Quick: Name a legendary hip-hop producer. Then forget about The Neptunes and Timbaland for a minute. Among fans of true hip hop, William Paul Mitchell, a.k.a. Large Professor, has attained permanent academic tenure.
The tutelage of this New York native began early. While still in high school, Large Pro (often fondly called "Extra P") was a whiz with beats, teaching himself to produce via simple tape-pausing methods and a Casio SK-1. At the tender age of 17, he was already at work on Eric B & Rakim's landmark album Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em and Kool G Rap's Wanted Dead or Alive, and was soon trading Akai sampling techniques and secrets of the record crates with DJ Premier.
Joining up with Toronto's K-Cut and Sir Scratch, Large Pro formed the group Main Source in 1991, releasing Breaking Atoms, an essential document of old-school hip hop. Atoms gave the 15-year-old Nasir Jones (a.k.a. Nas) his first chance to shine on a track called "Live at the Barbeque," and Pro subsequently helped launch Nas to rap superstardom, producing on Illmatic. Pro also had a hand in teaching Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) how to produce, as well as the dreadlocked Busta Rhymes.
Leaving Main Source, Large Pro's efforts to jumpstart a solo career were thwarted in the mid-'90s by Geffen Records, which released two singles but ultimately shelved his debut album. (It's been heartily bootlegged ever since.) During its brief flirtation with hip hop, respected indie Matador stepped into the game in 2002 to release First Class, which included guest rhyming from Nas, Busta and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.
Never out of the game for a second, Large Pro has kept busy throughout the last two decades with various production jobs, from turntablists The X-ecutioners and old-school stylers Jurassic 5 to Riker's Island veteran Cormega, Brooklyn hardcore supergroup Boot Camp Clik and The Wu-Tang Clan's U-God. Recently, Large Pro came out with a pair of instrumental records, Beatz Vols. 1 and 2, restating his prowess in making a drum machine and a sampler seem as organic as moving and breathing.
But one of his most frequent activities involves club DJing. According to his MySpace page, he's had some recent successful events in Brooklyn, but has never hit Pittsburgh, so this is a rare opportunity to witness the skills and beat selection of one of the genre's true survivors. Pay attention to the instructor, and turn off your cell phones -- class is now in session.
Large Professor. 9 p.m. Fri., June 22. Shadow Lounge, 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. $10. 412-363-8277 or www.7thmovement.net
- Livin' large: Large Professor