RIP Big Beat Godfather Larry Smith (1951-2014)
[UPDATE: It’s with great sadness we report the Big Beat patriarch and generation-defining production pioneer Larry Smith has passed away from currently unknown health complications. In 2007 he suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak. We’re wishing his family and friends all the love and all of the peace of mind they deserve in this painful time. Read our piece on the legacy of Larry Smith below.]
There’s plenty to be said about the hired hands of the music industry; the studio rats, session slayers and boardroom boxers of hip-hop’s embattled history. But what is there to say about those who took r&b and funk by the boot straps and carried them into a new era where the DJ was king and his disciples were loyal b-boys and b-girls who just wanted a culture of their own to identify with, not one based in repackaged disco anthems?
In steps Brooklyn-via-Hollis, Queens bass-man Larry Smith who also turned out to have a virtuoso touch for freaking a drum-machine. For those wondering who this Smith cat is, think back to Run DMC‘s introductory visual “Rock Box,” where they shined some light on Larry’s Caddy and largely uncredited production, which was the lifeblood of Def Jam’s mid-80s takeover. Smith sculpted foundational frequencies for the likes of Whodini, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys and his own ensemble of funk-fortified innovators Orange Krush, which opened him up to working on more pop-minded efforts from the likes of George Benson, Melba Moore and a slew of others.
Despite his immeasurable contribution to some of the most formative audio pillars of hip-hop culture, he was the often overlooked third musketeer of Def Jam’s in-house production team, which at the time only gave proper due to Rick Rubin and the label’s co-founder Russell Simmons. But there’s so much more to the mythical big beat sage’s tale that has yet to be explored. Luckily for us, the good folks over at Cuepoint have provided an extensive profile of the pioneer and his myriad of musical mantel moments. We suggest you click through for the full scrip, just be sure to hit the player below to relive some of the classics, many of which you probably had no idea he was featured on. Let us all stand in union and decree: long live the king of the Big Beat.