Large Professor is so involved with the history of hip-hop, it’s almost impossible to separate the two. His first beat-work was for Eric B. and Rakim. As a founder of the golden age crew Main Source, he gave Nasty Nas his debut. He rapped and produced on Tribe’s Midnight Marauders, and co-crafted the sound of Illmatic. The list goes on: Kool G, Kane, Slick, Busta, Common. Whatever L.P. touches seems destined to become classic and through it all, like rap itself, this Queens auteur continues to push the movement forward whether lacing others or blazing his own path. His third solo album Professor @ Large takes the Prof’s beloved boom-bap and reinvents it for a new school of students and practitioners alike.
“The tree’s still growing, still branching out,” says L.P. “But it’s been so long since we’ve heard these sounds. This is what we love and there’s a lack of it right now.” There’s no better introduction to this LP than opening track, “Key to the City.” A salvo of horns announces the uptempo banger, a mix of cutup keys and psychedelic vinyl chops that kicks off with the words: “Hey yo DJ, can you pick the pace up a little / I’m getting kind of tired of the slow jam rhythm.” The track feels like a bridge connecting rap’s roots (peep the scratch solo from Rob Swift) to the high-energy swagger of New York’s young guns.
Lyrically speaking, L.P. is timeless. “When I started out, it was just about talking slick on the mic in the vein of the old DJs,” he reminisces. “Now when I write, it’s in defense of real hip-hop. Of the street and the slang. Once I get busy, it all comes pouring out.” True to form, even when he’s going out on a limb to flip a bagpipe sample into an unexpected head-knocker on “UNOWHTMSAYN,” the Pro rhymes with a clarity and cadence that never goes out of style. The Busta Rhymes-featuring “Straight From the Golden” is a perfect example: two giants doing a doubletime strut over decades of rap experience.
At the other end of Professor @ Large, a dream team of New York emcees come together on “M.A.R.S.”, with Cormega, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, and Saigon not only repping four different flavors of mic-domination, but further melding styles and eras into something both familiar and fresh. Elsewhere, Fame of M.O.P. slays the tersely gritty “Happy Days,” Queensbridge-raised Tragedy Khadafi (with Cormega) raps over the vintage boom-bap of “Focused Up,” and Mic Geronimo and Grand Daddy IU contribute to the D.A.I.S.Y. age vibes of “Mack Don Illz.” L.P. moves through them all with confidence and ease.
Because at the end of the day, a song like “Kick Da Habit” gets to the heart of what Large Pro is all about. That track pays tribute to our author’s addiction—making beats—while contrasting the coulda-been life of a kid who struggles with a different kind of dependence. That’s rap at its essence right there. You might hear a subtle warmth to these songs inspired by a recent trip to Los Angeles. You might notice the cameo from his daughter Jillian, or get lost chasing a far-out instrumental, or geek over the opening line of “LP Surprise,” but Professor @ Large is hip-hop as the big picture. For Large Professor, it’s a way of life.