After all these years (six officially, but for all intents and purposes over ten), the Mad Scientist has at last been able to release his magnum opus. While not the LP, Large Professor’s official debut full-length is exactly what its title professes itself to be – 1st Class. Through all the jokes (“I’ll buy the album when he drops it – if I haven’t died of old age first”), label issues, bootlegs, and just plain anticipation, Extra P comes correct.
Though the majority of Hip-Hop fans should recognize the name Large Professor, it would be understandable if some didn’t. Known most for his former group Main Source’s classic album Breaking Atoms and his production duties on Illmatic, he’s also done unaccredited work for legends Kool G Rap and Eric B. & Rakim, among others. As a matter of fact, Large Pro taught the one and only DJ Premier how to get the most out of his SP1200 (and boy did he ever). Signed to Geffen, his debut was supposed to be released in 1996, but got shelved due to difficulties between artist and label. Since then he’s been laying low, producing the occasional track for others while quietly observing the industry. So if you don’t know, now you know.
With 1st Class, Large Pro does what few “comeback” artists manage to – keep up with the times while still capturing the essence of what made him so revered in the first place. Whether reminiscing about old episodes of New York Undercover or playing Madden 2003, the album fits all moods, feeling like a blast from the past which could very well be coming from the future. Making a timeless album is more than hard, though in theory the formula is simple: dope beats + dope rhymes = classic material. Believe that the Rap Professor has that formula on lock.
Sixteen tracks deep, 1st Class doesn’t allow your head to stop bobbing. Pro takes control of each song with his deep voice and commanding flow, delivering each word and verse with unequivocal confidence. Not interested in fads, there are no double-time, off-beat-on-beat, or “Oh Boy”-ish vocal gimmicks, just straightforward microphone mechanics. Not to imply that Extra P isn’t excellent on the mic, check out “Born To Ball”, where he flips the names of songs he’s done to ridiculous effect, or “Kool”, which has Pro speaking about devotion while at the same time calling out phonies.
Of course, as nice as P is as an emcee, behind the boards he’s simply exquisite. Those that wondered who the chorus to Nas’s “You’re Da Man” was referring to now have their answer. Large Pro’s “The Man” takes that same sample, but throws it over a beat that actually outshines the one he laid down for Stillmatic. Just as anthemic is “Ultimate”, a track that will have listeners standing at attention, nodding in respect. “Stay Chisel” is syrupy smooth while “Blaze Rhymes II” and “Radioactive” are both powerfully hectic. Without hyperbole, there isn’t one weak beat on the album. Guest producers J-Love, Hill, and Xplicit don’t drop the ball either, lacing tracks that are pleasantly familiar, bumping, and soothing, respectively.
2002 seems to be a year of renewal. The past twelve months have seen the names J-Live and INI in the spotlight, so it’s only fitting that Large Pro make his long-awaited return as well. And don’t be so sure it’s only his own career that he’s hit the reset button on. The biggest testament to Extra P’s ability is what he’s able to bring out of others. Album guests Nas, Akinyele, Q-Tip, and Busta Rhymes each sound like they’ve been sucked into a time warp, sharp and hungry as ever. It’s just another example of 1st Class’s timelessness. Now, if only RZA would drop his album…