Next month, Large Professor and Lord Finesse descend upon Australia, two of the realest rhymesayers and cut creators set to put in work. With an attaché full to the brim of classic dope of boom-bap and wisecrack lyricism uncut, they prime to punch out live in what scores the soundtrack to a throwback New York-style hip-hop.
LARGE PROFESSOR + LORD FINESSE interviewed March 18, 2016
For Ozhiphopshop [READ HERE]
In an exclusive interview with Ozhiphopshop (OHHS), both allrounder producer/emcees huddled to talk shop on their well-chartered catalogues spanning 25 years, their relevance in the game and how fan support turns the wheels of motion into rolling out their legendary presence down under for a run of tour dates. Between these two legends and the groups from which they sprung, Lord Finesse AKA The Funkyman and Large Pro AKA Extra P stand as pillars to the foundation of hip-hop’s makings towering well beyond the accolades and recognition bestowed upon them.
Both opened their recording careers aligned through Wild Pitch Records in separate album drops synonymous with the shaping of many of the golden era’s most prolific talents. Finesse’s Funky Technician was released in 1990 with partner DJ Mike Smooth – produced and overseen by DJ Premier from Gang Starr and featured beatsmiths Diamond D and Showbiz before creating the future Diggin In The Crates stable. Not long after Large Pro, fronting the Main Source trio, created the Breaking Atoms album which gave way to hits Looking at the Front Door, Just a Friendly Game of Baseball and Fakin’ The Funk the last two making the soundtracks of films Boyz N The Hood and White Men Can’t Jump, respectively, something Prof points out proudly in the grand scale of his achievements – one of which includes the co-sign of one of the greatest of all-time. This is where, by and large, the most indelible footprints from the boots of both Lord Finesse and Large Professor have tread in music history, from their signatory advances in developing the career talents of those with whom they worked alongside.
In this interview, Large Pro goes in on Main Source’s transition from making tapes to Breaking Atoms and puts into perspective the chemistry between the Harlem, NY legend and the insertion of Nas into the realm of the public scope for the masses by way of the fellow Queens MC’s opening verse to the Main Source posse cut Live At The Barbeque in turn piqued a working relationship between the pairing that began from crafting the Columbia Records’ demo to Nas Will Prevail to where Large Pro sits today most notable as the lead producer of rap’s most illustrious full-length album in Nas’ Illmatic which was followed up on Stillmatic’s You’re Da Man and Rewind. However, despite the chemistry and high rate of success attained from their MC/producer pairing, Large Pro tells OHHS, that there was never a thought for the two to combine.
“I was just hungry to work with up-and-coming dudes that I thought was nice,” Large Professor recalled on the first time he and the God MC got together in the Flushings section of their native Queens. “Nas came along and he fit that mould where I thought, ‘yo, this dude is kinda nice’, so I kept giving him beats and it turned out that it’s a nice chemistry between us where people were liking that combination of LP and Nas”.
Credited with the discovery of the late MC Big L, Finesse produced a large portion of his debut album Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous while the Diggin’ In The Crates’ (D.I.T.C.) lineup was built off of the production credit from his first LP with star beatmakers; Diamond D and Showbiz adding to it with rapper AG and later future solo artists; Fat Joe, O.C. and Buckwild – all of whom Finesse tells OHHS that D.I.T.C. rivals that of the legendary super-group Wu-Tang Clan in depths of impressions marked on the genre through the catalogue of esteemed and well-heralded classics from its members. And here, the Bronx’s own Funkyman pays dues to both members of Gang Starr, (Guru having been the man to tell Wild Pitch’s Stu Fine to listen to Finesse’s demo tape) having both played pivotal roles to the making of his formidable catalogue of punchline anthems that kept him in good stead into the foray into hip-hop.
“To this day people don’t realise how vital and instrumental Premier was to me with making the Funky Technician because he actually sat in on sessions that wasn’t his productions,” said Finesse who went on to reminisce the first time Preemo laid a blunt on Finesse at a club for his very first smoke. “Me and Premier got stories, man. Premier was the first one I smoked a blunt with, how about that!”
This is Large Professor and Lord Finesse in one room at one time with Rip Nicholson, putting real hip-hop back on the map for Ozhiphopshop and Matt Van Rooy Presents. Peep game before the Lord Finesse & Large Professor Ft DJ Boogie Blind Australian Tour rolls out this coming April. Don’t sleep on these Kings.
Q&A with Large Professor & Lord Finesse
Large Pro, when you first started Main Source is it true you won a tryout with K-Cut and Sir Scratch? Was this like a job interview, what went down in that tryout?
