Large Professor Chats with Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Teaches Hip-Hop History Lesson (Audio)

In 2014, Large Professor – the legendary Queens, New York producer who has worked with Eric B. & Rakim (while he was still in high school, no less), Nas, Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz, Public Enemy, and dozens more – visited hosts Frannie Kelly and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad in the studio for NPR’s Hip-Hop devoted conversation series, “Microphone Check.” He remains a highly visible member of the Rap community, performing often (he recently performed a surprise set at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival in addition to a performance with Marley Marl last month in New York City) and his visit to NPR was part of a larger celebration around the 20th anniversary of Nas’ Illmatic, an album towards which Extra P contributed greatly.

In the year since this conversation was aired, he released Mega Philosophy, a collaborative album with Cormega and in June he released a solo project, Re: Living, but 2014’s discussion is replete with timeless knowledge, with the Main Source alum sharing insight into his childhood and early career as it relates to New York City and its musical culture at the time. The three also discuss Extra P’s earliest record purchase ( Spoonie Gee, “Spoonin’ Rap“), the first artist for whom he produced (The Intelligent Hoodlum, later known as Tragedy Khadafi), his role in the resurgence of Queens as a hotbed for Hip-Hop (“we had just been crushed by Boogie Down Productions…We got something to prove now”), how Main Source started (“we would get to cyphers in the lunch room”), and much more.

At one point in the conversation, Muhammad asks about what was going on in New York City at the time that influenced Large Pro so much. “The club scene was just so nice at that time. It was — and then it was at an early — it was still the early stages of Hip-Hop, so hip-hop was becoming more colorful. It wasn’t just like the regular drum machine beats. It was becoming more colorful,” Extra P remembers. He continues spooling the historical thread, explaining “you had this new generation that came up. Like, the guys, the old school guys that came up, they had been rapping since the early — the mid — early to mid ’70s till the end of — and they kind of reigned supreme in New York. And New York was really the only region where the world would get their hip-hop from for a second.”

He also shares his views on why the city was such a powerful force in street culture at the time. “The gold chains. The Latin Quarters. The sheep skins. The Pumas. The fat laces. Like, New York just embodied all of that, and it spread to the world. It was like all of this energy was right there. Like graffiti. Just all of that hip-hop culture, which derived from gang culture. But we were just more — in the Hip-Hop world, it was like, ‘Well, we don’t have to fight. We could just shine, and just put this more — we could unite and put this out to the world.”

Check out the nearly 50-minute conversation in its entirety here:

Related: Large Professor Names His Top 5 Producers & Details Rakim’s Recording Process (Video)