Unsung Hero of Creativity, Large Professor Mastered the Art of Bass-Filtering and Drum-Sound Customization
|By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)|
On "The Mad Scientist," one of Large Professor's best beatworks, it will serve you well to notice how the drums and the sample move together. Each drum sound is its own sample, yet when this song came out, many critics of sampling could not—did not—distinguish the individual drum hits that Large Professor used. Instead, in various "reviews," the drum sounds were incorrectly lumped together with the sample, and described as being simply "a part of the sampled riff." I can even remember reading one critic's assessment of "The Mad Scientist" as having a "lack" of creativity.
Well, the true fact of the matter is, there's a lot more going on with this track than many would easily recognize. First, each drum sound is customized and well-suited for the main sample, (which Large Professor uses like a break). The kick has what I like to call a rubber bottom. I use the term "rubber bottom" to describe those kicks that have significant bottom, but still manage to bounce. The snare, which sounds like a straight-forward snare sound with loose skin, snaps and suspends in mid-space, sustained by just the right amount of reverb. This is most pleasing to the ear, as it makes the snare sound much more fuller and balanced, unlike the over-compressed, "squashed" sounding snares in far too many of today's beats. Then there's the shaker-like hat that glides across the entire measure. (Underneath the main hi-hat there appears to be another light, truncated hi-hat that whispers.)
As for the main sample tha drives the beat, Large Professor speeds up its pitch, in a way that streamlines its warmth, without distorting its sonic value, or disrupting the drum framework. And the way that the sample is chopped, the beginning and end points are masked quite well, making the loop sound like two overlapping parts that dissolve into each other. Finally, there is one notable change: the ascending violin phrase (sample) that streams through the chorus section.
Looking back, I remember how I thought to myself that once critics start to challenge the creativity of drum patterns/programs, sampling would really come under attack by other beatmakers. Unfortunately, I was right. But I also believed that there would be more beatmakers who would disagree with the mostly uninformed critics of beatmaking and its various creative, often meticulous practices. Fortunately, I was right about that, too.
The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Large Professor - "The Mad Scientist" (Instrumental)
Large Professor - "The Mad Scientist" (Official music video)