Large Professor Made Eric B. & Rakim’s “In The Ghetto” from a Cassette Sample

How a Paul C sample tape was transformed into a seminal record for one of rap’s all-time great duos, plus a 40-track Large Professor playlist.

Before Large Professor met his late mentor Paul C. McKasty, he initially found his way into rap music by DJing, making simple loops with a Casio SK-1 keyboard sampler, and creating pause tape beats on his cassette deck.

After he connected with the late LL Cool J, Onyx, and De La Soul producer Chyskillz, the two aspiring beatmakers composed some rather advanced instrumentals given the equipment they had at their disposal. “He would cut up ‘Synthetic Substitution’ breakbeat on one tape,” Large Pro told Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley in a 2015 Microphone Check interview. “You had the two and three tape decks, and he would put the tape in there. And then he would play that tape and overdub some bass lines.”

These tape compositions may sound compelling, but the limitations of the SK-1 and a cassette deck made Large Pro yearn for something more advanced. He finally found his opportunity when his new group Main Source went to work on their demo tape in 1989. As they tried to make a record that would get them signed, they sought the services of the late Paul C—an engineer and producer whose name was generating significant buzz in Jamaica, Queens for his work at 1212 Studio.

According to Large Pro, the two struck up an immediate friendship when Paul noticed his affinity for records outside of the commonly sampled James Brown canon. As their creative bond and friendship blossomed, Paul introduced Large Professor to the sampler that changed his career. “He took me out of that tape deck era,” Large Pro told Jeff “Chairman” Mao in a 2015 Red Bull Music Academy interview. “He was like, ‘This is the SP-1200, this is the machine you want to rock with.’”

When Paul invited him over to his house for an epic crash course on how to use the 1200, Large Pro made beats for hours and continued to familiarize himself with the sampler long after Paul fell asleep. “I sat there and just went crazy,” he told Red Bull Music Academy. “I was like, ‘I hope he doesn’t wake up, because I want to hook another beat and I want to make mad discs to fill and everything.’”

His desire to make beats with extreme intensity hit another level when Paul agreed to lend him the sampler for two weeks so he could further hone his craft. “I swear I maybe made 30 or 40 beats like in that little two week period,” he told Microphone Check.

A short time after his manic half-month creative spell was broken, Large Pro sold the first beat of his career to Intelligent Hoodlum.

Beyond giving Large Pro space and time to grow on his own, Paul C also showed him many invaluable tips for using the 1200 that left a lasting impression. “He put me on to the SP-1200, tracks, compression, and chopping on the drum machine, and everything like that,” he told Daniel Isenberg in a 2012 Complex interview. “He took my ideas to another level.”

As Large Pro and his mentor continued to spend countless hours together in the studio, Paul C was slated for some heavy involvement with Eric B. & Rakim’s third effort Let The Rhythm Hit ’Em. During the album’s inception, Paul stumbled upon a sample that seemed like a perfect fit for his new project and immediately phoned Large Pro to give him a sneak preview. “I remember Paul called me when he found the record at a flea market in the back blocks of Rockaway,” he told Complex. “He played it for me over the phone and was like, ‘Yo, this is tough.’”

In a tragic and unexpected turn of events, Paul was murdered in his own home just a short time later. His death sent shockwaves through the 1212 Studio community and beyond, altering the careers of many artists in the process. The loss of such a close friend also left Large Professor completely devastated. “That dude, man, he showed so many people love. He was really unique,” he told Microphone Check. “Someone just couldn’t handle that.”

In the wake of his death, the large cohort of artists Paul C worked with did their best to soldier on. Large Pro stepped in to help with production on Let The Rhythm Hit ’Em despite being a mere senior in high school at the time.

Paul continued to influence Large Professor and Rakim’s creative process, even though he was no longer around to help with the album’s creation. Before his passing, Paul often made cassette tapes of sample ideas for the artists he worked with. When Rakim came to the studio with one of these tapes, Large Pro immediately recognized the sample Paul had played him over the phone. They decided to take the sample right off the cassette after agreeing that it was too good to pass up. “I looped it up off the tape right there,” Large Pro told Complex. “Rakim was like, ‘Yo, I want the pauses in it. All the drops.’”

Once he had the loop, Large Professor spent considerable time tinkering with the sample to transform it into a completely fleshed out beat. He even employed a popular stereo multi-effects processor to make it sound just right. “I sat there and messed with that loop,” he told Complex. “I threw it in the Publison, and did all of this chopping and all of that, and put it together.”

Unfortunately, as is the case with several important rap records from the 80s and 90s, Large Professor and Paul C were not given official credit for their work when Let The Rhythm Hit ’Em dropped in 1990. Eric B. & Rakim are listed as the producers on the album’s Discogs page despite Large Pro’s role in producing “In The Ghetto,” “No Omega,” and “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em.”

It’s an oversight Large Pro credits in part to his lack of familiarity with the business aspect of the industry. “I wasn’t on the professional side, like, ‘Show me the contracts.’ I was just in there doing beats,” he told Complex. “On the strength of Paul C, I was in the studio. It wasn’t like, ‘You’re going to get credited for this and that.’”

Though the lack of credits likely stung, and Eric B. even took to The Source at the time to defend himself and give his side of the story, Large Pro doesn’t seem to harbor any resentment based on somewhat recent interviews. “I just put my all into everything I did for them,” he told Jerry L Barrow in a 2008 Nodfactor interview. “That took me from zero to 100 in seconds.”

Many years after first going from zero to 100, Large Pro and Paul C’s connection unexpectedly came full circle when engineer and producer Nick Hook obtained Paul’s SP-1200. After adding it to his massive collection of gear, where it still resides today, mutual acquaintance recloose helped bring Large Pro and the machine back together while capturing the moment with an incredible picture.

The veteran MC and producer’s face says it all.

@nickhook- thought you'd wanna see the don @plargepro reunited with your/Paul C's SP1200 today at #studio2NYC...
August 26, 2015

(This article is a modified and updated version of a story that was originally published on Micro-Chop.)

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