As Michael Martz noted, today marks the 21st anniversary of the release of Main Source’s debut album, Breaking Atoms.
For my book, Classic Material, I had this to say about the album back in 2003:
Large Professor – a disciple of unsung producer/engineer legend Paul C. – joined up with the Canadian DJ duo of Sir Scratch and K-Kut in the late ’80s and together, as Main Source, dropped Breaking Atoms in 1990 and reflecting back, it’s easy to see how ahead of its time the album was. Large Professor is far and away the best rapper among his peers, with extraordinary song writing capacity: look at the instant classic on relationship strife “Looking at the Front Door”, consciously charged “Peace is Not the Word to Play” and brilliant police brutality critique, “Just a Friendly Game of Baseball”. As a producer, Large Professor thinks in complete song structure, never just focusing on one single element – a loop, a break – but always juggling them in unison. For example, “Snake Eyes”, which begins the album, has no less than five different samples running through it, including an Ike Turner piano vamp, a Johnnie Taylor’s bassline and a Jesse Anderson flute melody. “Peace Is Not the Word” is the album’s musical climax as Large Professor spits one quick set of verses but then lets his beats do the talking as the rest of the song continues to build and shift strictly as an instrumental. It’d be a tour de force in any era but Main Source came up with this in 1990, when most other producers were still getting mileage out of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer.” It’s no wonder that even 10+ years after its initial release, Breaking Atoms sounds as fresh, vital and innovative as ever.
Nearly 10 years later, I wouldn’t change a damn thing I said there (though I might dead some of my run-on sentences). Breaking Atoms was one of the first albums I remember getting the “5 mic” treatment in The Source and I copped it purely on that basis (since I knew little of the group prior). Over the years, I only grew to appreciate its sophistication more and more. Seriously, go back and listen to this and compare it to what else dropped in 1991 (especially on a production level).
I know most of y’all have heard this album a gazillion times over but it never hurts to revisit. “Snake Eyes” remains my favorite song off the album:
Main Source: Snake Eyes
From Breaking Atoms (Wild Pitch, 1991)
And on the remix tip, there’s this flip on “Just a Friendly Game of Baseball” featured on the Boyz N The Hood soundtrack:
Main Source: Just a Friendly Game of Baseball (Remix)
From Boyz N The Hood OST (Warner Bros., 1991)
Lastly, let me just say…the fact that this album is now 21 makes me feel really old.