Filed under: G Rap Week,Great Moments In Rap,In The Trenches,Interviews,Killa Queens,Large Pro For Prez,Not Your Average,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
For the final part of our interview, Dr. Butcher offers a behind-the-scenes look in the creation of the first Main Source album and Large Pro’s The LP. Now based in Texas, Butcher just released new music with an artist called Understanding on the vocals, and is working on an album of instrumentals for the Vintage Vaults series for Domination Recordings. He also works with Rob Swift on jingles, TV commercials and video games such as NFL Street.
Robbie: So you just did a new 12 inch?
Dr. Butcher: They just did a digital release while I’m putting together my instrumental album. I don’t want to do just a straight-forward, ‘One beat, two beat, three beats’ – just instrumentals, and I think every producer does that and that’s boring. I’mma try to do something a little different and piece it all together. It’s vintage old tracks, and I want to find a way to introduce that to the world where it’s not sounding like I’m some 90’s producer living off the nineties sound. I’mma mix it in with 2008 Dr. Butcher, kinda like telling a story using old tracks and stuff. It should be interesting.
Is that you rapping at the end of [G Rap’s] ‘Jive Talk’?
[bursts out laughing] Yep. That was us clowning around in the studio one day. We were sitting in the vocal room – Large had just put the beat down, G started rhyming and Large was sitting on a chair with a pair of drumsticks, and then he started tapping the drumsticks and we were just acting stupid, acting like old school rappers, making all these grunts in the background. We were just joking around and I was like, ‘Alright, let me just say some old rhymes and stuff’ and then I just started rhyming. And they kept it on the song! I rhymed a lot longer, but they kept the first maybe eight bars or something and faded the song out. It was the funniest thing ‘cos Stretch Armstrong would hold these contests, ‘Can anyone guess who that is? The ghost rapper at the end of the G Rap song?’ G told me that one day Biz Mark said, ‘Who’s that dude on the end of the song? I wanna sign that guy!’ Everybody was asking G who I was…even Eric B! But at the time I was more into the deejaying and then the producing, so it never went anywhere.
I remember a thing in The Source where Large Professor was complaining about his credits and getting ripped off by Eric B. I imagine that caused a bit of bad blood.
Yeah, that was another touchy situation. I was at G Rap’s house one day and Joe Fatal showed-up with this dude, and the dude was Large Professor. He was real quiet, he wasn’t sayin’ much. We all went to hang out that night – it was just me, Large and Joe Fatal – and we were riding around, we went out to Long Island to visit Rakim. We hung-out with Rakim for a little while and then we shot back to Queens, and we was passing through Rosedale and Large is like ‘Yo, let’s go see my man Paul C.’ and I was like ‘Paul C? You mean the producer? That’s my dude!’ So he was like ‘Yo, you know Paul?’ We went to his house and Paul was there, he’s like ‘Drew! I ain’t seen you in a while!’ So we all realised we had a connection through Paul, and then me and Large Professor got tight. A few weeks later, or a week later, I get a call that someone went in Paul’s house and shot him and killed him. A hobby of mine was collecting reptiles, I was like a big lizard head. I also collected salt-water fish, and where Large Professor lived in Flushing, there was this real exotic pet store that collected all these things, and I used to frequent their pet store. I happened to be walking there one day and I ran into Paul and we were talking – it was kinda after Paul C’s funeral – and from there we just realised we had a connection and got close. What happened was, that night when we went to Paul C’s house, he had just linked-up with Rakim and was scheduled to produce Rakim’s third album – the Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em album. He was playing us beats that he was gonna use for the album like ‘The Ghetto’ and all of that stuff, and showing the records. I wasn’t into producing so I really wasn’t paying attention, I was just listening to the stuff he was playin’. But Large was. Large was kinda learning about records and he knew Paul, so after Paul C. had got killed, no one knew what he was about to give Rakim – except Large Professor. But Large didn’t have any equipment or anything. Joe Fatal used to hang around Rakim a lot so he was like ‘Yo, my man Paul knows what beats Paul C. was gonna give you. You should hire him to come to the studio and do the songs for you’.
