Large Professor / WHAT’S GOOD(?)
For those in the know, Large Professor’s name rings bells. He’s the producer responsible for introducing Nas to the world, has had a hand in countless classics, including Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em by Eric B. & Rakim, Mecca & The Soul Brother from Pete Rock & CL Smooth, & Illmatic.
In this exclusive interview with SHAOLIN JAZZ (conducted by Myk Blauuw), he talks about his creative process, what it takes for a young artist to catch his attention, unreleased Nas demos, and a secret super producer group chat he’s in with other legends like Questlove.
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Myk: First of all, I just want to say I’m a big fan; my Pops put me on your music as a kid. I remember listening to Looking at the Front Door all the time on cassette with my Pops in the car. I told him I was interviewing you today and he was hype.
Large Professor: That’s incredible man, that’s dope.
Myk: So how was the DC show last month at Songbyrd?
P: The DC show was live. They came through with that energy. I had my man Neek the Exotic and my man Joe Fatal with me. We had just come off of a UK tour, having fun out there, so this show was the beginning of the new year for me. It was so much fun. A lot of times I don’t pay attention to the crowd and I just perform but when I was looking out in the crowd, people was rocking. I was like “yea, that’s aiight right there.”
Myk: I know you’ve had a good history of touring throughout Europe and the UK. The 25th anniversary of [Main Source’s debut album] Breaking Atoms was just a couple years ago and ya’ll did a big tour for that. What are some of the good and the bad things that come with being so far away from home on a tour?
P: I mean, there’s little delicacies that you may be used to around your way, a little sandwich, grits, eggs, whatever. You ain’t getting no grits and eggs in Russia, haha. But it’s all love. You adapt. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re out there. You’re supposed to be exploring, so that’s normally what I do.
Myk: What would you say is your favorite place you’ve been able to visit through your music?
P: That would be Japan, definitely. Japan is like a dream come true, like heaven on Earth. I love Japan man, forreal. Japan man, it’s amazing out there, but New York, New York, will always be my heart. That’s number one.
Myk: Thinking back to the beginning of your career in the 80’s – put yourself back at that time when you were making music. Has your approach changed from then to now? When you get in the studio, is the process much different nowadays?
P: My approach is more refined now, I’m more versatile. When you come up and have a certain technique and idea of what things should be, it’s kind of like tunnel vision. But as you go and grow in life, going different places, you start accepting and incorporating other things that help you to expand. I mean, this is Hip-Hop, so as long as you have a certain feel to it, it’s going to rock. But like I said, it’s become more refined overtime after I’ve done certain things for years.
Myk: In the mid-90’s, you were gearing up to release your debut solo album, The LP, but that got held up because of issues behind the scenes at your label at the time, Geffen. With your career in a kind of limbo for a while there, what was it like still trying to be creative?
P: It was a nice learning experience and I was up for the job. I had heard of people getting canned before and getting dropped off of their labels, so I knew of it already. I was like, “aiight cool, let me see what’s going on.” When I brought the album to Geffen Records, they were having difficulties at the time because of Big and Puff. There were these other things happening as far as what music was selling. And now here’s this guy, Large Pro, who’s a quote-unquote a legend, saying let’s run with this. On the financial scale it might not have panned out the way they wanted it to, but they ended up giving me my blessings and after that I was able to go out in the world, get back to real life for a second, and that was dope.
Myk: You’ve remained relevant for over 30 years, partly by continuing to work with younger artists. You produced a recent Fashawn single on Mass Appeal, you had Action Bronson on your album, Professor at Large, you’ve done some music with Chuuwee from Sacramento, you’ve been tapped by with a lot of up-and-coming artists. How do you decide who you’re going to get in the studio and create with?
P: First and foremost, if they have that out loud, stick your chest out kind of energy. You can detect that from them when you see them. You might hand them a mic and say “yo, what would you do on this?” And they pick up the mic to show you how they go with it. There’s different things that factor in; working in the studio so long, there’s so many different techniques and things to look for. All of those people I work with, I believe everyone I’ve ever worked with actually, have had that energy about them. You can let them loose, you pass the mic to them and they know what to do.
Myk: As a producer as well as an artist yourself, how do you split your time working on music for other people and your own songs?
P: Whatever I put together it’s always a toss-up. When I make beats, other people are going to like it and that’s how it’s always been. You might have three or four people you send the beat to and they all have different takes. It’s always a matter of purging and getting everyone to get their ideas out. “You like the beat, aiight, let me hear what you put on it.” You might even bring all of those people together. It’s just a matter of having something at the end of the day where it’s like, “I got some work done.” You know, boom, however it pans out.
Myk: You’ve talked in the past about a camaraderie between you and other producers, from sharing samples with Pete Rock to bringing in Q-Tip for the Illmatic sessions, do you think that’s something that still exists?
