Large Professor: Original Recipe

posted September 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM CDT | 31 comments

Gang Starr may have said it best calling their seminal fourth album Hard To Earn. All great things truly are. Such is the case in an interview with Large Professor. Seven years after the quest began, this editor was able to conversate with the man responsible for the intricate, timeless songwriting on joints like "Looking At The Front Door" and "The Sun" and the carefully seasoned "original recipe" production on Nas' "Halftime" and Kool G Rap's "Money In The Bank."

Just over two weeks away from his long awaited, nostalgic return to album-making, Main Source, a nod to Large Pro's classic '90s group, the contender for "best producer on the mic" status emerges to discuss his past, present and future. Walking through the album, The Extra P describes his philosophies on mentoring a new breed of producers, Eric B. & Rakim's missed opportunity in Nasir Jones and how he switched from using the instrument he made famous, to more contemporary tools of greatness. It is with patience, honor and heroic respect that HipHopDX features Large Professor.

HipHopDX: My first question for you starts on the intro, The Entrance
[click to listen]. On it, you have a line where you say, Nah on the interview. I, myself, have been patiently waiting for like seven years to interview you. What has made you avoid the limelight so much in an era where producers and emcees scream, Talk to me.?
Large Professor:
Right. Theres a quality issue with interviewing. Like, how you come across to me so far, like yo, youre a vintage dude you really check for what you believe in and what you think is right. You honor that and you show respect and things like that. A lot of things with the media nowadays, man, its just likeIve done interviews with people who dont know the name, dont really know anything. Its just degrading. Theres a degradation in the quality, man. I just flipped that in there real just to kind of deter the people who are not really into it. The real dudes is gonna come through anyway.

DX: Pete Rock and DJ Premier seem to have done the same. Do you think avoiding the light has added to your mystique?
Large Professor:
Yo. [Laughs] I dont know man. I just put it down. Word up. [Laughs]

DX: There has always been rumblings that youve isolated yourself from the Main Source era. I had heard that for some time, you were not even performing Looking At The Front Door. If thats true, was it a personal challenge to develop a theme and a title for this album in Main Source?
Large Professor:
Not really. I want to put it out there, cause people, sometimes, I think feel that Im trying to distance myself or get away from ever being affiliated with Main Source. Nah, I embrace that. I want to let people know, yeah Large Professor is Main Source kinda thing. That was one statement I wanted to do. Also, with the way everythings going with the music right, its outta this world right now. When it came to real Hip Hop or what I feel is traditional Hip Hop, I wanted to kinda put myself out there as if not thee main source, as one of the main sources of traditional, real Hip Hop.

DX: In the video trailer for this album, you talked about revisiting that classic recipe and classic formula. Youve rhymed about it yourself. A lot of people closely associate you with the SP-12 sampler. Revisiting that approach, did you use the classic technology?
Large Professor:
Nah. I used the MPC 1000 on this one which I [consider] is like the MPC [version of the] 1200. I can finagle it just like SP and get it right, man. When EMU abandoned [the SP], it was like, Damn. The company that makes this joint dont even back it no more. [Laughs] Like, Im sittin here with an SP-1200 and they not doing nothing to upgrade it or anything; this joint still got floppy discs, so it was like, Yo, time to move on.

DX: You have a song on the album In The Ghetto, with a wonderful stream-of-consciousness delivery. Anybody thats never been to or lived in the ghetto could feel this. As Hip Hop moves towards the Internet and towards the suburbs over the last 20 years, what can we do to keep it in the ghetto?
Large Professor:
It has to be presented to the people. In media, we need some legends. We need some icons in media. Like a Don Cornelius was a legend, an icon in media. He would present. We need people who know. A lot of people who are in that position, who know, theyre acting like they dont know, and this is whats hurting the game. I dont want to name any names, but theres big dogs out there, who came up in the same time who came up from the beginning pretty much. If a Large Professor comes up and has a new record or whatever, they wont play it! [Laughs] What is that costing you, yo? Just throw it on, and let the people decide! Thats what it is. A lot of people, they just want to ride this wave, and the wave is fluff. Nah man, we already know the streets is what this is. The streets is where this comes from. Im not cool with getting all glamorous, prim and proper and industrialized and whatever. You dont want that M.O.P. joint to come on and just smash everything, and you get caught out there with your pants too tight. Come on! We know what this is. As the generations move on, if the big dogs dont say, Yo, this is what it really is, the new generation dont even know they dont care. There are trendsetters, there are people who jump up and say, Yo, Im interested in that right there. I meet young kids who are like, Yo, your joints are hot. But if its not being presented right if its, Okay, were gonna take you back to the old school Nah, nah, nah. Dont present my shit like that. Just play it, and let it rock. And let them decide. So we need some icons and moguls and media to really step up and play they part like a Don Cornelius. Don Cornelius had an excellent run. He presented old, new, all of that.

