Jul 28, 2016

#TBT: Breaking Atoms (25th Anniversary) - Main Source (@PLargePro); A Niles P. Joint

Back in the olden days, figure my late middle school/early high school years, one of my favorite things to do was to go to music stores (remember those?) and rummage through the used CDs looking for out of print classics.  On my “Holy Grail” wish list was Main Source’s 1991 classic debut Breaking Atoms.  At the time I only knew that it was rare/out of print after Wild Pitch Records folded in 1997 and that it contained the first appearance of one of my favorite rappers (more on that later.)  Unfortunately I never found the CD because of its inherent value. But once I got it digitally years later I understood the magnitude of the impact that Large Professor, K-Cut, & Sir Scratch left on the culture of Hip Hop with this album.  

Besides making beats, Extra P kind of made a career out of dispensing wisdom in his lyrics.  He starts early and often on Snake Eyes, comparing serpentine movements to the perils of a dice game.  Things are more laid back on the self explanatory Just Hangin’ Out.  The song is not only easygoing but also has one of the earliest samples of the Jamaican classic Bam Bam by Sister NancyLooking Out The Front Door is one of their best known tracks and one of the best of that era, period.  In a time when Canadian former child stars constantly whine in breakup songs, this one is more resilient.  On his eponymous song, Large Professor uses what’s probably his quickest flow to much success.

Just a Friendly Game of Baseball is 25 years old and unfortunately still socially relevant today.  Using baseball metaphors, it presents the case that police brutality against Black men and women is more so America’s pastime.  I wish this wasn’t still the case, but you've seen the news so therefore this song still has relevance today.  After such weighty subject matter, Scratch & Kut is a welcome instrumental palette cleanser.  While Peace Is Not The Word To Play has urgency as a linguistic lesson, it doesn't tread too far into preachy waters and remains listenable.  A hidden gem on the album is Vamos a Rapiar (let’s rap in Spanish) is actually co-produced by Pete Rock.  The Queens/Mount Vernon collision yields fireworks and gives the album a Latin twist, which heightens the already flavorful musical medley.  It’s like audio adobo, studio sazón.  

Essentially Live At The Barbecue
The breakbeat is exploited to perfection on He Got So Much Soul (He Don’t Need No Music.)  This is more or less the 1991 version of having a club hit on an album, although this one seems to be more built for breakdancing.  The crown jewel on the album is easily Live At The Barbecue.  While Extra P, Akinyele, & Joe Fatal chip in with respectable verses, the show is stolen by a 17 year old Nas making his aforementioned debut on wax.  It’s like when your favorite comic book series introduces a brand new dope ass superhero within their own run, and he goes on to have a legendary career.  This is what had me scrambling to find the album as a preteen.  While hard to top, Breaking Atoms has the rags to riches inspirational story Watch Roger Do His Thing as the penultimate track and closes with a worthwhile remix of Just a Friendly Game of Baseball.

Aside from the premier of Nas, this album is a way station between the golden eras of the late 80’s and mid-90’s.  It helped bring jazz and soul samples into the culture’s consciousness, a practice still used today by traditionalists.  More obscurely, Main Source was also one of the earliest forays into the North, as K-Cut and Sir Scratch were two of Canada’s first mainstream rap contributors.  The rest is history.  Large Professor used this as a springboard to a successful solo career in both rap and especially production, including helping Nas with Illmatic.  The original lineup unfortunately disbanded due to financial disputes, although K-Cut and Sir Scratch did return later with a new vocalist for an album.  Even though their stay was comet in the night sky-brief, the magnitude of Main Source’s classic album is still strong enough for Breaking Atoms 25 years later.  

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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