Main Source ~ Breaking Atoms (1991)

Posted on December 16, 2012

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During his all-too-brief life and career, Queens, New York engineer-producer Paul C. McKasty mentored and guided some of rap’s most talented acts, including Ultramagnetic MC’s, Eric B & Rakim, Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud, and Organized Konfusion. Paul C’s tragic death in 1989, at the youthful age of 24, prevented him from enjoying his crowning achievement: the elevation of one of his understudies to legendary status in the rap world. This pupil of Paul C would become one of the most respected emcee-producers New York City ever birthed, and coincidentally, this phenom was also named Paul: William Paul Mitchell, a.k.a. Large Professor, the frontman of Main Source.

Main Source was a trio of true-school progenies, brought to light in the early 1990’s, and with origins in two separate countries. The group contained three producers; one of them an MC (Large Professor) born in Harlem, raised in Flushing, Queens, and schooled in the science of music production as a teen by his mentor, Rosedale, Queens mastermind Paul C. The other two members of the group were a pair of DJ’s: Sir Scratch (Shawn McKenzie) and K-Cut (Kevin McKenzie), two blood brothers from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who’d relocated to New York City. The three live wires connected in high school in the late 1980’s, and formed a grass roots musical union; handling their own promotion and pressing their own records, through the financing of Scratch and Cut’s mother Sandra McKenzie. In 1990, the group linked with the storied but short-lived imprint Wild Pitch Records; and the 18-year-old Large Professor took on a gargantuan workload; not only co-writing, co-producing, and recording Main Source’s first album, but also working with Queens legend Marley Marl on the production for Intelligent Hoodlum’s debut release; and finishing the work Paul C started on albums from Eric B. & Rakim, and Kool G Rap & DJ Polo. Like a consummate professional, Large Pro shouldered all of these responsibilities well, and in early 1991, he and his Main Source compatriots delivered one of the best albums in rap history; their groundbreaking debut Breaking Atoms.

Main Source wasn’t together for very long, but they dazed listeners while they were one. Breaking Atoms is perhaps the tightest album in Wild Pitch’s catalog; and that’s no small feat, considering Wild Pitch once housed Gang Starr, Ultramagnetic MC’s, O.C., and several other luminaries. Songs one through six set things off perfectly on Breaking Atoms, and are completely skip-proof. “Snake Eyes” moves with a slick boulevard bounce, and finds Large Professor castigating two-faces, hypocrites, and other lower life-forms of their ilk. “Just Hangin’ Out” splices a gangsta-lean loop of Gwen McCrae’s “90% Of Me Is You” with pieces of Sister Nancy’s dancehall favorite “Bam Bam”, and finds Large Pro running the streets of New York from dawn-to-dusk, making beats with Pete Rock & CL Smooth in Mount Vernon, politicking with then-newcomer Nas in Long Island City, and chilling with friends and family in various spots across NYC. “Looking At The Front Door”, the first official single from the album, moves the soul and the body, and has Large Pro exploring a drama-filled relationship with a combative girlfriend, as an earthy Donald Byrd loop fills the background, and a Detroit Emeralds drum line underpins his tale. On “Large Professor”, Paul shoots the lyrical gift impressively, while K-Cut and Sir Scratch slice like Ginsu blades on the turntables. The brilliant “Just A Friendly Game Of Baseball” paints karmic metaphor pictures; as Paul draws parallels between America’s favorite pastime and police brutality, while a sinister tint is applied to the cymbal taps of Lou Donaldson’s “Pot Belly”. And on “Scratch & Kut”, Large Professor takes a breather, and Sir Scratch and K-Cut speak with their hands over a sample of Kool & the Gang’s “N.T.”

Breaking Atoms first half is flawless; and thankfully, the momentum doesn’t let up on its second half. “Peace Is Not the Word To Play” addresses how freely the word ‘peace’ is tossed about, thereby cheapening its’ meaning. Pete Rock co-produces the funky piano thumper “Vamos A Rapiar”, an indictment on no-talent hacks ruining rap; and a track that seems to foretell the state of Hip Hop in the early millennium. “He Got So Much Soul (He Don’t Need No Music)” conjures images of afro picks and Soul Train lines; as Large Professor rides a full-tilt boogie instrumental, and explains the essence of his flavor and style. “Live At The Barbeque” is an easy top-5 pick for the ‘best posse cuts of all-time’ list, with Paul and his friends Joe Fatal and Akinyele spitting dope verses; and a 17-year-old Nas making his debut, and stealing the show with 26 unsettling bars of steel. And the album’s closer, “Watch Roger Do His Thing”, has something modern Hip Hop lacks: content, positivity, and inspiration. Over a rumbling drum track and organ sprinkles, Paul spotlights a local kid that makes good, and uses his brain to take him to the moon.

In addition to the selections from the original album, the millennium reissue of Breaking Atoms contains several bonus treats to savor. “Fakin The Funk”, the keep-it-real thumper from 1992’s White Men Can’t Rap EP in ’92, is here; as is “Bonafied Funk”, the last official Main Source song from 1992; a Hip Hop / acid jazz collaboration with the Brand New Heavies, from the Heavies’ ’92 set Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol. 1. And there are three 3 superb, hard-to-find Main Source songs: “Atom”, one of the crew’s earliest songs, the funky, free-flowing 1989 single “Think”; and the jazzy cautionary tale “How My Man Went Down In The Game”.

Breaking Atoms introduced a gifted group of wunderkinds to the rap world, who united to create a truly timeless album. But, sadly, this would be the first (and last) we’d hear of this particular lineup. Shortly before their second album (The Science) was set to drop, in the summer of 1992, Large Professor abruptly left Main Source, due to problems with the group’s manager, Sir Scratch and K-Cut’s mom Sandra McKenzie. Sir Scratch and K-Cut then recruited New York rhyme champion Mikey D. to replace Large Pro, but this new incarnation of Main Source lasted for only one album itself (1994’s F–k What You Think) before Main Source disbanded for good. Large Professor would forge his own path in the industry as a revered producer, but as an artist, he’d spend the next 10 years in industry hell, having his albums shelved by both Wild Pitch Records and Geffen Records – who’d purchased his Wild Pitch contract – before finally releasing his debut solo set 1st Class in 2002. But, no matter the case, Main Source has a special place in the annals of Hip Hop. Three kids from separate sectors of North America became one, and produced one of the greatest rap albums of all time. Do yourself a favor, and check out Breaking Atoms. It’s a piece of history.

To listen to Breaking Atoms, click here.

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