Those are the exceptions, though; the production simply cannot always hide his flaws as an MC.
Those flaws, however, do not make Main Source unworthy of a listen. Unlike the aforementioned Pro Tools, Large Professor never sounds like he’s in the studio for a check, which makes a big difference. There are a number of gems throughout the album, and even the lesser tracks have beats good enough to pump on your car stereo while driving on a sunny day. That’s the feel this album has, really; a good CD to pop in your six-disc changer and turn up while heading down I-95 or some other stretch of highway. It may not be a masterpiece, but Main Source‘s highs prove that Large Professor’s reputation is deserved.
GZA – Pro Tools
Pete Rock – NY’s Finest
Jeru the Damaja – Wrath of the Math