(Today's Reader Review comes from Shoe-In, who decided to tackle Large Professor's formerly-lost debut album, The LP, so that I didn't have to. And yes, he even uses that one line from the Tribe song during the intro. Come on, you all knew that was going to happen. Leave your thoughts for Shoe-In below.)
OK, people, I've been reading this blog for a while now, and I feel that our host here is slipping up on a lot of East Coast legends for someone who is so obviously an East Coast head. (Max, big fan. Keep doing you.)
"Queens, represent. Buy the album when I drop it." - Large Professor, from A Tribe Called Quest's “Keep It Rollin'”
William Paul Mitchell, also known as Large Professor, Main Source mastermind & bass extraordinaire, hereinafter referred to as just "LP", has received much critical love for many things in the early 1990's, but most people seem to know him for throwing rappers like Nas and Akinyele some scraps of his spotlight. One of those two names didn't invest in that scrap properly, but I'm not here to point fingers (hint: it wasn't Nas).
Now, lame attempt at humor aside, I've been chomping at the nuts to hear more from this beatsmith who brought the world my favorite Illmatic songs, "It Ain't Hard to Tell" and "Halftime" (I know, Max hates that song, big deal), so I sought him out. I checked the man's discography and something didn't look right. LP is a genius, so how come after producing Akinyele's debut Vagina DIner and his now-legendary plea above, he drops zilch for nearly a decade?
This caused me to ignore my love for the guy's music and immerse myself elsewhere in my hip hop journey, at least until I came across an interesting piece of info. LP was supposed to drop something in 1996, but the Geffen higher-ups deemed that his work sounded too "dated" and shelved his shit after "promoting" only two songs. That makes me want to strangle my dog, so imagine how LP must have felt. (I've actually never had and don't plan on getting a dog. I hate dogs, you see.)
Fast forward six years, when LP released what ended up being his actual debut album, 1st Class. Queens didn't represent, and neither did I. Why should I? The man sounded nothing like the Main Source powerhouse I knew, which led me to believe he had fallen off. However, some of the copies of 1st Class came with an additional disc. Little did people know that this CD was actually Large Professor's lost first attempt at a debut, The LP. But I still didn't represent. I was one of the blinded at the time.
Then, one day I read on the Internet that The LP was produced in 1996. I looked further into it and it turns out LP finally did manage to release The LP...in 2009, a year after his second album, the aptly-titled Main Source. It didn't have the same tracklisting, and it included a few bonus goodies that weren't readily available in 1996, but still.
I deliberately wrote this long-ass intro to emphasize that "this man went through a lot of shit to release an album" is hip hop's understatement of the century. But is The LP a classic? You will find out. That's why you're still reading.
Clearly recorded in a much earlier time, LP tells you in between scratches of “Yo, Professor what's up?” that this is, in fact, his solo debut, and "whoever disagree is taken out like trash". Weak, but not entirely so.
2. THAT BULLSHIT
Now that's more like it! LP launches into an impressive tirade against violence in the ghetto. Is it me, or is the man obsessed with shouting out his song titles (among other useless crap) as a chorus? The third verse is LP's attempt to "open your eyes" and it isn't half bad. The sample kind of got on my nerves, though, since it distracted me from the actual music.
Extra P provides himself with a straight-up mean instrumental and proceeds to rip it to shreds. Yes! No chorus! Until the last minute, anyway, where he just, for lack of a better word, stops, then rolls out a long-ass (and annoying) outro for the song. Almost ruined the track for me. Almost.
4. I JUSWANNA CHILL
My favorite song on the album (and the album's second of two singles). The hook's catchy, too: this will be the only time on this album that happens. I don't give a fuck about the title's spelling issues: if anyone's gonna making a song about success in the music industry, this is how to do it. The end of the track leads into...
5. FUNKY 2 LISTEN 2
Yet another unorthodox beat by Extra P, but this time he doesn't fuck it up. Lyrically, LP is kind of underrated in my opinion, “underrated” as in “this song, by itself, owns the entire ymcmb catalog" (I'm using small letters because it's my review and I'm kind of a prick). This really was enjoyable. Also, no chorus!
6. MAD SCIENTIST
Starts with a somewhat dated recording of a pseudo-whimsical beat (one that some of you two may catch as deriving from the same source material as Busta Rhymes's “Woo-Hah! Got You All In Check”) where Extra P spits a few kinda meh bars and shouts "Mad Scientist!". Before anyone can bitch, "This isn't what I heard in 1996!", the beat switches up, and we're greeted with The LP's awesome lead single, preserved in all of its glory. I love that laugh during the chorus. Even when censored, this song is almost perfect...until LP repeats his first verse as the third verse. And yet I still enjoyed this. Seriously, though, he needs to stop with this lame-ass hook routine. It's getting annoying.
