Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Making of a Classic: Live at the Barbecue

On one cold November night at 3 o’clock in the morning in 1990, four up and coming MC’s from Queens, entered Long Island City’s Power Play Studios to record the unforgettable classic “Live at the Barbecue”.

“Yo that barbecue joint, we just put that down, niggas was on some ol’ natural high energy, niggas was wet behind the ears shit, you know what I’m sayin?” says Large Professor a.k.a. Extra P of Flushing, Queens.

“We didn’t have any knowledge of what was in store for us in the industry or nothing like that, this was some free spirit type shit”, added Large Pro.

No record can be a classic without the main ingredient: a hot beat. In this case Large Pro sampled Vicky Anderson’s “Land of Milk and Honey” and integrated it with a 2.5 second sample of the Bob James seminal b-boy classic break “Nautilus”. “I had been messing around with “Nautilus” for mad years and shit, I had analyzed that record and chopped it up and all kinds of stuff, I knew one day I was gonna do something with it and this was the perfect opportunity”, says Large Pro. “I had the drums sampled and edited down to just before the aqua bells came in. I got it down to the “boom-bup-pa-boom-pap” and shit, I got the drums really tight. I had the drums all looped up and we was just rocking over the drums at first, until I added the loop.”

The loop, in this case was from Vicky Anderson’s “Land of Milk and Honey” a fierce funk workout featuring the JB’s with Anderson’s voice wailing over the ensembles funk celebration.

“I was always finagling with that beat, and the Bob James loop was the perfect time to use it.”

“We used a total of 16 tracks for that record, we had the main loop, the drums, the tambourine loop, the 808, and the vocals” said Large Pro.

“There wasn’t no one-shot deals happening on this night, I know rappers be on that “one take knockout shit” but believe me, we definitely had to do some re-construction of the vocals”, said Large Pro.

“Pudgee tha Fat Bastard and Nas wrote Joe Fatal’s verse; Pudge was on the phone with Fatal while Nas was writing. Everybody else had their rhymes already done, brothers had been sharpening their swords and shit for a minute. These were my dudes; whenever you get a group of MC’s together, there is competition in the air. It doesn’t have to be said, it’s just like that. It wasn’t about one person trying to blow up the others, or this one saying Yo, let me re-do my vocal after that one was done, it wasn’t like that”, said Large Pro. It was that one opportunity for the young crew of MC’s to make their mark on the industry; and they did it.

“The only person missing from the session that night that was supposed to be there, was M.F. Grimm, that was my man too!” added P.

“This was the last song of the album and Wild Pitch was calling and was like “Yo, where’s it at?” I always had Nas around me, and Ak, and Fatal; so it was just natural for me to do something with them.”

When it all came together it was like nothing the hip hop world had seen up to that point. The chorus was an old school chant: “Aaaaay yo it’s like that y’all! That y’all! That y’all! That y’all! That y’all! And that’s all!” a chant that called to mind dark nights in Colden Park in Flushing, Queens where the air was thick with the smell of the combination of herb and cigarette smoke; forty ounce bottles of Old English 800 were tucked into brown paper bags; hot and rowdy summer nights, where the dee-jay wearing a Fedora hat and pleated slacks would grab the mike with a cigarette in one hand and the mike in the other and yell: “AAAAAAY YO, STEP THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE SPEAKERS!” All of that was captured on that record.

Streets Disciple, my raps are trifle” the first verse hit like a gunshot from, then, Nasty Nas, who, 14 years later would record the classic album entitled “Streets Disciple”. On Nas’ opening verse he aims to be the illest MC to ever come from the Queensbridge Housing Projects with lines like… “Kidnap the presidents wife without a plan, I’m hanging niggas like the Ku Klux Klan! I melt mikes ‘til the sound wave is over, before stepping to me you’d rather step to Jehovah”… Nas was on some ol’ ill-literate shit.

The final verse was Large Pro who plays resident hard rock with the line “Don’t let them kids around your way puff your head, or you’ll be the owner of a hospital bed!” A line that simultaneously played on the rock classic “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and threatened sap MC’s at the same time.

According to Bay Area hip hop radio pioneer D.J. Kevvy Kev “Cool Breeze” of Stanford’s 90.1 KZSU, “The first time I heard BBQ, I was lovin' it. My favorite part? Too many of 'em. That's why a word that's as overused as "classic" is appropriate here.” Kev’s show ‘The Drum” has been rocking Bay Area audiences every Sunday consistently for the last 20 years.

Akinyele scored with a couple of hits in the mid-90’s with “It’s the Ak” and “Put It In Your Mouth”; Pudgee tha Phat Bastard had a couple of hit records as well in the mid-90’s with “Money Don’t Make Your World Stop” and “On the Regular”.

“When we walked out of there at 5:30 in the morning – we knew we had a classic” said P.
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