With hip-hop growing up from a genre that has always been associated with youth into a form of pop culture for which the number of listeners grows both across demographics and age brackets, comes an interesting side-effect: the rise of throwback rap. We’ve all heard the gripes many more experienced rap listeners have with the moder day, mainstream version of the artform; it’s all bubblegum music gone soft that wouldn’t have happened in the golden age when every tune was still “real.” While there is certainly a core of truth to these gripes it also turns a blind to the new quality rap while over-romanticizing an era that despite many classics yielded its fair share of crap as well. Subsequently, the music catering to this part of the rap crowd is often shrouded in false nostalgia, bogged down by cliches about how things used to be better and leaving a sour taste and form of stasis in its wake. On his new album Professor @ Large, Large Professor manages to sidestep most of the issues commonly associated with throwback rap and does so in such a simple manner it’s actually quite brilliant: he’s having fun.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Large Pro was actually a part of many of those classics people are nostalgic for. As one of the architects of the golden era, his lab concocted the formulas others try to replicate, and the real thing is still a lot better than the meticulous knockoffs will probably ever be. That’s not to say it’s with out its faults; the same beat bearing the repeated vocal “Professor at… Large… Professor at… Large…” gets rehashed multiple times throughout the proceedings and though it is probably meant as a sort of theme accomplishes nothing but slowing down the momentum of the album. The instrumental Barber Shop Chop is cool but outstays its welcome and as dope as MARS is it feels a bit weird that Large Pro is barely present on the track himself.
Still, Large Pro is deservedly proud of his status as a rap elder statesman, and instead of awkwardly trying to appeal to the pop crowd rap has reached in current years, fully embraces his “old-schoolness” on ‘Light Years’ with lines like “Don’t try to say I’m not old school, kid, this is light years, right where, it’s supposed to be with the Nike airs.” There’s some pleasant trickery with speeding up to a sudden stop-flow of Pro and Busta on ‘Straight From The Golden’ and ‘Focused Up’ lets Cormega and Tragedy Khadafi bring some vintage QB grime.
On the intro to his solo debut Black on Both Sides Mos Def spoke against referring to hip-hop as “a giant living up on the hill” saying we are hip-hop ourselves and if you don’t like what you hear than create what you do like to hear. Large Pro does exactly that and opts out of lamenting rap’s current state in favor of crafting tracks he’s clearly enjoying himself. His booming voice sounds confident delivering every line over his own or the occasional guest’s productions and there’s a lot of charisma to the otherwise serviceable but not overly remarkable rhymes. LP’s flow and delivery makes up for an absence of intricate subject matter though, and funky vocal samples like that in ‘Lp Surprise’ make the head nod while being assimilated into lyrics. All in all Professor @ Large is an enjoyable album that won’t disappoint any backpacking purist or old head, but won’t fail to let young’ns hear what was so enjoyable about a good golden age album either. In that regard, the old adage “show, don’t tell” goes as much for music as for writing.