[6 April 2007]
So we all brought something hot and poppin’ to the table, lettin’ y’all know what’s the name on the label.
—Large Professor, “The Name of Thisish”
TV commercials use celebrity endorsements all the time, banking on the spokesperson’s goodwill to sell goods and services. Personally, I have trouble equating a person’s fame with the quality of a product (“He plays a doctor on TV, so maybe I ought to take the beige pill”). Plus, as far as endorsements from rappers, hip-hop as a genre has built up a measure of “badwill”, sometimes through misconception and sometimes in willful exchange for “street credibility”. Consequently, some endorsements by rappers seem plausible (Common’s Gap rap or T.I.‘s car commercial), even if conceptually baffling (the soda ad with KRS-One obeying his thirst, backed by “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”) or unfortunate (Why can’t Dana Owens/Queen Latifah endorse cosmetics while maintaining her Afrocentric image?). But there are some products I could never imagine a rapper endorsing. Do you really see yourself saying, “He’s Dr. Dre, so maybe I ought to take the beige pill”? Seriously.
Quite frankly, there are only a few celebrities I would “trust” to sell me stuff anyway. One of them is William Paul Mitchell, the man we call Large Professor, the emcee and producer of Main Source fame. His work for his group’s debut, “Breakin’ Atoms”, contains some of the best hip-hop production ever. His testimonial at the beginning of Main Source’s “Faking the Funk” was inspired, “Now I’ve never been one to knock the next man for gettin’ his. And I do realize that hip-hop is now a form of show biz. But this has always been somethin’ with which you have to be true.” Based on his track record, literally, I wouldn’t take him lightly. His production skills also gave us quality work on the Nas classic Illmatic, including the smash “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”, and he’s since produced songs for and with the likes of Eric B. & Rakim, Slick Rick, Mobb Deep, Biz Markie, Gang Starr, Kool G. Rap, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, A Tribe Called Quest and many, many others.
If Large Professor, also known as “Extra P”, recommends a hip-hop album or even a specific producer, it’s a good idea to pay attention. In this case, the album is Thisish Vol.1: Hosted by Large Professor—the “thisish” part is made of “this” and “ish” (a benign form of “shit”). But since this is the first ever release for the Brooklyn-based label, Thisish, your only choice is to trust Large Professor and hope he wouldn’t attach his brand to it if it wasn’t hot.
Of course, you could also listen to it. If you do, you’ll experience the hotness, an album of energetic, innovative instrumental hip-hop. Large Pro introduces us to talented producers (Marshall Law, Cresh Frazy, Johnny 5, and DJ Masa) on the album’s journey through big beats, fancy scratches, and smart samples. Where J. Dilla’s 2006 electronic masterpiece “Donuts” crammed layers of sounds and voices into intense snippets, Thisish is expansive, like a long, satisfying creative exhale: showcasing grooves (“Their Side of It All”), shimmering piano that sounds like the precursor to an Egyptian excursion (“Thought Process”), Herb Alpert-style horns (“Daydream”), drum and bass (“Stand Still”, “When Things Change”), echo and clap (“Christoredux”), the romantically pensive strings of “Her March”, and gorgeous flute (“The Tide Changes”).
Aside from the set’s obvious attention to detail, Thisish succeeds because the instrumentals are accented by vocal samples, creating the illusion of lyrical content while keeping the song structure fresh. Good examples are the repeated rhyming couplets of “Thought Process” and the sped-up sample in “This Bud, Is For You”, but perhaps the most humorous example is “Running Away”. There, the title coincides nicely with an authentic slice of audio that opens the song: “There were no weapons of mass destruction,” says a voice that sounds like Donald Rumsfeld, followed by the indignant response, “You said you knew where they were!” Dialogue continues until it leads into the vocal sample, “Runnin’ away,” the sample says, “Who are you foolin’?” It’s amazing how much the song manages to say by with the mere juxtaposition of real audio with vocal samples.
All in all, it’s a ride that’s well worth the price of admission. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Or Large Professor’s word either, for that matter. Listen to it. Thisish is definitely real.