One Plus One
The days of the self-made star are done. Look around from Hollywood to 106 & Park, and though the big names in music, movies, and television might have manufactured some of their own hustle, they didn't get there completely by themselves. Maybe it was a mentor, a DJ, a casting agent, whoever, but chances are someone along the line gave them that all-important first push. For Nas, that person is without a doubt Large Professor (himself a product of Paul C's good graces). And although Large Pro would be absent during much of Nas' most commercially successful times, he was behind Illmatic, he was behind the music that got Nas to the point of Illmatic, and, for that, his credit is unquestionable.
Beyond producing a third of Illmatic's tracks and its first two singles, it was Large Professor, a fellow Queens native, who blew breath into the Nastiest lungs, supplying the beats and studio time for Nas' earliest recordings. Afterwards, as one third of Main Source, he would give Nas his first exposure, out of the blue, as this unknown entity, on the now legendary posse cut Live at the Barbeque, "I was trapped in a cage and let out by the Main Source." Nas' verse quickly achieved classic status and soon won over the ears of MC Serch, who would later get Nas a record deal and oversee the making of Illmatic. And while Serch's great involvement here shouldn't be ignored, it was truly the work put in by Extra P that put Nas on.
However, it's not as though Large Professor's legacy rests merely on making Nas known. In fact, before there was ever any word of 1994's Second Coming, it was the MC's involved in that previous line of Hip-Hop lyricism, those like Rakim and Kool G Rap, who Large Pro was also working with--all while still attending high school no less. And even when he wasn't laying down the initial round of production for rappers, his remix résumé proved to be just as extensive and notable, e.g. tracks with Common Sense, Gang Starr, Organized Konfusion, and Slick Rick. What's more, his reputation would have only further been bolstered if his 1995 solo album, The LP, had actually come out back in 1995.
Being signed to Geffen Records was Large Professor's first bad break. Known primarily for putting out John Lennon's solo work and the likes of Whitesnake and Guns N' Roses, Geffen started signing Hip-Hop acts as the genre demonstrated staying power. However, this meant that the label was still kind of new and naive as to how to handle and market these rappers. They knew they could get some sales if they had Bart Simpson do Deep, Deep Trouble and that they could tap into the already-established Wu-Tang fanbase with GZA's Liquid Swords, but Large Professor must have been, and apparently was, an enigma. So while two singles, IJUSWANNACHILL and The Mad Scientist, were released and the rapper / producer, in a guest appearance on ATCQ's Keep It Rollin', had implored, "Queens represent, buy the album when I drop it", no such album ever made it out.
A bootleg was eventually passed around, and when 1st Class, Large Pro's too-long-in-the-making 2002 solo debut with all new material, did get released, it was accompanied by a promotional version of The LP, in a plain jewel case like a seven-year time capsule. And although this promo copy was still missing some previously bootlegged material, such as Queens Lounge, no matter how delayed, incomplete, or anti-climatic it might have been, it at least came in good sound and with a number of gems that time and Geffen had once seemed to forget. A duet with Nas, One Plus One, perhaps best epitomized the overlooked-but-not-unheralded quality of the work.
Recorded after Illmatic and before It Was Written, One Plus One features Nas at a crossroads between his Nasty and Esco personas. It's him celebrating a bright lights lifestyle, "Avirex gortex wet with fly jewelry", while the very same lifestyle leaves him depressed, "feeling slight chills finding out that rich niggas have to write wills." Overall though, Nas' words do favor this latter somber tone, thanks, in part, to the rather melancholy production on display. For instance, the track's opening isolated clangs are reminiscent of a dawn-hour worker whose only company is the early morning echo. Match this with some understated keys and consistent drums, and you'll see why heads continually plead for more Nas-Large Pro collaborations. On the mic as well, though he seems to always be thought of for beats first and then ignored in favor of whatever guests he's joined by, with a strong, clear voice and a quick rhyme scheme, Large Professor efficiently holds his own. It was just Geffen that never did their job.
Rebel To America: Large Professor collection
Includes: Common Sense: Resurrection '95; Eric B & Rakim: No Omega; Gang Starr: Gotta Get Over (Large Professor remix); Kool G. Rap f/ Ant Live, Freddie Foxxx, Large Professor: Money In The Bank; Large Professor: IJUSWANNACHILL; Large Professor: The Mad Scientist; Large Professor: Queens Lounge; Large Professor f/ Nas: One Plus One; Organized Konfusion: Stress (Large Professor remix); Slick Rick: It's a Boy (Large Professor remix); A Tribe Called Quest f/ Large Professor: Keep It Rollin'