P: When you’re out here on some real Hip-Hop shit, we come up learning each one teach one. You see the man, he has skills, he doing his thing, you respect him and say, “Yo, let’s get a sandwich. Go over there and work something up.” That’s how it was with me and Pete Rock, Q-Tip, all of them. We knew of each other. “I’m gonna come over to your lab, you come to mine.” That type of shit, man, that’s what Hip-Hop is about. It was everybody pitching in. I think it does still exist today. I’m on a producer’s thread with everybody – Swizz Beatz, everybody’s giving each other props, going through each other’s catalogs and highlighting certain points. All of that. It still exists. I’d like to show the world a little more camaraderie, so they’re like “the stars is getting together, we got to follow suit.”
P: Yeah, it’s a message thread. Mad dudes, Questlove, Rashad Smith, Swizzz Beatz, Pete Rock, Preemo, mad dudes. We just be building. We’re making use of this technology. This shit is dope.
Myk: You give a lot of credit to your favorite producers, 45 King, Rick Rubin, Paul C, etc. Who are some of the producers getting busy now that you’re impressed by?
P: Always say my man Dibia$e out there in Sacramento and LA. Flying Lotus also. I got my man, this youngin’ is kinda wild, he hasn’t made a lot of noise yet but his name is Trey 8 Special. Hill, who did Nas’ Purple. There’s a lot of great talent out there. There’s room for everybody. That’s how I always felt. Some people are on some “me, me, me” type of shit. I’ve never been on that. Each one teach one. If you got it where you can help someone out and it’s nothing, it’s nothing. It be natural organic shit that people need to do without all the fuckin’ mechanics behind it. “Yo, how much you payin? How much…” You gotta just flow man because there’s a bigger thing. I want to do this because of a larger purpose. You look at all of the goodness to be created, it’s beautiful.
Myk: Speaking of collaboration, when you put out the Professor at Large album, you had the track M.A.R.S. with Cormega, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, and Saigon. Cormega had an interview where he mentioned M.A.R.S. being a super-group that was working on some more stuff together. Was that intended to be something longer or just a single joint for your project?
P: We always approached that with the dual option of that being a one shot deal or being something that we could roll with. At the time, these artists were at different points in their careers. Bronson was new and exciting and budding, Mega had his legacy of being an official dude, Saigon, the rap head snatcher, and you had Roc, the mystical magical ill emcee. You had different dynamics where it was like, how are we going to get this together? Everybody started going to their different parts of the planet and it was like, we’re going to leave this as a one-shot deal. We opened the possibilities of it to be something that could be a long run but it didn’t pan out like that.
Myk: If you could put yourself in the studio one artist today to create a project, who would you want to lock yourself in with and knock something out?
P: The Lox. They official. I’ve always wanted to work with them brothers. Like with me and Pete Rock, we always got along. I always see Jadakiss and me and Styles P worked on a joint we have with AZ called The Hardest. That was official right there. I see Styles, we be with our families and everything, chillin. The Lox, they ill. Fabolous too. I’d love to throw some shoes on Fabolous!
P: The Nas demos would be great for people to hear – the ones that we were actually working on during the Eric B. & Rakim times. I would love for people to hear those: Top Choice, The Female Persuasion, 550 Fahrenheit, all of those would be dope to have out.
Myk: Speaking of Eric B. & Rakim, you’ve been a part of countless classic projects, from them to Illmatic and beyond. In those moments, did you know it was going to be something special?
P: Absolutely, because we were all in there on the same accord as far as sticking our chest out to the world. Someway, somehow, we all ended up at this creative round-table and now we have specialists together. That’s just what it is, and Hip-Hop, we take the best in everything. You have a record that’s maybe 5 minutes long and when you take it to a Hip-Hop person, they only need to work with that one little 10-second break, so Hip-Hop just wants the best of everything. We want the Gucci, the Louis, the best of everything, worldwide. Hip-Hop. We still here. We on the frontier now. This is our culture, man. That’s how I always look at it. I ain’t never look at it as no means of trying to get rich and all that. This is our culture. This is what we came up doing, so there’s certain rules and regulations and certain things that some of us live by, but we’re trying to get it out there to the world so they know. Hip-Hop is here. This shit is real. This is what I try to get out to the world about Hip-Hop – we did so much with so little and the world could learn from that. That’s what we’re still doing.
To learn more about and keep up with Large Professor click here.
Posted on March 13, 2018, in Uncategorized and tagged art, beatmachine, beats, creative, culture, drummachine, editorial, extrap, hiphop, hiphopculture, illmatic, largeprofessor, magazine, musicnews, musicproducer, nas, news, newspaper, newyork, publication, queensnewyork, rapmusic, rapproducer, shaolinjazz, whatsgood, zine. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.