Who is Larry Smith? Since the start of VIBE’s Greatest Hip Hop Producers of All-Time tournament that’s been one of the most frequently asked questions by fans not familiar with the man who has been cited as rap’s first studio superstar.
But Run-D.M.C.'s Darryl “DMC” McDaniels says Smith more than deserves the nod.
“I want the world to know when you talk about the best producers like Jam Master Jay, DJ Premier, Swizz Beatz, and Dr. Dre, you have to add Larry Smith,” DMC tells VIBE. “I feel so bad because when Run-D.M.C. got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [in 2009] I wanted to take that platform to mention Larry. Because there would be no hip-hop as we know it today if it wasn’t for Larry Smith.”
Indeed, Smith’s contributions to hip-hop are truly impressive when you figure that his mammoth beats, rocking guitars, and punchy synthesizer sound was competing with the non-rap dominating likes of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. Among the former Orange Crush bassist’s landmark works: Run-D.M.C.’s “Sucker MC’s,” “It’s Like That,” “Hard Times,” King of Rock,” and “Rock Box” as well as Whodini’s “5 Minutes Of Funk,” “The Freaks Come Out At Night,” “One Love” and “Friends.”
“He did both of Run-D.M.C.’s first two albums (Run-D.M.C., King of Rock), and he did Whodini’s biggest singles… Come on!” DMC exclaims. “Larry Smith’s musical arsenal equals Dr. Dre's. I know Jermaine Dupri knows that because he was touring with Whodini in those days.”
Unfortunately, in recent years, Smith has had to battle debilitating health issues. “He had a stroke, but he’s still with us,” DMC says of Smith’s current state. “Physically, it’s not all good. But spiritually, historically and mentally, he can express himself through his music. Think about the body of work that he did. I think Larry’s notoriety gets lost because of Rick Rubin. People still think that Rick produced the first two Run-D.M.C. albums. But there would be no Raising Hell without those first two albums.”
As for DMC, the legendary MC is set to release his second solo album The Origins Of Block Music, due out this summer. “This is a more of rock-centered album,” DMC says of the upcoming release. “I have a lot of live instrumentation on it, but I still had to make three hip hop joints because people still want that “I’ll cut the head off the devil and I’ll throw it at you” DMC music too.”—Keith Murphy