So he got in contact with Large – at the time, Large was like sixteen years old, I think he was a junior or a senior in high school or something – brought him in the studio and Large has really developed his production skills during those sessions, and finished putting the beats together for that album. I think that’s what he’s talking about – he didn’t get a lot of the credit that he wanted for that. He helped them out with a lot of stuff on that album and he didn’t get the credit. Then on Wanted Dead or Alive, Eric B. was gonna executive produce, so Eric was like ‘I wanna sign you as my producer’. Eric was like ‘I’mma pay you!’ Large was just excited to be working with Rakim and Kool G Rap at the time, and we was goin’ to the studio every day. I would get off work, he would get outta school, G Rap would pick him up ‘cos G lived in Flushing also, on his way he would stop and pick-up Large, then on the way to Power Play he would stop and pick me up. I would come with my mixer and turntables and we would go to the studio and just record and have fun. Large wasn’t getting’ no money. Eric would stop in every so often and just check-in on the session, but nobody was thinking about it. He was like ‘Yo, when we finish the album I’mma take care of your stuff’. So in the meantime, the project was finished and nothing happened. It kinda bothered Paul and he just really didn’t know how to approach the situation. Eric says he was gonna pay him, I don’t know what his intention was. He probably was, I dunno. There was an interview and they asked Large about it, and it got out there in The Source. The way it went down it came across wrong, so Eric was upset about it and it caused a lot of stuff. But that all got squashed and moved on. I’ve since talked to Eric, me and Eric are really cool. That’s still my dude.
Is Eric still involved in music?
Eric is always involved with something! [chuckles] Eric is a dude that finds a way to get money somehow, man. I mean when people thought he wasn’t involved, he was livin’ in penthouses in Manhattan, right on Broadway. Quietly, behind the scenes on an executive level at record companies and stuff. After their stint in the game, I guess he just decided to take a back seat as far as not wanting to be in the public eye. He’s not somebody who wants to have his face out there, run around, braggin’, ‘Oh, I’m Eric B!’ He’s like a quiet type of guy. That’s why we don’t see him or hear from him. He’s still doin’ his thing though.
What can you remember about the Main Source Breaking Atoms sessions?
We were doin’ the Wanted Dead or Alive album at the same time, and a lot of times he would run from that session to go and do his session and we would just go run up to the studio with him. A lot of things he kinda recorded real fast – he didn’t spend as much time putting together the Main Source album as he did G Rap’s album or Rakim’s album. He was just in the rhythm and excitement of what was goin’ on at the moment. He was doin’ his collecting – he would get a little money and me and him would run down to The Village and he would buy records and go up to see Pete Rock and exchange tracks. Him, Pete Rock and Q-Tip were pretty close as far as sharing beats that they were gonna use. I know a couple of things that Pete used on his first album with CL, Large had the same beats and it was like, ‘OK, go ahead, you can use that joint. I’ll go and get something else.’
My cousin had this new Jetta at the time and we would always ride around. That’s what he’s talking about in ‘Just Hanging Out’ – ‘Joe with the Jetta’ – that was my cousin. When Large came out of the studio – he loved the sound system in the car, ‘cos my cousin had a real souped-up radio in there – so we would just get in the car and pull all the songs, and just ride around the city all night. [K-Kut and Sir Scratch] were brothers and hermits in their own little world. You really didn’t see them and know them dudes too much – they were pretty much just in the house. They were cool guys, but we were on our own stuff. We were like one big family.
Large was big into album covers. He would like to get in the minds of a lot of the great jazz musicians and see what kinda made them tick. His room was pretty much a closet! He had this one little small room where he had his crates of records – it was funny, ‘cos you’d think at the time he was such a big name, you would think he’d have this massive studio – but he didn’t. He had an SP-1200, with a turntable and a beat-up mixer hooked-up to a boom-box – and that’s how he did his beats. Sitting on crates at that! That’s what he wanted. In his mind, he wanted to keep it as raw and natural as he possibly could, and he would just go and sit on his balcony at times and just listen to his beats. That’s what he figured funk to be – he wanted to keep it rugged. He didn’t want all this pretty stuff around him, fancy stuff. He liked to keep it as simple as possible and keep the grime. He felt like he wanted the hood and the soul in his music. He didn’t want to get caught-up in the pop world of hip-hop. He wanted to bring back the essence of of what he believed hip-hop to be. Large had grey hair when he was in high school. Lookin’ at him, dude was 16-17 years old, and you thought he was like 28-29 years old! ‘You look like a full-grown man!’ and stuff. But I guess it was just genetic, it was hereditery. He always liked to take these photos like he’s deep in thought, staring at the world. That’s why he looked like that on the album cover, like he’s this ‘super-thinker’. That’s the way he is – when he’s doin’ his beats, he’s in thought. Watching him in the studio work at the time was amazing. He’s like an architect building stuff the way he would chop up the samples. Everybody would just like to sit around watching him in amazement, ‘cos of how fast he would work [the SP].
