Large Professor Breaks Down His Songs With Nas


Large Professor and Nas have been working together for 20 years. The Flushing, Queens rapper/producer has been instrumental to Nasty’s career—helping the babyface MC record a demo back in the early ‘90s and getting him his start on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbecue.” The relationship has since produced an impeccable track record. Extra P produced Nas’s first single, “Halftime” and split the bulk of Illmatic with DJ Premier.

After years without working together, the pair reunited for two standout tracks on Nas’s comeback LP, Stillmatic. More recently, Large made an appearance on “Loco-Motive” off Nas’s Life Is Good—marking the first time the producer worked with Nas on a song he didn’t produce. With the internets still abuzz about God’s Son’s latest work, Large Pro sat down with XXL to revisit their catalog together. —Carl Chery (@cchery)

Main Source's "Live at the Barbecue," [Produced By Main Source] Breaking Atoms (1991)


Large Professor: Nas wound up on “Barbecue” 'cause he was already seasoned. We was workin' in the 48 Tracks Studio, recording his demo on two-inch tape and things like that. He had his professional studio thing with him. And then, he had the hood… it was just a combination of that. It was like, “Aight, I’m in this plush studio right now.” And then he was goin' down, going back to the ‘Jects. He rolled through with the verse, like, “Streets disciple?” I was just like, “Go ahead with that, man. We just going to the Cosmos with that. When I heard [“When I was 12, I went to hell for snuffin’ Jesus”], the extremity of it, it was just like, "That’s how bad I am." That’s how dudes was rhymin’. We took that from the elder gods. A Dolemite will tell you, “Nigga, I’ll lasso lightning.” So when I heard that I was just like, “Awww, no doubt." That’s the new, "That’s how bad I am.”

Nas's "Halftime" [Produced By Large Professor], Zeabrahead Soundtrack (1992)/Illmatic (1994)


Large Professor: Why did we leave it on Illmatic? “Halftime?" That’s that train shit. “Halftime” is just like…. If you ever get a taste of that New York transit system. That shit just remind[s] me of the trains. The grit. The smut, the dirt, the words, the corner shit he’s talking’ on there. We gotta have that on there.

Nas’s “One Time 4 Your Mind,” [Produced By Large Professor] Illmatic (1994)


Large Professor: The listeners, they just listenin' to it. I saw and experienced, “Yo, then I send a shorty to the store…” I’ve seen all of that, hangin’ out on the hill, all that talk. So, “One Time 4 Your Mind” for me, is just like, one of them sit-back and kinda cool-out, nothin’ in particular [joints]. A day in the hood kind of [thing]. That’s one of his earlier day in the hood kinda joints.

Nas’s “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” Illmatic (1994)

Nas’s “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” Illmatic (1994)

Large Professor: That’s that hood bottle poppin’ shit. It’s like takin' some glorious loop, like a glorious record. 'Cause in Queens, dudes is real serious about music. Dudes is real particular. We’ll sit there and listen to some music. Then you had a dude like a Grandmaster Vic who was already blendin' so he kinda taught all of us, like, “Yo, you could take Michael Jackson and mix it with Biz." We was taught by him. That was in that vain right there. It was like, “Yo, I’ma just take an ill classic, one of them glorious ill joint and just grit it up and Nas just gon come through with that golden god shit and just flip it."

Nas's "You're Da Man" [Produced By Large Professor] Stillmatic (2001)

Nas's "You're Da Man" [Produced By Large Professor] Stillmatic (2001)

Large Professor: It was like, “You’re Da Man.” I threw that joint up [on 1st Class]. But then, I was doin’ this other beat, that shit blended, I was like, “Aight, no doubt.” While waitin’ for [Nas's version], I had already penned my joint up, so I’m like, “I’ma do my version too." It’s the same song, different version.

Nas’s “Rewind,” Stillmatic [Produced by Large Professor] (2001)

Nas’s “Rewind,” Stillmatic [Produced by Large Professor] (2001)

Large Professor: What happened with “Rewind,” man. Like I said, it was the same kinda session. We were just sittin’ there talkin’. We were just buildin'. Niggas like, “Yo, let’s wrap it up for the day." The beat was playin’ and everything. We were sittin’ there talkin’ and shit. Jetted. The next day, he was like, “Throw that beat up.” He just went in there and did the shit. And I was like, “You done just spit a whole story backwards?” It’s always an honor just seeing the process and where he’s at with it.

Nas's "Star Wars" [Produced By Large Professor], 10 Year Anniversary Illmatic Platinum Series (2004)

Star Wars

Large Professor: We did “Rewind” later during the Stillmatic sessions and we did “Star Wars” during the sessions also. We was workin’. We just sittin’ in there buildin', man, kinda just readin’ magazines. I had all the [old] Ebony magazines and all the [old] Jets [at] the lab. Like, "Yo, boom, that’s how Diana Ross was rockin’ it. Oh shit, she had the ill jewelry." All while the beats is playin’ and shit like that. We historians with this shit. We respect music in general. With Nas, you might not even know, it might be a movie, or some other… and you ain’t even know he wrote the shit. We just sittin’ here talkin' and shit. Then he just write some shit down and just go in there and lace it up. It be like, “Oh, shit." And this shit be some other shit. That’s the golden god, man.

Large Professor ft. Nas "Stay Chisel" [Produced By Large Professor] 1st Class (2002)

Large Professor ft. Nas "Stay Chisel" [Produced By Large Professor] 1st Class (2001)

Large Professor: That was funny cause that was me, too. You know, I was gettin’ on my heavy, sittin’ in the crib, eatin’ up. It just always be like that. I threw the beat up. And it was summertime. 50 had rolled through the Stillmatic sessions too, man. He had knocked the whole joint out and I was like, “I’m workin’ on that project. Let me get that ‘Stay Chisel’ joint if you ain’t gon use it." So I was like, “Aight, man.” But, his whole joint. The whole song. The shit that he taps into. Like he said in the new album. It be the mysticism.

Nas ft. Large Professor “Loco-Motive” [Produced By No I.D.] Life Is Good (2012)

Nas ft. Large Professor “Loco-Motive” [Produced By No I.D.] Life Is Good (2012)

Large Professor: Big up No I.D. 'cause that dude, even with the earlier Common stuff, even that "Success" joint [from Jay-Z] and all of that, that dude’s always been top notch in my book. We sittin’ there, he playin’ me the joints, he like, “You know, I’m tryna figure out which joints I’ma throw on the album and shit." This nigga got a whole crazy ass folder of songs. I’m like, “Aight, let’s go do it. Let’s sit down, chill." Swizz was there and shit. He played that shit and I was just like, “What? What you gon do on the hook, though?" “I don’t know, man, I’m just you know, whatever." So I'm just like, [let me get on it]. At the end of the night, we was listenin' to it like, “This is some wild out shit." Honestly, I didn’t even think he was gon use it. He was like, “I gotta use it." That’s just the whole essence of it and shit.