Chairman Mao talks with the producer about his early days.

Creative Legacy
October 31, 2019

“Out in Queens, Flushing to be exact”: As one of Harlem’s most style-defining hip hop producers and lyricists, Large Professor has shaped an era of NYC rap like few others. Starting out under the wings of the late, great Ultramagnetic producer Paul C, young Extra P went from crafting pause tapes in his bedroom to professional studio production in no time.

Main Source, the band he rose through the ranks with, scored a label deal with Wild Pitch Records and released a classic debut album, Breaking Atoms. In ’92, the same year that saw Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson shoot hoops to Main Source’s “Fakin’ the Funk,” Large Pro hipped his long-time digging partner Pete Rock to the Tom Scott sax sample that became the all-time classic “T.R.O.Y..”

Besides his solo works and guest productions for the likes of Slick Rick, Rakim, Akinyele and many more, Large Pro played a crucial role in the career of one Nasir Jones. After formulating a first, awe-inspiring claim to fame as a teenager on Main Source’s “Live At The BBQ,” Nas and Large Professor continued to work on Illmatic, and maintained a collaborative friendship throughout their respective careers. In this edited and condensed excerpt from his recent interview with RBMA Radio, Extra P talks at length about those early days. - Red Bull Music Academy

" We would play records from the top producers at that time, and he would listen to it and he’d be cringing."

Who was your production mentor?

My production mentor was a guy by the name of Paul C. McKasty. The group I was with at the time, Main Source, was trying to make a demo. Paul C. at that time was just a tremendous energy at a studio named 12/12 in Jamaica Queens, off Archer Avenue. Everyone was looking for Paul C. to do their demo, and Paul was very busy.

He saw and heard some of the ideas I had. Coming up in hip-hop and just having that competitive spirit, it was like, “Alright, everyone is using James Brown, I’m going to use something else.” And so Paul kind of took to that. Like I was coming with Young-Holt [Unlimited] records and jazz funk records, and I guess he didn’t have a lot of those. So I would come with this other angle and he was like, “This is kind of nice right here. You mind if I hold onto this record for a while?” “Go ahead, man. This is just an honor…” We kind of started building like that.

We would play records from the top producers at that time, and he would listen to it and he’d be cringing.

He took me out of that tape deck era. He was like, “This is the SP-1200, this is the machine you want to rock with.” He had one at his disposal at his home. One day I went over to his home and he sat me down and he was like, “What you want to do?” I’m like, “I want to take this record and I want to hook this up and I want to hook that up.” “Alright you do this, this, and that. I’m going to sleep, give it a try.” I sat there and just went crazy with that SP-1200. I was like, “I hope he doesn’t wake up, because I want to hook another beat and I want to make mad discs to fill and everything.” That SP-1200, once Paul C. introduced me to it, that was it.

He also introduced me to his technique. He was advanced on it. He had all kinds of double time things that he would do that would make sure the beat was tighter than the average. I’m not saying any names, but we would play records from the top producers at that time, and he would listen to it and he’d be cringing. Things that I wasn’t even noticing, he’d point out and say, “That’s not tight right there. This is cool, but I could have got that nice.” Once I started to learn that, I started hearing it.

The Meters - Look Ka Py Py

Obviously when Paul C. passed it must have been difficult.

Yeah, it was crazy, because as a child I wasn’t even accustomed to anyone dying. Around my way, we had one fatality and that was my little man Jamal. He got hit by a car, but other than that I hadn’t even known anyone dying.

One time I went… Paul and I were both Meters addicts, so he had already had all of the Meters albums. I didn’t. He kind of put me up, he gave me a little CD starter kit like, “You never heard of the Meters, take this CD. This has all of the songs on it. Check it out and see if you can get the original albums.” That was another thing too. He was big into originals, like, “No, that’s a reprint man. You can’t...” It was almost like you couldn’t sample the reprint.

Paul was a real cool, witty, funny dude. When he died, it just stopped me in my tracks. It was just like, “You know shit ain’t all good out here.” Everybody is not going to wish you well. Everybody is not going to be with you. For something like that to happen to a dude like that, I just felt like it’s some sucker shit out here. I was like, “Who would do that?” That was my thing, “Who would do that?” It shocked me.

How did “Large Professor” come into being? You started with a different name (“Paul Juice”).

When you were on the mic, especially in those days, you couldn’t be like, “I’m just Regular P.” It had to be something extravagant. I was also coming from the Nation Of Islam, where we always kind of exalted ourselves. You have guys named Supreme, Wonderful, all of those kind of things.

" We would play records from the top producers at that time, and he would listen to it and he’d be cringing."