The song starts with a smooth, classic LP beat, and switches to a goddamn mess of a torture session. I don't give a fuck if his lyrics on here were decent: I hated that beat, and the chorus is just sad. I hate writing this next statement, but LP messed up here. The first fuck-up of the album.
8. ONE PLUS ONE (FEAT. NAS)
Extra P brings to the booth his former weed carrier-turned-rap messiah, who (in 1996, anyway) seemed to remember how he used to sound on Illmatic, as he spits an immortal verse. Then before LP starts, Nas tries his damnedest to ruin the mood by spinning off into one of his tangents, singing and whistling “lalalalala”, which just makes him seem desperate for attention: surely he must have laced his weed by following one of The RZA's weird “honey dip” rituals. LP snaps out of Diddy mode and switches the overall feel mid-verse, leaving us with an equally decent gem of a verse himself. An excellent song.
9. THE LP (FOR MY PEOPLE)
This song is exactly why I hereby declare Extra P used to be a seriously underrated emcee, as we all know he's a wizard at beats. No, really: wrap your head around this: "Lots of knowledge cause this world is my college / where I teach and preach your whole contract, jack". Nice! Even with the meh hook. (I'm saying this a lot, aren't I? There still more to come, too.)
10. DANCIN' GIRL (FEAT. LEN X'S TEN)
The obligatory song for the ladies. Even with the subject matter, Large Professor comes off as quite respectful. Not to mention he provides a very addictive beat. The only flaw on here is the eye-gougingly irritating chorus, crooner and all. Probably why we never hear from Len X's Ten again.
11. LARGE PRO: VERBS
The original album intro (on the first version of The LP), now thrown in at the halfway point as a "midtro". This beat fucking knocks. Why didn't you just stick with the original sequencing?
12. HAVIN' FUN
A track about, well, you can guess. The hook sucks much more than usual: LP's rhymes are still decent, but this song is ruined for me. To top it off, it even ends with a section of an earlier track, "For My People". WTF?
13. SPACEY (FEAT. CEE LOWE & VANDEMATOR)
The only song on the project not produced by Large Professor, but by Toney Rome. Even with the old-school, almost-decent beat & a good verse from LP, the guests and the (gasp!) hook turn this song into horseshit.
Weird title aside, this song is the first of four 2009 additions to The LP. He channels Pete Rock into his beatmaking and comes off bombastically good. Lyrically, you can hear Extra P trying to match his former self's ability to rhyme, with acceptable results. The end of the song provides us with an earlier take on the same track, and although brief, you'll notice the resurgence of lyrical quality.
15. QUEENS LOUNGE
LP seems to have rediscovered his ability to write shitty choruses. Otherwise, this party song rocks.
If anyone is a sucker for nostalgia, this beat would eat you alive. And yes, I'm a sucker. LP reflects on younger times, and does pretty damn good.
17. BIG WILLIE
The best of the four new additions. LP uses his final song briefly transforming into a one-man Gang Starr during this street tale. I approve of this shit.
Similar to the intro, but to me, LP is a much better emcee when he's introspective and not talking shit, so I liked this a bit more.
FINAL THOUGHTS: OK, enough with the sweet talk. The LP is not perfect. Large Professor has an unsettling tendency to write abhorrent hooks, and he isn't bulletproof when it comes to his sampling choices. Still, I would consider The LP a classic album, right up there with Main Source's Breaking Atoms (which, might I add, shared those same flaws). If bad hooks put you off, steer clear from LP's entire body of work. Otherwise, you'll enjoy this album for what it is, a genius LP by LP. Clearly, I was wrong in presuming he fell off. I suggest listening to the album using its original tracklisting, though: it'll make much more sense.
BUY OR BURN? If you don't mind hooks, you should buy this shit to prove your love of hip hop. Everyone else should listen to it at least once, just so you can appreciate the man's musical genius. Minus "Hard", of course: that shit should be banished to the netherworld of pretentious artistry.
BEST TRACKS: "I Juswanna Chill"; "Big Willie"; "One Plus One"; "The LP (For My People)"; "Mad Scientist"; "Large Pro: Verbs"; "Bowne"
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)