Large Professor Is Still Providing ‘Relentless, Ill Boom Bap’ At 51
Legendary MC spoke about new music, hip-hop at 50, and his thoughts on how A.I. will affect sampling
Large Professor attends the 2nd Annual Jam Master Jay Celebration Of Life Fundraiser at S.O.B.’s on January 22, 2018 in New York City. JOHNNY NUNEZ/WIREIMAGE
LEGENDARY RAPPER-PRODUCER LARGE Professor saw no better way to celebrate his 51st birthday than by doing what he loved — rocking a crowd. On March 22, the day after his birthday, the Queens legend played an hourlong set at New York City’s Starchild Rooftop bar to a crowd of hip-hop heads spanning hip-hop’s 50 years.
His set mostly consisted of classic soul and funk songs containing breakbeats later sampled in classic hip-hop songs, such as Brentford All Stars’ “Greedy G,” sampled by Carlos Bess for Ghostface Killah’s “Cherchez La Ghost.” Even without playing much rap until the end of his set (which was followed by Dj Diosa Dynamite and DJ Late4Dinner), the set felt like an homage to the genre’s origins. There are few better equipped to provide that sonic journey than Large Professor, who’s renowned for his work with Nas (including three tracks on Illmatic) as well producing for his group Main Source, Eric B & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Mobb Deep, and more.
Before he took to the booth, Large Professor had a quick chat with Rolling Stone not just on his perspective of hip-hop at 50 but his current endeavors, including his Extra Exotic album with Nick The Exotic, and two upcoming projects, including a compilation he’s helming, and a collaboration with rapper Raw Wattage entitled Down South Up Top.
“We got Ghostface Killah, Freddie Gibbs,” he says of the upcoming album. “We doing a lot of bridging of the southern and east coast artists, but it’s all boom bap, it’s all relentless ill, boom bap.”
What gave you the idea to do a set for your birthday? Is that something that you often?
Yeah, we’ve done it before at a party called Mobile Mondays, and it’s just New York celebrating a hip-hop dude, just trying to keep the hip-hop vibe alive and keep it potent.
I saw that DJ Premier’s birthday as well. Do y’all often do things to celebrate together?
We definitely call each other on the phone and bug out, but one day maybe we’ll party together.
What are some of your plans for 2023?
Right now, I’m currently working on a compilation album where a lot of the new up-and-coming artists that I like, like a female artist named Stahr from Atlanta. She’s kind of fire. I got some joints with my man Al Skratch. So I got the new and the old, just the whole spectrum of hip-hop. And I just recently dropped a project with my man Nick the Exotic called Extra Exotic, and that came out maybe a year or two ago. And also working on a project with my man, Raw Wattage. It’s called Down South Up Top. We taking a different approach with this album. Instead of just recording it and putting it out, we’ve recorded it, and we hit the road with it. So now we going around and we making moves with that, hitting the stage with it and getting the crowd’s feedback, and yo, it’s dope so far.
How did that idea come together?
Yeah, so I got my man P. Watts, he’s an artist that came out from the south, and he had the idea of bridging the South and New York. And he linked up with Tragedy Khadafi in the South, and Tragedy recommended that he worked with me on that project. And so far, so good. We got Ghostface Killah, Freddie Gibbs. We doing a lot of bridging of the Southern and East Coast artists, but it’s all boom bap, it’s all relentless ill, boom bap.
Are you going to be doing the bulk of the beats for your compilation?
What I’ve been doing recently is featuring DJs as scratches in hooks and stuff, so I may mix it up. So definitely, whatever it is, I just wanted to be banging. Definitely.
I saw that you were at The DA.I.S.Y. Experience, the De La Soul event recently.
Oh man, that was nice.
How was that for you?
Man, De La brought the love back to New York hip-hop and my generation of hip-hop because a lot of us now we going our ways and dealing with our families and things of the sort. Everyone loved De La, so everyone came out, and everyone was on stage. You see Queen Latifah a lot on television, so to see her back in her original state on stage rhyming, I loved it, man. Monie Love.
