Large Pro Lives

Large Pro Lives
Hip-hop has changed a lot over the years but you can’t tell New York City producer/MC Large Pro anything about it. On his banging new album Main Source, Pro eschews cross-pollinated rap, invigorating hip-hop’s fundamental beats-and-rhymes structure for something fresh, yet timeless. "Y’know now days, with a lot of slow tempos, stuff that is not hip-hop is being categorized as hip-hop, when it might be ‘crunk’ or whatever else,” Large Pro says. "When I think of hip-hop, I think of how it came from the main source — like growing up with the Zulu Nation, gangs, graffiti, break dancing, and everything. So, I want to get back to the main source; just that feeling of the b-boy and all that.”

Hailed as an underground rap pioneer, Large Pro (aka Large Professor, Xtra P, etc.) was an up-and-coming producer in the late ’80s, programming beats for Eric B. and Rakim before joining Toronto’s K-Cut and Sir Scratch as an MC and forming the influential Main Source. After releasing their successful 1991 debut Breaking Atoms, Main Source ended acrimoniously. "It was just a conflict of interest man,” Pro says of the break-up. "Like a lot of groups coming up, things are done in a grassroots way. One of the things we had was, the manager of our group was Sir Scratch and K-Cut’s mother. You can see where I’m going with that man; crazy nepotism came into play. It’s unfortunate how it went down but it’s all love with me and the fellas.”

In the spirit of reconciliation and connecting his vibrant new tracks with that old school flavour, Large Pro sees Main Source as a tribute to roots he’ll never sever. "Along with Large Pro, Large Professor, and everything, I’m still Main Source man, regardless of what happened in the past. I think a lot of people, because everything split how it did, they feel like, ‘Yo, y’know, he kinda abandoned Main Source,’ but not at all man. I still embrace Main Source to the fullest.”

Whatever the context, it’s heartening to find Large Pro’s classic sensibility untainted by the contemporary production trends he inadvertently spawned. During Main Source, the Professor discovered and nurtured the budding talent of future rap giant Nas, eventually producing tracks on his landmark 1994 album, Illmatic. Sporadically releasing instrumental records in between notable production work for Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Busta Rhymes, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, and Mobb Deep among others, Large Pro has been conspicuously silent on the mic. His last solo record was 2002’s 1st Class, which was released by indie rock powerhouse, Matador Records. With no fear of rust, Pro busts solid rhymes while handling all of the production on Main Source except for one DJ Premier-inspired track helmed by Toronto-bred producer Marco Polo.

"When I was putting the songs together, I was like ‘Yo, these are nice’ but then I had the track from Marco Polo in the wings and I was like, ‘Yeah, that Marco track,’ and then boom, it fit well with everything else. And ‘Hardcore Hip-Hop,’ that’s like one of the most fiery, ferocious joints on there, man!”

Large Pro’s infectious energy is refreshing, as he excitedly discusses the vitality of music and his return to MCing. "The thing with hip-hop is, you gotta dig. Just like back in the day, we had to dig for the old James Brown records. It’s like that for the average person now; because there’s so much out there, you gotta dig and find what’s what. It’s still good man, we’re still goin’ strong and hip-hop, it still lives, definitely.”