What was the story with Van Damater?
Van was his boy. I’ll tell you who Van is – Van is Carmen’s brother. Nas‘ wife, that he had the baby by, his ex-girl. Carmen used to just hang out in the studio with us all the time, and so Nas would come to the studio and that’s how he met Carmen. On ‘He Got So Much Soul’, Van is the guy talking on the chorus with Large. He’s talking like a old soul dude and stuff, like Mario Van Peebles. He would do a lot of the funny voices and background talking on the Main Source album.
I was his [Large Pro’s] DJ [for the solo album]. That’s when he broke away from Main Source. It took a while to get that solidified – he didn’t mind, ‘cos he was producing – but I think their were issues goin’ on with his publishing situation through Main Source. It was haltering him from signing a deal for a while, so in the interim he was just producing as lot of people and keeping his name out there. Geffen was on board, but he was leery, he was trying to make the right selection where he wanted to go. The money that Geffen through at him was pretty good, he felt like he would get a lot of attention. [The] Roots was over there at the time, he felt like it could be a cool place for him. He had a good relationship with the lady that ran the label and stuff. But at the end it’s just a numbers game. I don’t think they fully understood who they had. It was just he was a hot name at the time and they were trying to get these records out. When Bad Boy and all this other stuff started taking off they weren’t getting the responses that they wanted to get, so I think they started wavering a little bit on the project.
What was your involvement in that project like?
In the studio it would just be me and him, solely. And the engineer. He would have nobody in the sessions. It was a lot of things on his mind at the time. He knew the world was waiting to hear what he was gonna put out, and the music was changing so he was wondering, ‘Are they gonna understand what I’m doin’? Because everything is going so commercial and poppy and dancey, with the silver suits and fancy videos.’ He wanted to be total opposite – that’s why he was in his video with a turntable on his back! He wanted nothing to do with that pop world. That’s P, that’s what Large is – straight-up, raw hip-hop. He would do so many versions of some of them songs. You have no idea how many times he would go in the studio, change the beats. Some of the stuff he would do I would bug him like, ‘P, come on man! Please put that back. That’s crazy!’ And he wouldn’t! He’s like, ‘Nah, Butch. Nah, nah, nah. Trust me, I got this!’ He had his own vision of what he was tryin’ to do, so at some point you had to just let it go. Tracks he would do and he would just move on. He would do so much stuff he would just wanna keep changing and changing. I can understand that – it was so much time goin’ on from the release. The release just kept getting pushed back, things had changed and he’s trying to keep the sound fresh and new. He would do so much record shopping that if he would find a new groove or new loop, he’s like, ‘Nah, I’m a change it to this.’ He would wanna use something new. Even when he did his solo album, although that kinda have more a gloomy tone, ‘cos there were things goin’ on in his personal life that he was trying to fight – finding God in his life and a lot of different things. Everybody grows up going through that type of thing, but with him you can hear it within his music. You could definitely hear the topics and where his mind is – the transitions and stuff – through his music.
I think he recorded that album [Breaking Atoms] in two or three weeks – he recorded that album really, really fast. It wasn’t a long project, it was like a daily thing. That’s why there’s not that many songs on there. He just wanted to do a classic. He just wanted hot joints, and he was happy when he got his amount of songs and the songs he had – he was like, ‘I’m cool’. He just wanted it to go, he wanted to get it out there. He didn’t sit around, studying the records – he believed in what he was doing. Whereas later on I think he was more critical of himself, because during the first album he didn’t have anything on his shoulders – he was a new producer coming out – so he was just being Large, doin’ his stuff. But then, once you reach this plateau, everybody’s expecting a lot from you. So now you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders, so with his own album he was being very critical of himself. Doin’ his beats over and over and over, changing snares, changing vocals, changing kicks…every little sound. He was just over-analyzing everything, but that’s because he knew what was on the plate at the time and what was expected of him. I wish it woulda come out the right way, but it didn’t. It is what it is. It’s a piece of history.
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