[14 January 2009]
If you are a seasoned hip-hop head or a veteran, you already know all about Large Pro, a.k.a. Extra P, LP, Large Professor, etc. You already know that his original group, Main Source, not only dropped one of the hottest albums ever in Breaking Atoms, but that they hosted Nas’s first recorded verse on “Live at the BBQ”. And you already know that Large Pro worked with Nas on Illmatic, on which he produced the dope-as-hell trio of heat known as “Halftime”, “One Time 4 Your Mind”, and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”. The latter of those three, which sampled Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and several others, might just be my favorite Nas cut ever. If you know all of that, you probably also know the Nasty one was featured on LP’s oft-delayed, but still enjoyable, debut and sophomore efforts, The LP and 1st Class. In between all of that, of course, he produced and rapped on numerous joints ranging from Mic Geronimo’s “I’m Up Now” to MF Grimm’s “United”.
But now, Large Pro brings us his fifth, or third if you aren’t counting the instrumental albums, record entitled Main Source. While the name of the album is an obvious ode to his former group, it also stands for much more. Delays and unreleased material aside, LP has been one of the few main sources for that Golden Age sound throughout the years. Minus some of the production values on here, Main Source could have easily dropped in the early ‘90s. And, as you can imagine, some listeners will either love or hate that aspect of the record. Hip-hop heads will no doubt embrace just having a new Large Pro record, and a solid one at that, while others will push it aside for not being forward-thinking or progressive.
Although Main Source appears long at 17 tracks deep, many of the cuts are below or just around three minutes in length. And most of the tracks flow right into the next, which should be expected since only one track was handled by an outside producer, Marco Polo, who killed it on “Hardcore Hip Hop”. Also, while some of the hooks might seem weak compared to today’s standards, they are exactly what you would expect from a dude like Extra P. Back in hip-hop’s heyday, when hooks weren’t typically more than the name of the tune repeated three or four times. Sure, that might disappoint some. For example, as catchy as “Hot: Sizzling, Scorching, Torching, Blazing” is, the chorus can leave a bit to be desired. The same goes for the otherwise smooth and dope workingman’s theme “Maica Living”. But be sure to remember one thing: this is not Top 40 hip-hop.
And it all starts with the banging “The Entrance”, on which Large Pro spits like a man possessed over a slick guitar loop. That same fire-breathing attitude is heard on “Hardcore Hip Hop”, his diss to alternative rappers, and “Pump Ya Fist”, a cut that could fit in on one of Public Enemy’s best. It also helps that he never resorts to “hardcore” stereotypes on “Hardcore Hip Hop”. Instead, he stays true to his style and chip-on-his-shoulder attitude. LP also comes correct on the guest heavy “The Hardest”, which features AZ and Styles P. The track basically turns into a NYC hip-hop anthem made for the summer as the trio of emcees closes the album on a very high note. Beating out “The Hardest” for top honors, though, is the appropriately named “Classic Emergency”. Tracks like these are what make one wonder why LP didn’t put the warning, “Might cause broken necks,” on the cover. His effortless flow on “Classic Emergency” is impressive enough, but he also ripped the beat, which drips with classic hip-hop.
All of those hot tracks aside, there are still several problems lurking throughout Main Source. For one, Extra P can struggle when he tackles concepts outside of his comfort zone. While the beat is dope on “Party Time”, he sounds like he is forcing the issue. And then there is “Rockin’ Hip Hop”, which tries to mesh too many styles, resulting in a disaster of a track. The guitars and bass were enough before that 8-bit synth came in and essentially turned the song upside down. But stealing the show for all the wrong reasons is “Large Pro Says”. It’s very possible that this is an attempt at sarcasm, as it plays like a shitty club track. Even so, there is no reason it had to be stuck on here, where it’s out of place and basically a throwaway.
Even with those mistakes, they don’t equate to more than Large Pro stubbing his toe; sure it sucks, but it doesn’t hurt you in the long run. Also, for every headache caused by “Large Pro Says”, there is a “Pump Ya Fist” to make it all better. And it’s for that reason that Main Source is more than just a “good” album by one of hip-hop’s greats who is still putting in work. It’s a testament to that ideal, sure. But it’s also just a strong effort that deserves plenty of attention.