Personnel: Large Professor (vocals); Sir Scratch, K-Cut (turntables).
Audio Mixers: Main Source; Anton Pukshansky.
Recording information: Homeboy Studio; Libra Digital; Power play.
Photographer: Peter Bodtke.
Main Source's debut album, Breaking Atoms, is one of the quintessential cult classics in hip-hop history. Underappreciated compared to peers like A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, or even Brand Nubian, the album probably doesn't get wider acclaim because it was recorded for the ill-fated Wild Pitch label, and thus remained out of print for much of the time its reputation was spreading. Group focal point the Large Professor is a fine rapper, but the album's legend rests more on his production -- he debuts one of the most influential styles in hip-hop here, popularizing a number of now widely imitated techniques. Luckily, you don't have to know how to operate an SP-1200, or exactly what panning, chopping, and filtered basslines are, to appreciate the vibrant-sounding results. His intricately constructed tracks are filled with jazz and soul samples, layered percussion, off-kilter sampling effects, and an overall sonic richness. That's doubtlessly enhanced by the presence of two DJs in the group, who contribute lively scratching to the proceedings as well. The album is rather brief, clocking in at around 45 minutes even with a bonus remix, but there's also no wasted space whatsoever. The brightly soulful "Lookin' at the Front Door" is perhaps the best-known single, but there are plenty of other highlights. "Just a Friendly Game of Baseball" is anything but, with its moody backing track and extended lyrical metaphor about police brutality and racial profiling. Meanwhile, "Live at the Barbeque" is one of the most legendary posse cuts ever recorded, featuring guests Joe Fatal, Akinyele, and Nas (the latter two make their recorded debuts here). Aficionados hype Breaking Atoms as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, and at least musically speaking, they're not far off. ~ Steve Huey
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