DX: As youre telling me that, Im thinking of the Stretch & Bobbito show, which you were instrumental in rocking with and bringing premier guests to. Not to ignore DJ Eclipses Halftime Show and so many great radio and video outlets still doing it, but do you see the Internet as the new place for media to present that real?
Large Professor:
Definitely. But theres so much more to choose from. Its not a tunnel. The Internet is a hall. Its a gymnasium. [Laughs] When you listened to Stretch & Bob [click to read], that was a tunnel. Aiight, you got what you could get, and you trusted them that they would be playin that shit for you. But now the Internet, you can go anywhere. Theres some sites that are really tight that people rely on. But the Internet is just a broader scope. Its a hallway compared to a tunnel. Its definitely servin its purpose. I rocks with the Internet. I shied away from it in the earliest, earliest stages, man, but now, its like Im full-fledged. I check for stuff; I get put up on stuff by the Internet and all of that. Its all good.

DX: Another track on the album that jumps out is Noyd with Big Noyd [click to read]. To be real, I want to say that in 15 years of him doing it, I never really looked at Noyd as a lyricist. Through your production and rhyming beside him, you showed that. Thats arguably been the case with Akinyele, Tragedy and others. For you, where does it come from, when youre able to take rappers and show them as emcees?
Large Professor:
I think its just the original recipe. It aint no funny business, man. When Im playin the track, its coming from the root, where its the purest form of what it is. Anybody who got that street thing about them, know what the realness is, know what grabbin a mic is. I havent met one person who has that who hasnt been able [to show it]. The game makes dudes do so many other things, cause you want to survive in this. Youll hear a lot of experiments goin on with dudes, man. But when they get that bucket of original recipe [laughing], they just go in on it, man. Thats what we want.

DX: On The Entrance, you also rhyme ex-graffiti vandal. I never realized you came from that. Youre a man whos perfected rapping, deejaying, done graffiti, and Im sure youve been a breaker at one time or another. What does it mean to you to be a living testament to the four elements of Hip Hop and beyond?
Large Professor:
Yo, thats very important! If you want to call yourself Hip Hop or whatever thats not important these days or whatever, but back then, thats all we had, man! People were shooing us of the street. Get outta here! Everything that was Hip Hop was rebellious. We was out here tryin, just tryin to let the world know, Yo, we got these skills. Now its lightened up. Its lightened up a lot. The world embraces it more. But it comes from that rebellion, man. Being able to do all of that kept dudes out of trouble. It was a lot. Yo, embrace this, man, and live! For dudes who didnt have the rich inheritance and all of that, it was Live, man! Live! This is somethin for you to do, right here. Then too, it was all about skills. Breakin, all of that. It involved skills. Thats all skills. If you was nice, it was good. Hes nice with it. He could do this, he could do a burner on a train. For us, back then, it was, Yeah, thats me! Thats me. Yeah, I did that. I could do this right here. It just changed a lot. But yeah, thats very important, from where I come from, to have done all of that and know what thats about. Very important.

DX: Hip Hop scholar Adisa Banjoko was arguing that A Friendly Game of Baseball was more evocative than N.W.A.s Fuck The Police at calling out police. With all the events going on in the world, in Philadelphia, Sean Bell, all these things, that is a timeless record. How does a joint like that sit in your catalogue today as that problem of police brutality does not really seem to be going away?
Large Professor:
Thats like a blessing. It all lined up right. Yo, speak on it. I remember, to this dayIm in the house [now], where I hooked it up, looped the joint up, and just went in. I just stayed in, all day, and wrote that joint. I didnt even go outside. It was a nice day too, like summertime. I just stayed in and wrote the whole joint up. To put it out there, it was like a news report almost. Coming from working with a dude like Kool G Rap [click to read], that dude kinda had me on my toes kinda. You cant just be up there rappin; youve got to have some kind of knowledge to you. Its crazy. I listen to it, and I look at whats going on, and its like, Aiight, cool. I kinda played a part. If dudes are upset or they goin crazy...if shit aint right out in the world, they can listen to that and thatll pacify em. LP said it, I dont have to say it.

DX: A record like In The Sun is chicken noodle soup for the soul, man. Even Looking At The Front Door has this quality. But when you put humanity and sensitivity on records, do you feel youve gotten the reaction you deserve?
Large Professor:
Its coming from the hobby. Like Nas, thats how he writes. Its like a hobby. You put it together and it turns into a song. You be writin something, and back then, thats when I was in school, so you do everything but your school work [laughing], so Im in the classroom writin rhymes. Just that zone, man. If its real, the people will feel it.

