MAIN SOURCE with ARCEE at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Sunday (December 22). $24.50. Licensed and all ages. 416-760-3332. Rating: NNNNN
to some, the main source show at the Opera House Sunday (December 22) might seem like a novel 90s rap flashback to fancy fades and oversized sweatshirts. But it's really a much bigger deal than that to serious hiphop headz. For them, the notion of seeing Large Professor rhyming over beats dropped by K-Cut for the first time anywhere in nearly 10 years is more on a par with a Beatles reunion.
The innovative production techniques and stunning lyrical sophistication of Main Source's Breaking Atoms (Wild Pitch) debut from 91 make it one of the greatest hiphop albums of all time, which in itself should justify the buzz about seeing these mythic figures in the flesh.
But however influential their filtered bass lines and metaphor manipulation proved to be, Main Source's contribution to hiphop history isn't wrapped up in a single groundbreaking disc. They were instrumental in the evolutionary change from old school to new school.
While Large Professor and K-Cut were still known as Paul Mitchell and Kevin McKenzie at John Bowne High School in Flushing, New York, the two crate-digging teens showed Gang Starr's DJ Premier how to use an SP1200 to get the most out of his record collection. That's right, they taught sample king Primo how to sample.
They also schooled Mobb Deep and Busta Rhymes on the finer points of programming beats, and gave eager young MCs Nas, Akinyele and the Lox their first breaks on vinyl.
Yet two years after Main Source's enormously promising debut, Canadian-born K-Cut and turntablist brother Sir Scratch returned to Toronto and created the second and final Main Source disc, 94's Fuck What You Think (Wild Pitch) without Large Professor, who quietly went about the business of producing hiphop classics.
His uncredited shaping of Eric B. & Rakim's Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em -- using the panning and chopping sampling concepts he gleaned from the late Paul McKasty at Studio 1212 -- led to work on Kool G. Rap's Wanted: Dead Or Alive, along with A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders, Diamond D's Stunts, Blunts & Hiphop and Pete Rock & CL Smooth's Mecca And The Soul Brother, among others.
Clearly, Large Professor could make a comfortable living for himself without Main Source, even if his current solo disc, 1st Class (Matador), isn't really ringing registers. Yet there were still some unanswered questions about his abrupt exit from Main Source.
"It was business differences," states Large Professor flatly from his home in Jamaica, New York. "The group's manager was the mother of the two DJs (K-Cut and Sir Scratch), so nepotism played a role in who got paid and how much. Eventually my relationship with the group just disintegrated."
"I never had a problem with Large Professor, and he didn't have a problem with me," clarifies K-Cut from a Toronto studio. "It was when other people got involved in making decisions for us that the difficulties arose.
"We'd handle those problems much differently today, but we were just kids back then. We didn't look at the rap game as a business. Our work didn't seem like a job -- we were just having fun and getting paid for it.
"If someone offered us a label deal, a production deal or a movie deal, we wouldn't want to hear about it. We were trying to be real. Hey, if you're acting in a film, you sold out. You can't be a rapper. That's the stupid shit we thought."
Since there was no bad blood between K-Cut and Large Professor over the split, and the two remained cordial, a Main Source reunion always was a possibility, though an extremely remote one considering all the time the two busy producers spend locked away in their own studios.
"My cousin Rashad Smith, who's also a producer," says K-Cut, "put us back in touch about a year ago, and Paul and I have been talking regularly ever since -- you know, just chit-chatting about things and getting to know each other again. When we sat down for a serious conversation, we clicked and realized we'd never really stopped being friends.
"When Jonathan Ramos called to ask if we'd be interested in doing a Main Source show, I said, "Well, possibly. Let me call Large Professor.' So I got on the phone with Paul, and he said, "Yeah, sure, let's do it!' That was it. There was never any thought about the money or anything.
"Neither of us needs a cheque, and I think what we've done in the past speaks for itself. We're just doing this for fun. We haven't seen each other in a while, so it'll be great to get back together again doing stuff, just like how it was in high school."firstname.lastname@example.org