Brendan McGetrick
Recent works and current obsessions

Large Professor, Musician

The Large Professor is from Flushing in Queens. He started making beats on his friends’ equipment while in high school. His sound wound its way through Queens’s grapevine, catching the ear of Eric B, himself an Elmhurst native. While most his age were spending their time dry-humping and making cheat-sheets, L.P. was providing the percussion for Rakim Allah.

A list of his catalogue can put a smile on the face of any fan of New York City hip hop. Maybe that’s why, on his debut album First Class, he does it for us – “Live at the Barbecue, Fakin the Funk, Snake eyes, Watch Roger, The Heist, It’s a Boy (Remix), Wanted: Dead of Alive, Bullshit, The Ghetto, Resurrection (Remix), Rap Professional, Halftime, Money in the Bank, Rewind.” Over lunch one day, Large Professor told me about his debut, visions, digging, and growing up in the industry.

    ’89, ’90

From what I’ve heard, you’re somebody who’s been really generous with your knowledge and who’s tried to lend a hand, and one thing about hip hop going back a little bit is the idea of each one teaching one…

Right. Definitely.

So how has that philosophy influenced your career and, beyond that, your life?

Right. Well, that’s just how I was brought up, you know, by my parents as just a general way of life. And it just carried over into hip hop. Because [hip hop is] becoming so industrialized, and the industry has so much to say about it, it’s like, we have to look out for one another. So, you know, I just try to do that: I try to look out for the next man as much as possible.

So there’s even stories that you taught Premier how to use an SP 1200.

Nah, I didn’t teach Premier.

Oh, so that’s an urban legend.

Yeah, they screwed it up. I was filtering. You know, when I first came out I was filtering, and Premier picked that up, that filtering part of it. And so that’s all that really was. He already had his 950 and he was doing his own beats. Definitely. You know, but we were all trading tricks and different things.

What kind of community was around at that time?

Yeah, that was like ’89, ’90. Well, you had the new generation of beat makers, because Marley and 45 King and those guys were the first generation of like drum machine samplers. And then you had the next generation, which was like myself, Premier, you know a few others, Kevy Kev… And it was just, you know, who stepped up. We just got together; we just hooked up, you know, some type of way. Pete was on the radio, and Premier and I would always listen to him so, you know, we just all had that vibe, man, for real.

And would you get together to show each other beats and things like that?

Yeah, while we were hooking up or whatever we would. I would say like, “Yo, you know, you can filter like this…” And it would be like, “Oh word? You know, this beat is on this record…” Premier would like show me what beat was what. It was just, you know, us just coming up. Word.

So do you still keep that kind of community with Premier and other producers or has it…

Oh yeah, definitely. We still, you know, myself, Pete Rock, Premier, you know, Lord Finesse, all of us speak to one another. Diamond D, definitely. We all get together.

So you were part of this second generation in that period in the early ’90s. But after a while, the sound changed and a third generation started coming up and you were in Marley’s shoes. How did it feel when that change started?

Yeah. The sound changed, but, I mean, my whole thing is that I know I can do that. Well. I mean, from where I come from the sound was different, but whatever the sound is, you know, I can do it. That’s where I stand with it. So, you know, it’s all good with me.

    The Professional

What’s interesting to me about your new album is that it seems more like an attempt to perfect a certain older sound than an attempt to capture that, you know, new, hot thing that’s going get you on Hot 97 or whatever.

Right. Right. It was definitely to just solidify and to reinforce what hip hop is. Not to really take it anywhere new. You know, just regular hip hop. Just good old hip hop. That’s really what I was trying to make, and I think I did a pretty good job. I mean, you know, it has the boom-bap. There’s some computer, you know, different kinds of sounds, but it’s just hip hop. Not, you know, sing-songy. Just hip hop.

Right. Because I think so much hip hop gets dated so quickly, because everyone is always reaching for that new thing. And sometimes you over-reach a little bit and you come up with something that’s…

Right. And you take it somewhere where it’s not supposed to go. Now, you know, it’s just so far gone. So, you know, I just wanted to reinforce what I feel hip hop is. Definitely.