De La brought the love back, and now I just want to add more love to it. We got a bunch of dudes that told me they would be coming, my fellow producers. We just trying to keep it alive, hip-hop 50 world and beyond.
Speaking of Hip-Hop 50, what do you think about the state of hip-hop right now?
Oh man, I love hip-hop. It has a lot of subgenres now. You got trap and drill and all these different subgenres of hip-hop, but I prefer just to straight boom bap off of vinyl, the purest form of hip-hop music. That’s what I still prefer. But I rock with a lot of new artists.
As we head towards the next 50, what do you think are some of the biggest questions that the community can ask themselves as we head towards the future?
Now that we’ve done pretty much a 360 where hip-hop has gone from having nothing to having everything and then now we are back to people not prioritizing making [money], they just want to get back into the art of things. So a question would be, do we want to go back through that cycle or do we want to just keep it real? Because the industry did a number on hip-hop, because people started chasing money and people started dying, all kinds of things. So it’s like, now let’s get back to the art, and let’s marvel at the art and the artists. And let’s respect them, let’s love them, keep them pushing, let’s keep them going. And yo, that’s all it is. So do we want to do that cycle again? Do we want to go out here and inform the next generations?
Did you see the recent article about people using A.I. to spot samples? What do you think about the state of sampling?
Yeah, I mean, it’s cool. I like it because it makes us sharper. I come from the original era where records were rare. Now, I don’t know if artificial intelligence even has these records, so a lot of these choices is so under the radar that they really just trying to catch up. What they need to do is join with us and let us tell them what to do with this artificial intelligence, just how De La just got their stuff online. It’s like, yo, work with us, and I guaranteed they’ll be lit. You know what I mean? If artificial intelligence work with us, they’ll be lit. The world would be lit musically. So it’s cool, but I could work around that because I know that rare. Yeah, man, I know that throwback stuff that they ain’t caught up to yet.
You mentioned De La Soul getting their music back on DSPs. Do you feel like there are some ways that maybe we’re giving digital music or DSPs a little bit too much power? A colleague of mine wrote recently that it seems like some people acted because the music wasn’t on DSPs that it didn’t exist. Is there a way to shift that dynamic to reinforce the importance of physicals?
I think it’s happening now anyway because the new generation, the cloud is kind of boring. They want to be able to touch the music, spin it back, throw it in, and things like that. So it has never been important to me to get digital. I always prioritized vinyl because it goes hand in hand with skateboarders. How the skateboarders take risks, they flip, and jump. It’s like when you listen to music; you can touch the vinyl and spin it back and take a risk to throw it on time and things like that. So it’s just making the world fun again. The world started becoming all ones and zeros. It’s too flat. Now we starting to get those peaks going again, man, where it’s like everyone’s inspired artistically.
I saw you referenced in 2019 that you have demo tapes with Nas dating back to ’91. Since then, have you talked to him about doing something with that? Because I see he did a remake of “Life Was Like a Dice Game.” Have you talked to him about doing something like that?
Nas, he goes with what waves he is aligned with. And I go with what waves I’m aligned with. I’m super hip-hop, vinyl. But then it might come to him where it’s like, “Yo, we got to get those demos out there” because that wave, it came a little earlier, but now it’s subsided. That stuff is still golden, man. It’s gold. I got it, man. People always [ask]. But it’s up to him. That’s his music. I did the beat, but that’s his artistry.
Anything else you want to add?
Okay. I mean, hip-hop is a genre of music that always kept us young. It always keeps us young. The world should all embrace hip-hop from the old to the young, boom-bap original New York hip-hop. Come to New York and see what that life is about. Go Uptown, go to the Bronx, and check it out. It’ll keep you young for life, and it’s the only genre. It is one of the only genres that can do that. It keeps you young. Break dancing, graffiti, all of that. It all goes hand in hand through all generations from the seventies, eighties, and nineties; it’s forever. So let’s embrace that and concentrate and just get better and better at it. Word.
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