DX: You mentioned doing research and reporting in rhymes. Youre a private person, and I want to respect that. But beyond music, what does Large Professor pull from as his muses?
Large Professor:
The sun, man. The streets. Just to be out in the streets. I like to bike ride a lot. Just get out. I like the Internet, just different stories, building on the history of things, like the record industry. I read a lot peoples [biographies]: Teddy Pendergrass and all these things. And I listen to records. I go diggin for old records and I listen to em, just always building on that. And I read The Lessons, the Five Percent Nation of Islam Lessons.

DX: Youve made two five mic albums, and I believe that the shelved album LP was equally of that level. With that ear for quality, how do you know when something is done?
Large Professor:
Im better now. Its easier now. When we did the original Breaking Atoms, it was different. [We were unsure of whether we needed] more or less or what. Now, you get a batch. Especially now that Ive been deejaying, its like you get a batch. Aiight, this a well-rounded batch. Not too much, not too little. Im seasoned now. I just want to feed them more often, thats my only thing.

DX: People have written a great deal about your being mentored by Paul C. Out of respect for him and your legacy, Im not gonna go there. Certainly though, youve named your publishing Paul Sea and kept his name and legacy alive. Recently, youve seemingly mentored Marco Polo, Presto and others. How important is mentorship to keeping this thing of ours special?
Large Professor:
Thats what its all about, man! From the beginning, with Hip Hop, it was the same, each one teach one. You had your incidents where deejays would black-out the records oryou had to be initiated. Like I said, its street, so its comin from gangs and stuff like that. You have to be initiated and accepted to the gang. But once you got in, it was each one teach one. This is ours right here. This is what we do. This is not a corporate thing, man. Even to this day, even though its all industrialized, its still ours to me.

So when I see someone comin up, and you see in their eyes, what theyre trying to do, its, Yo, help that man out. If its like, Yo, you press this button right here, boom, boom, boom,even on a broader scale, just in life in general, but especially in Hip Hop. I was once a student. My whole thing from then on was, Yo, Ill never be a sucka ass nigga and try to front on people and all of that. Cause I had been fronted on. So I always wanted to stick to that. So if someone comes to me, and its just not any and everybody, but you see people when theyre serious about what theyre trying to do. You can hear the amount of questions, you know what it is. Boom. Nah, real quick... Thats nothin! You have your hands in the future.

Like Nas. Eric B & Rakim had the golden opportunity to put Nas out. They didnt. They didnt. I put Nas on the Main Source joint [Live at the Barbeque][click to read], and boom. Now, years later, people are like Yo! Yo! Yo! Eric B & Rakim had that opportunity to put Nas out, and they didnt. Who knows what that couldve sparked for them? They could have probably still been on top or whatever. You cant get too crazy with this industry, man. Youve got to keep that base foundation.

DX: DJ Premier, Freddie Foxxx, D.I.T.C., Onyx and a lot of 90s greats are putting out unheard material. Its always been rumored that you had a lot go to the cutting-room floor. Will we ever hear it?
Large Professor:
I mean, if I could get my hands on some of that stuff. [Laughs] A lot of that stuff, I just let it fly. My old girlfriends have tapes and stuff like that. I dont know. I spoke to one of my old girls, and she was like, Remember that Def Jam jacket?... So I gotta get with them. [Laughs] I just keep it movin, man. Im straight forward. I just throw people the files or whatever. I have a little bit of it. Even then, I like to keep that stuff sacred. Im not going crazy for tryin to put any of that stuff out. If the time is right, maybe.

DX: Still, look at all the multiple sessions of someone like Robert Johnson doing a limited number of songs. If Hip Hop gets treated, in time, the way Jazz or Blues has, it would be crazy if icons like yourself gave us the opportunity to hear those things
Large Professor:
Definitely. I got you! Definitely. Ima go put them files together now that you put it like that. Definitely. Word! [Laughs]

DX: To go out on a colorful note, we saw it on the 1st Class album cover, anytime youre ever seen in pictures, there you are with the metal briefcase. Any hint to whats inside?
Large Professor:
Its usually records, clothes, all types of stuff like that gadgets. Gadgets and things. Lil magic box right there. Whatevers in there, when the magician come through, you got the box to get the rabbit out the hat type thats all that is.

DX: And we never ask a magician how he does his tricks. So pardon me asking the question.
Large Professor:
[Laughs] Word. Boom. Sit back. I just throw it out there. Word.

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