The producer Large Professor has crafted more iconic tracks (Kool G Rap & DJ Polo’s “Streets of New York”; Main Source’s Breaking Atoms; Nas’s “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”) and been through more label turmoil than most hip-hop vets of his vintage. But both of those details tend to overshadow just how much he’s continued to build his body of work in the 16 independent-minded years since Geffen shelved The LP.
Professor @ Large joins 2008′s Main Source, a pair of instrumental full-lengths and two early-’10s team-ups with Neek the Exotic in maintaining his recent presence for the faithful, and it’s the kind of album you’d expect from a legend who refuses to coast. “Key to the City” stakes a hip-hop royalty claim backed up by the fast-paced beat that sounds like his Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em work with a couple decades’ polish, while interstitial instrumental tracks (“Barber Shop Chop,” “Sun, Star & Crescents,” “Back in Time”) give his intricate musicality space to breathe. And while he still holds his own on the mic, he parcels out some of his best beats to guests. Busta Rhymes runs rampant all over “Straight from the Golden,” double-time spitting in both smooth and manic modes. And the seething yet elegiac “M.A.R.S.” features a Murderer’s Row of Cormega, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano and Saigon that guarantees one of the best East Coast hardcore hip-hop posse cuts in recent memory.