It’s hard to name two hip-hop producers more iconic than DJ Premier and Dr. Dre. They’ve both had a hand in the genre’s growing canon, yet despite traveling in the same circles for more than 25 years, the pair had never worked together — until now.
Compton, Dr. Dre’s first album in 16 years (which went on sale Friday), features “Animals,” the pair’s first collaboration. Billboard spoke to Premier about his contribution to the album, his history with Dr. Dre and what it means to be a hip-hop producer.
When did you first meet Dr. Dre?
We met back in 1989, when my first Gang Starr album, No More Mr. Nice Guy, came out. We had a release party, and N.W.A came. Eazy-E came, MC Ren came, and Dre came. They were in town, people were still new to N.W.A, but they were starting to make a little noise to where they were getting accepted in New York.
They came to support our album, so we he had met them — but as far as having conversations and being around the recording process, I was around right after The Chronic came out, and I was there for when [Snoop Dogg’s] Doggystyle was still being recorded. I knew him and Suge [Knight] around that time, so we were already cool. I just had never really done any work with him on that process.
I’d recorded and produced records for [Death Row Records artist] Lady of Rage — [but] Dre had already left Death Row at that time, so he wasn’t around.
Was there ever any tension as far as West Coast vs. East Coast?
It’s whatever — people like me and Dre are music people, so we’re beyond just hip-hop. We’re purists. Not everybody who makes beats is a purist.
I did his radio show [The Pharmacy on Beats 1] that’s going to air in a couple weeks, and he dedicated the whole show to my career. We talked about the same thing you just asked — for one, what’s the difference between a producer and a beatmaker? I explained how I see it, and he felt the same way.
We don’t just lay the beats down — we’re coaches. We tell you, “Your voice squeaked right there. You need to go back. Let’s fix that line,” or “Can you do that again with more energy?” or “Can you say this better?” We’re about more than just putting the track down and calling it a day.
How did “Animals,” your track on Compton, come together?
He was working on a different project — not for the movie [Straight Outta Compton], he just started recording again for a different project — so I was already sending him tracks because we spoke to each other last year.
He told me, “I want to start recording, doing some new music, and I want you to get involved. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them yet, but I’d love for you to send a few tracks if you have time.” I said, “Yeah, I’ll put something together,” and I sent him like three or four. One he liked right off the bat, and he said, “I’m going to work on this.” He told me, “I don’t have a set time for it, but I do want to do it.”
I went to Moscow earlier this year to work with, like, the top producer in Moscow, which I don’t do — I don’t need to work with any producers. The pitch was for me to get with a Russian producer, to use Russian samples and music, and then to have MF Doom rap on it. I was like, “Hell yeah,” because me and MF Doom had just done a song for the PRhyme deluxe album that’s about to be released. To get the opportunity to work with him on another project, with the producer in Russia, who goes by the name of BMB Spacekid.
When we were about to head out to Moscow, MF Doom fell ill and wasn’t able to come out, according to what they told us. I’m like, “Well, who are you going to get to replace him?” He said, “We’re going to get a singer instead of a rapper, Anderson .Paak.” I was like, “Who is that?” They asked if I was down to do it with him, and I said, “I gotta make sure I like him first, I’ve never heard of him.”
They sent me some YouTube links, and there was one called “Suede.” I saw Knxwledge doing the beat, and I know Knxwledge and his work on Stone’s Throw. So I already liked the track, and then I just loved the way [.Paak] looked in the video and his whole demeanor. I told them, “I’m totally in.”
Once we got out there, we recorded two tracks. The first one was the one that ended up on the Compton soundtrack — we didn’t have any vocals on it, it was just a beat. BMB [Spacekid] programmed the drums. I liked the way he laid it down, I found some samples and stuff I liked, I laid that down and programmed it to have the same bounce that I do, so it would have the Premier style of sound. That’s all we did to it — it had a couple change-ups, but mostly we left it alone and started working on another track.
The second track was more of a bounce record, which is already out, through Boiler Room TV. That’s how the whole project had come about, because I had done it with PRhyme, and [Boiler Room] was connected with people in Moscow, and they just wanted to show the process of me connecting with a producer in another country.
