Music

Large Professor: 1st Class

Scott Hreha

Large Professor

1st Class

Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2002-10-08
UK Release Date: 2002-10-21
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I'd like to say that the same sentiment applies to Large Professor (a.k.a. Extra P or Large Pro or LP), who's also been here for years but has just recently dropped what everyone wants to call his 'comeback' record. At the tender age of 17, Extra P cemented his reputation as the man to call for the hottest beats in town -- a high school prodigy who had such a way with the SP1200 that he was programming tracks for Eric B & Rakim and Kool G Rap in the evenings while still attending classes during the day. According to legend, LP also passed his knowledge on to a young DJ Premier (knowledge that LP himself had absorbed from Pete Rock), who in turn hooked up Extra P's own group, Main Source, with the Wild Pitch label. As is too often the case, Main Source only put out one album -- 1991's brilliant (and, sadly, long out-of-print) Breaking Atoms -- before dissolving into a cloud of bitterness. However, Large Pro was so in demand as a beatmaster by this time that he put his own projects on hold to work on records that have since become blueprints for hip-hop masterworks -- A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders and Nas' Illmatic.

But somewhere along the line, things went south for the Professor -- uncredited work, collaborations left unreciprocated, and the rising prominence of thug rappers in the mainstream began to make Extra P look like yesterday's news. Adding insult to injustice was the fact that Large Pro had put together two whole records worth of solo material for Geffen by the mid-'90s, all of which remains unissued to this day with the exception of two 12-inches. Through it all, Large Professor has kept himself busy while putting together this new solo joint -- mostly on a much smaller scale that has balanced contributions to underground groups like Non-Phixion and the Beatnuts with work on bigger projects like Nas' own "comeback" Stillmatic and the X-ecutioners' Built from Scratch.

Now, a big red flag jumps up almost immediately when you notice the label responsible for 1st Class -- Matador. As an indie rock label, Matador knew few peers in its mid-'90s heyday (and continues to eke out a solid release now and then), but its forays into hip-hop have always come up short. Unfortunately, Extra P hasn't done much to change their reputation in that respect, because all the wishful thinking in the world can't make this record anything more than the work of a legend clinging desperately to his past successes.

That's not to say that the production is awful on 1st Class -- in fact, a lot of it is quite good in an early '90s time capsule way, begging the question of whether he might've been better off making an instrumental record. But the lyrics -- to quote a recent cut from Dälek -- "what the fuck happened?" It's impossible to believe that someone who wrote rhymes with such a combination of ingenuity and social consciousness as "A Friendly Game of Baseball" can expect his listeners to accept some remedial shit like "Brand New", or even worse, "Born to Ball" (where he spends a full verse rattling off his past song titles in a lame attempt to justify his credibility). Large Pro doesn't change his tune over the course of the entire record, preferring to carry the load with one of the most dispassionate takes on the boasting tradition ever committed to disc.

Not even the record's high-profile guests can help Extra P out of his rut. Nas and Akinyele try to rehash some of the old Illmatic vibe on the two-part "Stay Chisel" and "Akinyele", but never really take it anywhere. Elsewhere, Q-Tip sounds as if he's phoning in his lines on "In the Sun", and Busta Rhymes' contribution to "On" is so lackluster that he makes Large Pro sound like Talib Kweli in comparison. Maybe if Nas had invoked his beef with Jay-Z they could've moved some units for controversy's sake, as opposed to wasting big-name collaborators on half-assed routines.

Deep in the record, the Professor finally delivers some redeeming moments in the form of "Large Pro" and "Alive in Stereo", two tracks that, despite not being able to shake the disc's dismal lyrical trend, are vintage Extra P in terms of production. "Hip Hop" also rides a decent beat, but reveals a glimmer of the old Main Source-era Professor with its slightly less egocentric lyrics -- if these cuts weren't in the minority on 1st Class, this review would be a far more positive proposition.

So is it unfair to judge 1st Class by Large Professor's past accomplishments? Perhaps. But regrettably, it's the only thing that makes the record worth listening to -- because an album this weak that came from someone without Extra P's cred wouldn't even be worth the polycarbonate substrate it was pressed on.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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