So when you’re looking to capture that good hip hop feel, what are the things that you draw on for inspiration? What memories…

Well, really it’s before I even got into this industry. A lot of the good memories that I have is just seeing dudes in sheepskin coats with sheepskin gloves and, you know, dancing. And like people have the new, fresh sneakers on, you know what I’m saying? And they’re crispy and they don’t want to, you know, dance too furiously because their sneakers crisp. So they’re a little stiff, you know? That’s the stuff that I always draw on, and that’s why I always know, regardless of what review I get or whatever, I know that this is hip hop, you know? Because of that feeling. People of today might not know it, and I try to bring it to them. That’s just those memories. And it’s coming back, because I’ve seen a few books, they’ve got a book called Back in the Days

Yeah, Jamel Shabazz. That’s a good book.

Man. For people who want to know about hip hop that book is excellent. It focuses more on the dress code, but, you know, you can see the stances, the styles and everything. And you could see movement, you would understand even more, so I just draw on the way, way back in the days. People sitting there, the DJ cutting and all that. I just always think about that, you know? Those days. Those are my fondest memories, you know? Breaking, just all of that, man. I love that, because now it’s not even like that. When I went to Amsterdam, they have, you know, these symbols – they have one with a spray paint can, one with a guy doing windmills, one with a microphone, and one with a turntable. And it’s like that’s hip hop to them. But now, in New York, hip hop is just a record, you know, that plays on the radio. You still got dudes who do graffiti and everything, but it’s just crazy right now. Because I remember how it was when people were doing whole cars and breaking and all of that. So that’s what I think about. Definitely.

Now there are a lot of newer producers who talk about, brag about they never use samples. But samples, to me, is what hip hop is about, and I personally have been educated by a lot samples.

Right. See, that’s so creative to me, because you’re taking something that is already saying something and you’re changing what it’s saying. Just flipping it and refreshening it. I mean it is still amazing to me to sample. To just come up with different things out of… I don’t know. I can’t even really describe it, but that’s a good feeling, man. To flip something or chop something, it’s like, “Wow. This is crazy. It was saying this before, but now I got it like…” It’s crazy.

And it’s your own.

Yeah. You redid it to where it’s something else. Then you put your rhymes over it and now you’ve made this other song have a whole new definition. And that goes back to the roots. That’s like reggae, you know, everyone sounding over the same beats. You know, it’s just raw man. I can’t even describe it.

So then as beat maker, let me ask what is difference between a good song and good song to sample?

A good song and a good song to sample? You know, there’s a scene in Wildstyle where Busy B is on stage and they’re cutting the records, and… It’s just a picture that comes in my mind. You see the b-boys. You see them dance, you know? There’s a picture that always comes in my mind: it’s someone standing in front of a store with a big speaker and something funky just coming out of the speaker. That’s how I know. When I’m listening to a record and I’m saying, “Yo, I could flip that like this!” and I just get that picture in my mind.

Shit. Really?

Yeah. It’s crazy.

So let’s say, for example, you used that Rodriguez song in “You’re the man”. Twice you used that sample. So that’s kind of the vibe you had listening to that record?

Umm… that wasn’t… It was the way that he performed it, and it’s saying “Sugar man”, but then I’m cutting the S part off, and then it’s flipped to where you give the illusion that it’s saying “You’re the man”. So that’s more with the record than anything. You know, messing with the records, chopping them and cutting little pieces off… Definitely.

Also I really like on “Rewind” you used the T-La Rock song [“It’s yours”].

Yeah, yeah, yeah… T-La Rock. Some people didn’t take to it too good, because, you know, they don’t know or whatever. But that’s kind of my mission, because hip hop is so far gone that it’s like I would take a record and maybe some of the old school people who used to listen to T-La Rock but don’t listen to hip hop anymore might hear it and say, “Yo! That’s ‘It’s yours’! Hip hop is back!”So that really was my purpose for that.

