Large Professor keeps his edge by listening closely to what’s happening on the street.
LARGE PROFESSOR, LORD FINESSE and DIAMOND as part of the NY Giants DJ Series at Revival (783 College), today (Thursday, August 28), 9 pm. $10 advance, more at the door. 416-535-7888.
The American heritage dictionary defines "gangster" as "a member of an organized group of criminals." And William Paul "Large Professor" Mitchell is an OG in the truest sense of the term.
For 20 years, Large Pro has been producing and rhyming as one of Queens, New York's finest, and his conviction is downright criminal, especially compared to the sonically law-abiding pseudo-thug rappers of today.
If hit songs were murders, Large Pro's fingerprints could be found on many a soundbwoy killing. He created Nasty Nas's very first single, the Michael Jackson/Human Nature-blessed gem It Ain't Hard To Tell; Common Sense's timeless Resurrection remix The Rap World featuring Pete Rock; Organized Konfusion's glorious Stress remix, and hundreds more. His rap sheet runs on and on. He was instrumental in discovering Nas, on top of making great music with Eric B. and Rakim, Busta Rhymes, Masta Ace, Big Daddy Kane, Mobb Deep and many, many others.
"I get a lot of good feedback about the stuff from the past and the stuff I'm currently doing," he says. "That's one thing that motivates me. Even teenagers hit me, like, ‘Yo! I know what it is. Keep doing it how you do it.' But that's how I was. I came up listening to James Brown records and the throwbacks when I could have been listening to something currently on the radio."
We discuss the tragedy of Isaac Hayes's death, and Large Pro hails the hot-buttered soul brother as one of the architects of proto-hip-hop. Extra P speaks on the difference between the eras of black music, and how he listens to the new stuff the kids are making, but he wouldn't call it the boom-bap, original rap.
"A lot of the music today that they categorize as hip-hop is not hip-hop. It may be crunk or something else. There's different genres, and that's what the radio is playing. Some of it I like, but some of it I think is just crazy."
The new album, interestingly titled Main Source (Gold Dust), lets you appreciate Large Pro's adherence to that unmistakable SP-1200/MPC-2000/Casio SK-1 East Coast b-boy aesthetic, resurrected in pristine condition. And features by Jeru the Damaja, Styles P, AZ, Lil' Dap, Mikey D, Lotto and others make hip-hop in 2008 a bit more diverse, a necessary step needed to help rebalance its twisted equilibrium.
Releasing an anachronistic single like the nostalgically titled Hot: Sizzling, Scorching, Torching, Blazing takes the music one step closer to the pleasantly democratic art form it was when Large Professor notoriously dissed "them two DJs" (Toronto's DJ Kid Kut and Sir Scratch, who were part of Main Source with Laege Pro) on A Tribe Called Quest's 1994 jewel, Keep It Rollin' after they created Canadian hip-hop history with the classic record Breaking Atoms.
But Large Professor hasn't gone anywhere; he's still just hangin' out.