The role of producer in Hip-Hop has changed a few times since the first rap records arrived at the end of the 1970s. In that era bands were attempting to re create the break beats that MCs and DJs were using before rap recordings. The people credited with production on those records were either the record label owners, or in some cases the musicians who arranged the songs. In the vein of what producers did in other genres of music, the rap producer also suggested additional musicians and/or producers, arranged and helped the artists to deliver the best vocal performance for the recordings in question. Larry Smith was a musician and multi-instrumentalist before rap records existed. He played on some of the very first rap records and was later responsible for recordings that caused a paradigm shift in the sound and direction of rap as a recorded medium.
The Jamaica Kats
Larry Smith was born and raised in St. Albans, Queens and was part of a burgeoning group of musicians who were merging elements of jazz and funk and called themselves the Jamaica Kats. The Kats consisted of Donald Blackmon, Tom Browne, Bernard Wright, Omar Hakim, Bobby Broom and they were mentored by jazz titans Weldon Irvine and Lenny White. As early as 1967, Larry was playing on records with a group called The Fire Bolts (Bernard Wright played with the Junior Fire Bolts) who were known for winning local battle of the band competitions. Smith also traveled with a band called Lighter Shade of Darkness, and released records with blues artist Jerry Washington.