One thing I’ve always admired about Large Professor is his ability to stay true to his own style. He’s got an old school voice, which means he clearly enunciates, doesn’t use a lot of modern jargon, and speaks directly, with lots of bass. But at the same time, he stays fresh by rhyming over modern beats about serious issues. Plus, he can do “I’m the best” brag raps as good as anyone around today.

Christmas has come early this 2008. Large Pro has released a new album, and the title says it all: Main Source. Headz know Xtra P got his start as part of the seminal O.G. hip hop team Main Source, and his new record is a return to those roots. A few notes about those roots establishes his pedigree: LP was the beatmaker for Eric B. & Rakim’s greatest album, “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em;” he was the man behind Nas’ big break, producing tracks on the greatest rap album of all time, “Illmatic.” He’s also produced Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Busta Rhymes, Masta Ace, The X-Ecutioners, Big Daddy Kane, and Mobb Deep. Okay. So, does he still got it?

The answer is: “Yes.” Party jams like “Hot: sizzling, Scorching, Torching, Blazing,” “Pump Ya Fist” and (of course) “Party Time, drive the new album. But there’s also politically based tales of life on the streets, like the kind 2Pac used to make, such as “Hardcore Hip-Hop” and “In the Ghetto.” LP’s slower songs have never been his specialty, and the album does falter a bit on tracks like “Sewin’ Love,” but his skills behind the boards are as powerful as ever. In fact, they often overshadow his vocal skills. It’s astounding that a guy who has been in the business for almost three decades can produce music as young, vital, and agile as the best producers around today. Actually, it’s better. Large Pro’s beats are marked by complexity: Where Timbaland, The Neptunes, and so many other modern stars seem content to create one hook and pound it for the length of the song, LP’s beats tell their own stories, weaving and changing, much like MF DOOM.

Unlike his last original album, 2002(!)’s “1st Class,” which featured Nas, Busta, and Q-Tip, “Main Source” goes for lesser-known (but no less experienced) guest shots, featuring MCs like Jeru the Damaja, Big Noyd, Styles P, and old Nas friend-and-foe AZ. It’s definitely worth a spin. Check it out.

Hot: sizzling, Scorching, Torching, Blazing

Classic Large Pro:

In the Sun (w/Q-Tip)

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