Large Pro: Nah it wasn’t a tryout. We were all at school together. It was just an after-school hobby thing. They had turntables, I had turntables. I was multi-faceted in that I DJed and I wrote my rhymes, so one thing led to another and I was going through their rest after school and started DJing and that was pretty much the base of it, you know. But it was no tryout, no. I think later on after I had departed from the group that’s when they had tryouts.
Was Main Source simply a vehicle to get yourself out there as a name, a brand and showcase your talents or did you see this group being a fully fledged recording act for many more albums than you did?
Large Pro: It was just a matter of, back then it was like dudes just wanted to make a record. We were already making tapes. That was the thing, like, anybody could make a tape. Once you felt like you was good enough. Like, my pause tape – the tape that I did rhyming over this beat was hot I think I’m ready for records now and after a while I said, ‘yo, I’m ready for records’. It was just that thing right there. For those times a lot of the artists at that time, I’m sure you could ask them the same question and I’m sure they’d give you the same answer like, you wanting to hear yourself on the radio and sticking your chest out like, yo, I’m that dude.
Before Live at the BBQ you and Nas shared great chemistry from your first day recording down in Flushings, NY… You dropped a Chairman of the Boards loop and you both went in. Was there ever a thought for you to become a duo?
Large Pro: Nah because at that time he was looking for me for tracks and I was just hungry to work with up-and-coming dudes that I thought was nice. Nas came along and he fit that mould where I thought, ‘yo, this dude is kinda nice’, so I kept giving him beats and it turned out that it’s a nice chemistry between us where people were liking that combination of LP and Nas but it was never a thought that, ‘yo, we should be a duo’ or anything.
Main Source songs playing during Boyz N The Hood and White Men Can’t Jump. To me that’s pop culture right there. Do you feel like a creator of history?
Large Pro: Absolutely, definitely. I’m very proud of those achievements. Like, Boyz N The Hood – I wanted that with my father and we would get to the part where the credits rolled and I would see my name on the credits and he was seein’ me like, ‘yo, I’m proud of you’, and so-forth and that to me, was golden and just in general to be able to boast those things It’s more than I asked for. All I wanted to do at the time was just make a record. And then, you know, a bunch of records and album later and all these accolades and movies, all of this it’s beautiful. It’s a great feeling.
Lord Finesse, when you started did you actually sign with Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate Records?
Lord Finesse: I mean, we can go back. My history is funny, you know. I actually started off with Ski Records before I was released then I went with Wild Pitch Records then after that Ice-T signed me to Rhyme Syndicate.
When did Wild Pitch come into play and is that what brings you both together for this big tour?
Lord Finesse: It plays a significant part on many levels. I think, when I was at Wild Pitch Records – I mean, I have to really take my hat off to and always pay respect to, rest in peace, Guru. Guru was the one who listened to my demo tape and the one who really told (Stuart) Fine ‘yo, you better sign this dude! This kid is dope’. Even though the President wasn’t sure, he was telling the President, ‘this is the dude, it’s worth it’. Then I think around The Seminar, 1989 Premier was just fresh up from Texas and he was in the crowd with Stu Fine when I was at the New Music Seminar in 1989 and right after that Premier was like, ‘yo, man I wanna work with him’. Funky Technician went into effect right after the seminar and sayin’ those two Premier was the one who put me on to Large Professor which came about during the time of the Positivity video. And that’s when I first met Treach and the whole Queens connect thing when they were performing and I think that’s when the night after Premier and I went to K-Cut’s and Sir Scratch’s Mum’s crib or wherever they was stayin’ and I got a white label tape of the Main Source album.
You got a lot of cred for the Funky Technician – how influential was that album for Preemo’s career?
Lord Finesse: I think it was Gang Starr more than Funky Technician and I think to this day people don’t realise how vital and instrumental Premier was to me with making the Funky Technician because he actually sat in on sessions that wasn’t his productions. He wanted to make sure I got my rhymes right and he actually engineered and did a lot of things on an album that he didn’t really have to do. And, to this day I always thank him for that. He wanted to make sure that it came off right. And no matter how picky I was with the beats, no matter what. Me and Premier got stories, man. And he knows I love him to death because he was there in the studio and he was there outside of the studio. So he mentored me through a lot and I put one for Wikipedia and for the people Premier was the first one I smoked a blunt with, how about that?
Nice! That almost trumps what you have created in the studio together, The first dude to hand you a blunt, you always remember that, right?
