Legendary Producer Larry Smith Passes Away
According to a tweet from hip-hop journalist Reggie "Combat Jack" Ossé, pioneering hip-hop producer Larry Smith has passed away. Smith, who was best-known for his work with Run-DMC and Whodini, had recently been in ill health. He suffered a stroke in 2007 that left him confined to a nursing home as a "ward of the state."
Smith began his hip-hop career playing on one of the genre's earliest hits, Kurtis Blow's 1979 "Christmas Rappin'." He continued working with Blow on the even bigger hit "The Breaks," which he co-wrote and played bass on.
It was a short step from working with the Russell Simmons-managed Blow to Run-DMC. It was with the Queens trio that Smith did his most iconic work. Despite his extensive experience with live bands, Smith decided to strip away everything but a drum machine for the group's first single, "It's Like That" b/w "Sucker MCs." The result was one of the single most powerful and influential moments in hip-hop history.
He continued to work with Run-DMC on their debut full length, and is generally credited with introducing the electric guitar to rap with songs like "Rock Box."
After that success, Smith moved on to work with Whodini, producing their iconic songs "Five Minutes of Funk" and "Friends." However, as the 1980s wore on, the producer found that the new sample-based sound was phasing him out of the industry. He told author Brian Coleman that “I just couldn’t bring myself to sample. I was totally against it. As a musician, I just couldn’t use something that I didn’t create myself. The only reason I jumped out the game was because of my ego.”
Below is a playlist of some of Smith's greatest hits. Rest in peace to one of the greatest. —Shawn Setaro