They wanted to go with the second track, which ended up being called “Til It’s Done,” which has already come out. The first track was just sitting on the back burner, to be used for whatever we wanted to.
When the whole Freddie Gray thing happened in Baltimore, Anderson called me and was like, “I’m real angry with what’s going on with the police, and I just wrote a song to that other beat. I want to sent it to you and see what you think — maybe we could leak it out, put it out in the streets and show that we’re angry too.”
When he sent it to me it was called “F.S.U.” — F— Shit Up. In the hook he’s saying, “Don’t come around these parts, the whole world thinks we’re animals/ The only way they want to turn the cameras on is when we’re f—ing shit up.” When he said that, I was like, “Yo that’s dope.” Anderson just happened to be going to a meeting with Dre — he had already done a few songs with him, through their management. Anderson’s from the West Coast as well.
When he told him he had a record with Premier that he did in Moscow, Dre said, “Let me hear it.” Once he played it for him, [Dre] called right away and said, “Yo, I want to do this song for my soundtrack. I decided to do a soundtrack album last minute, and I want to put it out with the movie.”
I said, “What do you want to do?” And he said, “I want to put a verse on it.” Like, shit, Dre rapping on a verse? Hell yeah. The song was already done, and I explained how it came about with BMB Spacekid. He said, “I’ll spit the verse and let you hear it and make sure you’re cool with it, and if so let’s add on to it. Come out to L.A. and we can add on a few more things to it.”
I flew out just to add a few more things to the production side with some of his musicians. A couple more vocals were added in the hook, Dre already had his verse down — even Talib Kweli showed up and put a verse on it. We’re not going to use it for the album version, but I told him maybe we can do a remix version and maybe add Common or somebody. That kind of commentary with police brutality and killing black men is totally up their alley.
Next thing you know, it’s on the soundtrack.
Does Dre’s verse fit in with the theme of fighting police brutality?
[Dre] showed me [Straight Outta Compton] in the studio, so I got to feel the whole energy of the movie. He had already said that the 1992 riots, with everything going on with the police after the Rodney King beating, was totally in that same vein as Anderson .Paak’s lyrics. His verse is about the same thing: Why the f— are they hassling me? They’re harassing us and doing all this stuff, so it’s still relevant to this day with how we’re being treated.
He said, “All I’m going to do is change the title, from ‘F.S.U.’ to ‘Animals,'” because that’s what Anderson says in the hook.
Is this the first time you’ve worked together, officially?
Yes, this is the first time. We went in the booth together and talked a little shit at the end of the song, me and him. I scratched on it, with my traditional scratches. Just saying that we’re collaborating together — buggin’ out and having fun. A real dope experience.
Have you gotten to listen to the rest of the album?
First thing I asked him was how many songs he had. He said, “16.” I was like, “Wow, that’s a lot.” People don’t do that anymore.
I heard about seven of them, they were all dope.
What’s the vibe like?
It’s very now. Even just the people that are on it… Snoop Dogg, you’re not even going to know it’s Snoop. He played that one for me, it’s like a rock-type of song. When he played it for me — I went to the house that night, to do some work at his home studio — we’re chillin’ and he’s playing this hard guitar shit and I’m just boppin’ my head and all of a sudden the vocals come on and I’m like, “Damn, who’s that guy?” He said, “That’s Snoop.” I’m like, “That’s Snoop?!” You’re gonna be surprised — it doesn’t sound like “One, two, three and a four” [imitating Snoop Dogg’s voice]. It’s a whole different thing.
Dre just looked so happy — you can tell that he knows this album’s solid.
Did he talk to you at all about scrapping Detox?
Yeah, he just said it’s not up to his standards of quality. He said it is officially over. But when they hear this album, they’ll understand why. It’s well-produced, well-done — he does this record with The Game that’s just straight raw boom-bap, hard lyrics and head-nodding, snap yo’ neck type shit. “All in a Day’s Work” is crazy — I kept bothering him while he’s recording, like, “Can you play ‘All in a Day’s Work’ again?”