    The Art of Diggin

So then I want to talk a little bit about digging for records. Because you’re someone who’s spent a lot of time digging.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I was just in Long Island the other day just picking some stuff up.

OK let’s start with that then. What are the some of the best places that you go for digging. Not specific stores or anything like that, but certain areas or cities that you think are particularly good.

Definitely Long Island. That’s a gold mine out there. You’ll find crazy stuff. And Brooklyn, my God. Brooklyn, like those reggae shops, some of the basements what they’ve got down there like as far as soul and funk – my God. And, you know, Queens used to be good, but a few stores shut down, but even now it’s, you know, little places. And now it’s like where I live in Queens, a lot of people have records in their basements. So it’s like I can post up a sign “If you have any records for sale.” It’s different for me now. I’m getting stuff from all over the place now, because a lot of people say “Aw, you know, we don’t use these anymore..” And they give them and and then I’ve got them. So it’s a lot easier for me now. It’s coming from everywhere.

What about some other cities?

Yeah definitely. San Francisco’s hot. San Francisco is hot, because it just seems like every record is right. They sift the nonsense out, and every record you go through is hot. LA also. You know, they had a jazz record center out there that was tremendous. There was just stuff that I was finding out there… Um Chicago, the 45s out there are just crazy. And Texas too. Yeah, Texas is crazy. I’m sure that everywhere you go in America you can find something. And even when I went to Holland, you know, they had some ill stuff. I can find something anywhere. So I’m straight, because I’ll find something by anyone anywhere. Word.

So you just delve into it. You don’t go with any list or plan?

No, because you never know what you’re gonna get or what you’re gonna see. So you’ve got to you feel it out, you know, especially for prices, because for a while the conventions changed the game. Because all of a sudden the records are 600 and 700 dollars!? It’s like, What!? This isn’t digging!! This is purchasing. This is putting a down payment on something! So I still go with the intention of catching that 2 or 3 or 5 dollar record and, you know, flipping it or whatever. I think that people will always come in this game and try to industrialize it and make it commercial. They want to put a big price on it now. They want to do this or do that. But, you know, we as hip hoppers have to weave around that. And so they’re gonna start putting 600 dollar price tags on the funk records, so we’re gonna have to go to the latin or foreign records. Because we can’t bow down to this commercialism, you know? I’ve always seen it like we’re bandits, you know what I’m saying? We grab something up, just like a graffiti writer would go out at night and throw his name up. We’re grabbing records up, and putting it out there like, Yo, this is alright. So I always want to keep that bandit feeling, but I can catch something anywhere.

But that’s the interesting thing, because I’ve seen records that I really really wanted, but you’re not gonna pay 500 dollars for a 12 inch record. But in a lot of ways that just forces you to be more inventive and kind of puts up a challenge.

Right, right. And now we’re becoming more creative, like Premier. He can chop shorter pieces and just, you know, work around it, and keep it hip hop. Word. But someone like Puffy… “I’ve seen where he’ll take a real obvious sample and just loop it and use it like that. But he’ll just pay for it, you know? And it’ll be plain as day on the back, you know, Al Green ˜Blah, blah, blah”. We still try to keep it bandit. So that, you know, people have to dig for it and say, Yo! Oh, this is what he used! Man, I didn’t know! We try not to play the industry’s game; we want the industry to play our game. Definitely.

But as fan that’s such a nice feeling when you put on a record and then you think, Ooooh, shit. This is it!

Riight! That’s a better feeling than just, you know, reading the back and saying, Oh, Ok let me go look for that record.

    Industry Rule #4080

Yeah. So then let’s talk about the record industry for a second. So you had this album. It was supposed to come out on Geffen, but it never came out.

Right.

So that’s always a weird thing for me, because from an outsider’s point of view, I wonder like, What happens to these people? They have something to say and there’s an audience out there who wants to listen to it, and then they just never come out.

