The code of the beat.

BeatTips Top 125 Beatmakers of All Time: #5 – Large Professor

Large Professor. Student, pioneer, beatmaking karate master.

Large Professor is one of the most curious cases in the beatmaking tradition. While he’s one of the most important pioneers the tradition has ever known, he’s still largely unknown or overlooked by many. But a deep study of Large Professor’s work reveals just why he’s absolutely one of the finest to ever touch a beat machine.

Like the word “dope,” the word “genius” gets tossed around loosely these days. But when it comes to using genius as a descriptor, I feel the most comfortable using it when referencing Large Professor. Moreover, it was Large Professor (just think about the name he chose for himself) who was the first to approach beatmaking as a science, not just an art. Is their any coincidence that he named Main Source’s seminal debut album Breaking Atoms? In this regard, Large Professor was way ahead of his time.

As a teenager, he studied under Paul C., an engineer and beatmaker (producer) partially (or perhaps more so) responsible for Ultra Magnetic MCs sound on their debut album Critical Beatdown. Paul C. also worked on Eric B. & Rakim’s album Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em, and he would likely have gone on to produce much more for them as well as other artists. Unfortunately, he was murdered almost a year before the album would be released. Large Professor then took over much of the production work for Eric B. & Rakim, although he was not credited. It’s worth noting that Large Professor’s publishing company is Paul Sea Productions. (I remember the first time I read that in the liner notes. Had no idea…)

While I’m comfortable calling Large Professor a genius, I also like to call him the beatmaking karate master. If beatmaking was a martial art, I’d have to say that Large Professor had no weakness, he did it all — as early as 1990 — at a master level. Listen to Breaking Atoms from 1990, then listen to the works of other prominent beatmakers of the time. Undoubtedly, you hear how far ahead Large Professor was. When it came to Drums, he was a master. Chops — master. Flipping samples, obscure or well known — master. Groove, rhythm structuring, and swing — Master. As I write in The BeatTips Manual, The Pioneers/Avante Garde Period (1988-1994), saw this biggest strides in the development of the beatmaking tradition. And Large Professor is one of the most important figures of this period, not just for his beatworks, but also because of the direct influence and impact that he had on other key figures of the time — most of whom went on to become the central pioneers of the beatmaking tradition. Large Professor directly taught — one crucial thing or another — to everybody from DJ Premier to Pete Rock to Havoc to Q-Tip. For certain, Large Profess was an important bridge to the future of beatmaking.

As for Large Professor’s style and sound, what comes to mind is crisp and thoughtful. Large Professor’s beats are always crisp and thoughtful; they’re always raw but couched in a rough smoothness that makes you consciously think hip hop. His technique for bass filtering is legend, and the style and sound that it helped him cultivate gave fuel to the entire beatmaking tradition, post 1988.

Finally, here again we have yet another beatmaker who also rhymed. (This is especially important to point out, because in today’s scene, far too many beatmakers don’t believe that they could also be rappers.) Just as with Ju Ju and Psycho Les of The Beatnuts, Havoc of Mobb Deep, DJ Paul and Juicy J, Showbiz, and Q-Tip, Large Professor didn’t just rhyme as a side-job, it was his full-time gig, first as the front man for Main Source, then as a solo artist. (Note: Large Professor’s one of my favorite rappers, too.) For this, Large Professor also holds the prestigious distinction of being in the canon of hip hop/rap as both beatmaker and rhymer.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Large Professor Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

SPECIAL NOTE: Listen to Main Source’s debut album Breaking Atoms straight through.

“Just Hangin’ Out” – Main Source prod. by Large Professor

“Fakin’ the Funk” – Main Source featuring Neek the Exotic prod. by Large Professor

“I Juswanna Chill” – Large Professor prod. by Large Professor

“Bowne” – Large Professor prod. by Large Professor

“Mad Scientist” – Large Professor prod. by Large Professor

“Halftime” – Nas prod. by Large Professor

“Streets of New York” – Kool G Rap & DJ Polo prod. by Large Professor

“One Plus One” – Large Professor feat. Nas prod. by Large Professor

“Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em” – Eric B. & Rakim prod. by Large Professor

“Keept it Rollin’” – A Tribe Called Quest feat. Large Professor prod. by Large Professor

“Havin’ Fun” – Large Professor prod. by Large Professor

“Rewind” – Nas prod. by Large Professor

“Money in the Bank” – Kool G Rap & DJ Polo feat. Large Professor, Freddie Foxxx (AKA Bumpy Knuckles), and Ant Live prod. by Large Professor

“The Come Up” – Cormega feat. Large Professor prod. by Large Professor

“Wanted Dead or Alive” – Kool G Rap & DJ Polo prod. by Large Professor

“Peer Pressure” – Mobb Deep prod. by Large Professor

“Hard” – Large Professor prod. by Large Professor

“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” – Nas prod. by Large Professor

“Intelligent Hoodlum” – Intelligent Hoodlum (AKA Tragedy Khadafi) prod. by Large Professor

“Dancin’ Girl” – Large Professor feat. Len X’s Ten Prod. by Large Professor

“Star Wars” – Nas prod. by Large Professor

Breaking Atoms (full album) – Main Source all prod. by Large Professor