Lord Finesse: We wasn’t even during a recording, we was at a club. We was drinking, I remember he was drinking a Jack and Coke and he was like, ‘yo, Finesse you wanna hit this?!’ He ain’t never seen me smoke before so he was shocked when I pulled, you know? ‘You really took a pull of this shit’, you know?
Do you think that Diggin’ In The Crates, if had you guys continued to record together, could have rivalled that of Wu-Tang Clan?
Lord Finesse: I mean, I don’t look at like would we rival, I think we do rival the Wu-Tang Clan in so many different ways. Maybe not as successful from a plaque level or different from the way they did things to what we did but uh, but beside Wu-Tang, and I don’t say this to be cocky, but I do say it confidently, you can’t name another group that has as many established producers and rappers in one group. Wu-Tang got the rappers and it was RZA as a the head producer and if you break it down with us, you know, we got classic albums maybe although maybe not as well-accomplished as theirs were as far as attention-wise but they all classics if you mention Funky Technician, Runaway Slave, Word… Life, Lifestyles of Da Poor & Dangerous, I don’t even wanna keep going through the list…
Large Pro: Stunts Blunts and Hip-Hop.
Lord Finesse: Word! I’m buggin’ out. So, when you look at it from an artist’s standpoint we was all different just like Wu-Tang is different. Now when you look at it from a production standpoint if you take me, Buckwild, Show and Diamond and you take all out credits for production and you add up all the plaques and everything, you know, that’s a whole other level of the game that’s different from theirs that might even be one-up on theirs, you know? So whenever I think of Diggin’ In The Crates I definitely compare them to Wu-Tang ‘cause they’re a group that I definitely love and respect and they know that and they remember when I bump into RZA with the love I show for him – it’s just there. And at one point they went through the same struggles that we went through as a group.
They were out here last week and they tore the roof off the whole country, man. People are still salivating for round two so you guys might be just in time to bring that same energy with that real hip-hop. There is still a strong contingent down here who still lust for that old school hip hop.
Lord Finesse: I tell people, I had said earlier that you have to support it if you want, this stuff just ain’t gonna keep occurring because you’re thinking of it. It has to be supported to where if you go to the shows to support real hip-hop it gives promoters something to look at and think start promoting more hip-hop shows. When acts come in people have the attitude of ‘I’ll catch the next act’, and then when it really starts to trickle down and turns into an open faucet then it’s like, ‘we don’t get no real hip-hop’ and ‘they don’t come down under’ and then when you finally get acts to come down and you don’t support, how long you think that’s gonna last?
This is true, you guys have gotta eat, right?
Lord Finesse: To me it’s not just about eating it’s the whole culture of it all, man. If people could do shows over the world and they know it’s lucrative where they can do a good style of music, don’t about pop, don’t worry about trap just do very good music – hip-hop-wise and it’s a good demographics for it there then it gives people inspiration and motivation that they can do real hip-hop and still economically be OK from a hip-hop standpoint to go out and perform straight, basic hip-hop.
When each of you do big tours internationally, do you feel as if you’re giving an education on your part in hip hop’s history?
Large Pro: Well we definitely show how it’s supposed to be done. If you want to equate that to us giving an education.
Lord Finesse: I think it’s the education part or more so, you’re not gonna catch us rhymin’ over no vocals. We’re gonna keep it a thousand, you know? From a real hip-hop standpoint, so you know it ain’t gonna be a hundred people up on stage singin’ our rhymes. It’s mainly just gonna be us, it’s gonna be the foundation and the go-to albums and perform album cuts like we did ‘em yesterday. I take my catalogue very serious and I know Pete takes his catalogue very serious. When you think of the Breaking Atoms album I think of Funky Technician, I think of Mad Scientist and I Just Wanna Chill, and Fakin’ The Funk. Those records just bring chills when they come on and the dude jumps on there sounding like the record. I think it’s gonna be a combination and a collage of all that and just having fun and playing rare stuff you rarely get to hear and then you got the brother Boogie Blind from the X-ecutioners making sure everything is in-tune with the groove. So, I think it’s going to be something very special and I think the more we get the more energy we’re gonna give y’all.
The RZA said the same thing, ‘the energy you give us we’re gonna give right back’ for last week’s Wu-Tang concert.
Lord Finesse: I wasn’t even there so that shit’s telling you it’s a very important blueprint of us golden era artists that when we go up there and perform and we’re giving you that energy through those classics – when we’re seein’ and feelin’ that energy back from the applause or y’all singin’ the vocals along with us it just makes us go even harder.