Large Pro Made Eric B. & Rakim’s “In The Ghetto” from a Cassette Sample
How a Paul C-discovered sample was taken directly from cassette tape and 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 mentor Paul C. McKasty, he first found his way into rap music by DJing, making simple loops with a Casio SK-1 keyboard sampler, and crafting pause tape beats on his cassette deck. With the assistance of the late Chyskillz, a veteran producer who collaborated with LL Cool J, Onyx, and De La Soul, and many others, the two aspiring producers composed some rather advanced instrumentals with their tape players. “He would cut up ‘Synthetic Substitution’ breakbeat on one tape,” Large Pro said in a 2015 interview with the Microphone Check podcast. “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 to create with. Extra P 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 at 1212 Studio in Jamaica, Queens.
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. Since he was only 16 at the time, Paul must have been impressed with his encyclopedic knowledge of high-quality music. “I was coming with Young-Holt [Unlimited] records and jazz funk records, and I guess he didn’t have a lot of those,” Large Pro told Red Bull Music Academy in a 2015 interview. “So I would come with this other angle and he was like, ‘This is kind of nice right here. You mind if I hold onto this record for a while?’”
“I’m an extremist, so I’m going in. I swear I maybe made 30 or 40 beats like in that little two week period. So I was just in on it.” — Large Professor
As their creative bond and friendship blossomed, Paul introduced Large Professor to the sampler that would forever change his career. “He took me out of that tape deck era,” Large Pro told Red Bull Music Academy. “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 recalled being immediately smitten with the machine. He made beats for hours, continuing 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.’”
Large Pro’s 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’m an extremist, so I’m going in,” he told Microphone Check. “I swear I maybe made 30 or 40 beats like in that little two week period. So I was just in on it.” He sold the first beat of his career to Intelligent Hoodlum a short time after his manic half-month creative spell was broken.
“He would cut up ‘Synthetic Substitution’ breakbeat on one tape. 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.” — Large Professor
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 Complex in a 2012 interview. “He took my ideas to another level, with the ingenuity, and the machines, and all of that.”
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. After teaching Rakim how to use the SP-1200, he’d established a strong bond with the revered MC.
During the album’s inception, Paul stumbled upon a sample that seemed like a perfect fit for his new project. The excited producer 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,” Large Pro told Complex. “He played it for me over the phone and was like, ‘Yo, this is tough.’”
“I looped it up off the tape right there. Rakim was like, ‘Yo, I want the pauses in it. All the drops.’” — Large Professor
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 his close friends left Large Professor completely devastated. “That dude, man, he showed so many people love. He was really unique,” he told the Microphone Check podcast. “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. Meanwhile, Paul continued to influence the Large Professor and Rakim’s creative process — even though he was no longer around to help with the album’s creation.
According to Large Professor’s Complex interview, Paul made cassette tapes of sample ideas for the artists he worked with. One day Rakim showed up to the studio with such a tape and Large Pro immediately recognized the sample Paul had played him over the phone. Agreeing that the sample was too good to pass up, they decided to take it right off the cassette. “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.’”
“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.’” — Large Professor
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.’”
“You can go to my house right now and there’s an SP-1200 in there ’cause that’s what he taught me on. It’s like letting my man know I’m still focused.” — Rakim
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 more recent interviews. “That was a dream come true for me,” he told Nodfactor while describing the experience in a 2008 interview. “Rakim was my idol on the mic and Eric B. was that dude around the way. I just put my all into everything I did for them. That took me from zero to 100 in seconds.”
In the process of going zero to 100, Large Pro produced for a broad range of artists in the near 30 years since Let The Rhyhtm Hit ’Em. In that time he has kept Paul C’s legacy alive and well, going so far as to name his publishing company after him. “‘Sea was also a way to say that, thru me, my namesake Paul would keep going,” he wrote in a 2012 tweet. “Paul Sea Productions.”
The year 2015 would see Large Pro and his mentor’s connection come full circle when he was reunited with Paul’s 1200 after it came into the possession of engineer and producer Nick Hook. Mutual acquaintance recloose helped bring Large Pro and the machine back together while capturing the moment with an incredible picture. His face says it all.
And in further tribute to Paul C’s legacy, Rakim still owns an SP-1200 as a reminder of his long lost friend and collaborator. “You can go to my house right now and there’s an SP-1200 in there ’cause that’s what he taught me on,” he said in the 2013 documentary film Memories of Paul C. McKasty. “It’s like letting my man know I’m still focused.”