Right. That’s just… You know, Geffen Records is a big, rock record company that was trying to get into hip hop. And just off of street buzz, you know, all of these cliches that these record companies are going off, they decided that they wanted to sign Large Professor. And I think that after a while, I think they just didn’t know the level of hip hop that I was bringing, you know? So then it all just disintegrated.

So you figure they didn’t know what they were getting just from the very beginning?

Yeah, from the very beginning. I think they wanted something more friendly, and, you know, I was more rebellious, especially on the mic. I don’t think it was the beats. I just think it was more what I was saying on the mic was just too much for them.

And then they just felt like they couldn’t make it into something that they could put on MTV or somewhere?

Right. Exactly.

But as a person with bills to pay and a living to make, I’m sure there must be some temptation to cash in on something that’s insincere but probably will sell.

Definitely around ’96, ’97 when I was with Geffen and those guys kind of bailed out on me, there was a point where I asked myself, Do I try to do this new stuff or do I stick to my guns and just keep it real And really it wasn’t even a question in my mind, because I was just like, I’m always just gonna keep it, because no matter what, I can’t avoid it: these pictures are in my head. When I see the dudes in the sheepskins and they’re saying Ho! and all of that, you know, I’m just stuck to it. But at that time, it just put me on a mission like, Yo, I have to put that real hip hop out there, no matter what. Regardless of if people accept it or not or if they are receptive to it as far as record sales or whatever, just make sure that it exists. And so that’s what I’m doing. Word.

How did it feel? Did you have a feeling that they were gonna drop you?

Yeah I had a feeling, because it just started taking long, you know? And it was just a lot of nonsense. I saw a lot of beating around the bush going on, and that’s, even outside of music, that’s just me seeing stuff and saying, Well, this is about to go crazy. But the one thing that’s good is that, you know, hip hop showed me love. And when Geffen wasn’t there, that’s when Pete Rock was there, when Non Phixion was there.

Cormega as well.

Oh yeah. Definitely.

He had a sort of similar experience getting mistreated by a big label.

Yeah. That’s why I kind of reached out to him, because, you know, we’ve got to help each other. We’ve got to strengthen each other, because we’ve been through the nonsense in this industry.

So now both of you are on much smaller labels. How are you finding that?

Oh, it feels great, because musically I can do what I want to do. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted. I mean, you definitely want to get paid; you want to be compensated if you’re selling records. But that’s not my main objective. My main objective is just put that original hip hop out there, you know, for us as a hip hop community so that we can stay strong.

So that gets back to what were talking about earlier, the importance of communities to protect and educate. So what have you been doing for these younger artists who haven’t spent as much time as you?

Well, on Nas’s Lost Tapes, there’s guy named Hill, as a matter of fact he did a beat on my album; he did “Alive in stereo”. And so with him, I’m trying to tell him like, Yo, there’s certain things you want to do and there’s certain things you don’t want to do. He’s at like the embryonic stage right now where it’s like he can really blow up or, if he sees too much hard stuff, you know, he’ll just come out rough, you know? Rough. So the few guys that I have around me, I try to guide them and show them how to weave and bob. Like I tell them, First, this is business. Hip hop, you know, we might love it as a music or whatever, but when you’re making a record, sales matter and all of these things. Don’t wholeheartedly think of it as business, but always remember that, when it all boils down, it’s business. Let your creativity shine, but always remember that it’s business.

Because everybody’s got horror stories.

Yeah, exactly. Because that’s when you come into this thinking, Well, I don’t care about that! I don’t care about the contract! And you just want to keep your vibes right and you want to make some good music, and now you’ve made the good music and people start coming up to you like, Man, why you don’t have this?And you’re like, Ah man, I should have that? Word! Why don’t I have a car?! And the record company is getting fat, you know? And I was so naive. And that’s how it happens, man. That’s how it happens. And the thing is that this industry takes them from when they’re very young, man. Very young, it’s like from day one of these kids’lives… They get ’em and they get ’em. And that’s it.

Originally published on junkmedia.org
Image via Noah Callahan-Bever