This Saturday night at Annabell’s Bar & Lounge in Akron’s Highland Square, one of hip-hop’s under-sung heroes, a mad scientist of the late ’80s and ’90s, comes to break some atoms.
If you know your hip-hop history, you probably have guessed I’m talking about Queens emcee and producer the Large Professor, aka Extra P, aka Large Pro.
The highly respected beatmaker and skilled emcee was a favorite during the ’90s True School era, and appears either as producer and/or emcee on a few bona-fide classics, including his early single Looking at the Front Door as part of the trio Main Source, arguably one of the first (and honestly few) rap records to take a mature approach to a troubled relationship. Main Source’s 1991 debut also included the posse cut Live at the Barbecue, which introduced legendary emcee Nas to hip-hop heads, and the clarion call for staying true to the culture Fakin’ the Funk.
After splitting with Main Source, Large Professor became a hot producer and guest emcee, laying beats and rhymes on seminal recordings including Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s Mecca and the Soul Brother, Nas’ It Ain’t Hard to Tell from his debut Illmatic, A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, Diamond D’s (underrated) Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop, and many others.
He also has six albums as a solo artist including 2012’s Professor@Large, a strong 50 minutes of what they used to call hardcore hip-hop, before that term became shorthand for songs about guns, hos and hustling. Throughout the album’s 15 tracks, which includes features from Busta Rhymes, Action Bronson, Cormega and others, L.P.’s “digging in the crates” East Coast beat-making skills are clearly still intact.
It shows his signature heavy, heartbeat-altering kick drums and mixing and matching of samples — some familiar, many obscure — with a healthy heaping of DJ scratches (hey, remember when DJs and rappers and B-Boys and graffiti artists were all part of hip-hop culture? Good times) and his mix of brags, boasts and calls for staying true to hip-hop.
With an entire generation of grown-up fans, many who complain about the death or at least dearth of other aspects of hip-hop culture in current music, Professor@Large is a nice injection of an updated take on the True School sound Large Professor helped codify.
Large Professor is coming to Annabell’s at the invitation of DJ and birthday boy Forest Getemgump, leader of the long-running B-Boy crew/promoters Illstyle Rockers, who will take a set on the turntables (and they’ll actually be turntables, not laptops) along with J-Zone, DJ Bboy, DJ Mfnrmx and DJ Ben Crazy. The evening will be hosted by Mc Suave, Humanbeat-FX and Illstyle Rockers B-Boy Dre Live.
Random acts of live music
• On Friday, the Cleveland Museum of Art is playing host to an interesting musical cultural exchange.
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Alwan for the Arts, an organization dedicated to promoting Middle Eastern culture in the New York area, is expanding its reach, and in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and St. John the Divine, will be bringing oud master Naseer Shamma and Al-Oyoun Ensemble to the Cleveland museum’s Gartner Auditorium.
The oud is a lute-like stringed instrument used in many Middle Eastern cultures as well as Greek, North African, Jewish and others. Shamma, who is performing in the States for the first time in a decade, studied under the late Iraqi master Munir Bashira.
I won’t pretend to know a good oud player from a great oud player, but he is regarded as a virtuoso, historian and icon of the Iraqi style for his knowledge of the instrument as well as his modern compositions, which include scores for film and television.
• Tonight at Musica, third wave ska/soul/reggae revivalists the Pietasters will perform along with local ska group Official Seals and hard rockin’ punks First Offense.
The D.C.-based Pietasters have been around for more than 20 years and were Warped Tour mainstays for many years. They’ve released nine albums, including compilations and a live release. They haven’t had a new record since 2007’s All Day, which contained their longtime trick-bag of well-executed ska tunes, some simulated Motown and a reggae version of Tom Petty’s Listen To Her Heart.
The band has been through a lot of turmoil and member turnover during its lengthy history, but gruff-voiced lead singer Stephen Jackson still ties it all together.
• On Friday night, the Auricle in Canton is bringing in the Whigs, an indie trio from Athens, Ga. The band is touring behind its fourth album, Enjoy the Company, released last summer. It has toured with Kings of Leon, the Hold Steady and the Black Keys, and made several appearances on late-night talk shows.
The new album is a bit of a sonic departure for the band with less of the huge arena-rock drum sound and fuzzy grunge bass of their previous album In the Dark. The trio seems to be going for more of a back-to-basics sound on tunes such as Rock and Roll Forever and an infusion of catchy pop melodies from singer/songwriter/guitarist Parker Gispert, who adroitly dials back the power chords a bit.
• One more: On Saturday, Sadie Rene’s in Jackson Township will present the Rockin’ Teen Fest featuring two local teen bands that work more than some adult bands.
The Michael Weber Show features 15-year-old blues- and classic rock-influenced guitarist Michael Weber, who has been playing gigs around the area since he was a tween. I don’t know if Weber attended the recent Buddy Guy show at the Civic, but he’s got plenty of Guy’s penchant for showmanship. Weber favors flashy clothes and onstage he falls to his knees, plays his Les Paul behind his back, walks into the crowd, makes all the guitar-god faces and the whole shebang. Oh, yeah, the kid can play, and he’s backed up by veteran bassist Skully and drummer Steve Zavesky.
Weber is recording his debut album. I haven’t seen him perform in a while (his voice hadn’t even changed), but I assume he’s only getting better and you can check out his growth at his YouTube page.
Also on the bill is a full-fledged teen band, Recess, which has been around since 2008. Singer Vincent Fondale, talented guitarist Alex Raz, keyboardist Anthony Fondale, drummer Arslan Khan and bassist Shayne Paul, the only member old enough to vote, have already been Internet sensations with their 2009 video of the band performing Journey’s Separate Ways receiving more than 218,000 views. Recess plays a lot of classic-rock covers but recently has been writing original tunes.
Part of the idea behind the Rockin’ Teen Fest is to encourage other young folks (parents are OK, too) to check out what their musical peers are doing. As such it will be an all-ages show and there will be no alcohol served, but there will be pizza, pop and other snacks on hand as well as some prizes and other goodies.