When greats like Pete Rock and DJ Premier acknowledge people of influence, they often mention Large Professor. For years, the Queens figurehead had preeminent MCs wanting his beats and top producers seeking his counsel. He thrived in an era when Nas was making demos, the members of Main Source were high school kids, and the SP1200 was new, unfamiliar technology. It was a time that produced some of rap’s greatest albums, and his presence loomed large.
“My whole outlook was to be advanced,” Large Pro says, recalling his early heyday. “I was having fun and learning myself. As I met more and more people, I realized cats started asking me this and that. I’ve never had problems sharing know-how I learned. Each one, teach one, ya know?”
Through the tutelage of his mentor, the late Paul C, Large Pro has had his hands full for decades. I spoke to Large Pro about his eventful past and personal favorites in his record collection.
You’re often mentioned as an influential figure during the early ’90s era. Talk a bit about your mentor, Paul C, who he was, and what his legacy is.
It was truly the first time I saw a straight-up White boy get busy like that! [laughs] Seriously, he was a master producer. A lot of beats he was making at the time, both for Ultramagnetic [MC’s] and Casanova Rud, were very advanced in terms of how he chopped things up, the technical stuff he did, and the sound he got from the equipment of the time.
How did he guide you as a beatmaker?
Simply put, Paul showed me the SP and which buttons to press. But most importantly, he showed me how to translate my ideas. Paul was a blessing from God — not just for me, for hip-hop in general.
Did Paul help develop Main Source too? How did Main Source start?
We were just high school kids who had the same hobby of being into rap. I had my turntables at that point, and we were just coming together after school to make joints. And, luckily, Paul C saw us, liked us, and invested in us. He gave us a studio and all the advice he could give.
Nas’s first appearance was on Main Source’s joint “Live at the Barbeque” from 1991. Talk about your involvement with Nas’s career.
I was the first to present Nas to the world. I met Nas through Joe Fatal. Dude was just trying to record his demo at the time, and I had my SP1200 by then and was known throughout Queens. I was in high school still. Nas asked me to get down with him, so he got his rhyme book, and I got the SP, and we just worked on his demo. Nas was ill, because he always caught you off guard. He would always say some other shit; I mean, he could write and obviously put work into putting his words together.
When I interviewed Pete Rock, he told me you were very influential from a digging standpoint and that your enthusiasm rubbed off on him in many ways. When did you start looking for records?
I started collecting records in, like, ’86. I was lucky to have records already through my moms, my pops, and my sister. They all had records that I would listen to a lot. My sister would always be playing records, and I would lie there, pretend to sleep, and listen to ’em.
Then, as I got older, I started hearing some of those very same records being sampled by other cats! I realized I already had a lot of those records, and it would benefit me to use my collection towards production. But even before I had equipment, I thought about making beats and how sounds would be ill for this and that. As I collected more, it all came together, and I think it shows in my production.
You’ve had your hands in so many classic joints. What are some records you still pull out and listen to often?
Fearless Four “Rockin’ It”
This joint is one of my favorite songs of all time! It rattled my head when I first heard it. A lot of hip-hop joints then had a real simplistic sound to ’em—you know, a quick boom-bap. But this song had color and lifted me up. This was an early production that was multi-layered, which became the sound we all later got into. The routine of the raps were all real tight too. It was, like, ’83, and I still remember it clearly.
Sly and the Family Stone A Whole New Thing
I like all their albums, but this LP has “I Cannot Make It,” which is the joint right there. Sly’s songs all had that same vibe; it was meant to lift you up! The music would tell you directly to go out and get your funk on. This LP is never dark, and I like that. I love all the arrangements and how this record sounds. “Advice” is my joint off this one.
Ultramagnetic MC’s Critical Beatdown
(Next Plateau) 1988
“Give the Drummer Some” changed my life. I mean, Paul C panned the drums and put together so many little pieces of different records. I did the formula over, and I heard all the pieces he used, and it blew my mind! It was so ill how he did everything. I’ll always remember meeting Kool Keith during the making of this album too. This record, and all the things Paul did on it, totally fine-tuned my ears.
Kool and the Gang Live at P.J.’s
I liked the album because it had a real Black, Philly vibe throughout the entire thing. You can hear the dialogue between those cats, and the stuff they said, and how they said it, just added character to everything. The horns on it are way funky too! The entire ensemble just let loose. To this day, you can still hear the energy in that record, and you can almost see people’s toes tapping.
Group Home Livin’ Proof
The track “Supa Star” is a ghetto anthem! It’s real emotional to me, because it pinpoints ghetto life. That beat, and all the beats in general, are so catchy, so ill. Plus, I was going through some transitional stages in my life at the time—I was real fucked up. But I would have a beer and listen to the song, and it would always make things better for a minute. This wasn’t even that long ago, ’94 or ’95, I believe. Overall, it’s a very truthful record in my opinion.
Teddy Pendergrass Teddy
(Philadelphia International) 1979
“Turn Off the Lights” is my jam right there. A lot of people try to make crazy records that are far out there. But this is just simple, slow, and funky. Now that’s hard to do. The background vocals are just so slick. The record is gangsta to me, but it’s real soft at the same time too. You could tell they probably took a lot of sessions to make this album, even though it’s full of simple songs. If the whole album were just the vocals, it would still stand [up] to me.
Prince Phillip Mitchell Make It Good
I think people overlook this album a lot. “You’re All I Got in the World” is my favorite track off the LP, and, like the entire album, it’s good from beginning to end. It’s ridiculous how that song wasn’t a number one hit, which lets me know that the industry, from radio stations to promotions, often overlooks great projects. The vocal arrangements are crazy! I found this when I was digging back in the day, and I still think it’s one of the greatest. I never get sick of this record.
J Dilla Donuts
(Stones Throw) 2006
Dilla wasn’t even paying attention to the fine details of the songs, and he would just let loops ride. It was like going back in time when hip-hop was just for fun. It’s a newer record with a newer sound, but it also displayed a lot of hip-hop’s foundation. How he put that whole record together, and just knowing the type of dude he was, makes it special. I mean, I love the samples and songs he made out of ’em too. I listen to this all the time.
Bohannon Stop & Go
This album is the truth, and, as a whole, has so much soul to it. The cover itself, the songs, and how everything was put together have always stuck with me. Paul [C] was in early with record collecting and would make me tapes all the time. He had a lot of records I didn’t even have knowledge of. He knew the ill records early on, and this was one of his favorites. I remember us vibing out to this all the time.
MC Shan Down By Law
(Cold Chillin’) 1987
At that time, there weren’t a lot of albums like it. Shan was like advanced technology to me. He was such a master of slang and used words that we’d all repeat later on. And all of this was over Marley’s beats? The entire album was so slick. I still pull out the record a lot. It’s when hip-hop was primitive in a good way, and all you needed was slick rhymes and slick beats to match. No bells and whistles, just rough kicks and snares.