There’s this one called “Deep Water,” I got to watch them record that — Anderson .Paak recording the drowning. He’s rehearsing with a bottle of water, swigging the water [makes choking noises], and I think that he’s choking for real. I get up to grab him to give him the Heimlich maneuver, and he was like, “I’m just rehearsing!” He was like shaking his body and trembling, but he was just preparing to do what Dre wanted him to do to sound like a drowning man. Once they have all the effects on it, it sounds like a guy really drowning.
It was fun to witness all of that stuff.
How long were you guys in the studio together?
Four days the first week. I went home, and he flew me out three days later to mix it down and to put on the finishing touches on it. [Dre] was like, “Yo, I’m making this date.” I said, “You still got six more [songs] to go!” He goes, “I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna make it.” Everyone’s always like, “Oh, it’s coming out” and it doesn’t.
The day that I was leaving from finishing my song, all of a sudden he had a chart on a dry-erase board. He had the sequence — he was moving fast, like “I’m gonna make this date.” Very determined. He said once the movie got to a certain point, he started watching it and was like, “You know what — I’m doing an album right now.” That’s what inspired him to do it.
While DJ Premier has known Dr. Dre since the late ’80s, the two legends of their respective coasts had never made music together, but that just changed with the release of Dre’s Compton album, the first project from the gangster rapper turned production god turned headphone mogul in 16 years.
It all started about a year ago when Dre called Premo, asking him if he had any beats for a new project. At the time Premier didn’t know anything about this mystery project except that Dre assured him that Detox had been scrapped, but when the good doctor calls, you answer. So Premier sent him a folder of five beats and kept his fingers crossed. It was just hours later though when he heard back.
“I was headed to Korea, the plane was literally lifting off, and my phone goes off,” DJ Premier told me when I reached him by phone. “And he [Dre] goes, ‘Yo, this is amazing, this is dope.’ I thought wow, what timing, right on liftoff. At least I got that text to let me know I was on the right track.”
Premier hoped for the best and the two stayed in touch, but it became clear that Dr. Dre was so busy working on the N.W.A. movie it would be a while before anything firm crystallized. Fate, however, would continue to bring Premier into Dr. Dre’s mysterious project. Premier got connected with Anderson .Paak during work on a collaborative project with Russian producer BMB Spacekid that would result in “Til Its Done.” The trio parted ways, but shortly after they finished Premier got another call from Paak, who had continued to write to another beat they had created.
“The Freddie Gray murder by the police happened, the riots in Baltimore jumped off, so Anderson hit me up and said he was really angry about what had happened, that he had made a song about it,” recounted Premier. “At the time it was called ‘FSU’, which means Fucking Shit Up, talking about how they treats us like animals, the only time they turn the cameras on is when we’re fucking shit up.”
They planned on releasing the song as a loose single to show their support for Baltimore, but at the same time Anderson .Paak was fortioutusly meeting with Dre and told Dre that he and Premier had just finished working together. “Paak played it for him and Dre said, ‘This totally fits this soundtrack I decided to do for the movie’ – music inspired by the film, it’s not in the movie. Dre wanted to rap on it, so since the song was already finished we changed the arrangement, and he had me come out to L.A. to work on it,” said Premier.
And just like that, after decades of waiting for the hip-hop planets to align, DJ Premier was in Dr. Dre’s home studio making music, working to seamlessly blend Premo’s classic east coast sound with Dre’s boming west coast DNA. “We started off by getting on the mic, talking shit,” said Premier. “And then I started scratching, cutting in other cuts: Eminem, Ed O.G., Torae, Rhettmatic was there and gave me a line to scratch and close it out. And it was real cool, making magic happen. But I kept quiet until now.”
A lot of my friends have helped worked & contributed on this album & I'm very excited for them because they all worked hard. I've been very blessed to have meet so many good & talented people in this crazy music business, including my heroes. Then something happened. 2 weeks ago, I finally get to meet the man himself. At the studio. It's crazy because I have a lot of friends that worked with the Doctor but I've never met in person. It was surreal. It was really cool to talk to him about DJing & music. It was very kind of him to let me listen to some of the final versions of this upcoming album. And what was even very crazy, is that I got to witness the official producer collabo between the Good Doctor & @djpremier for a song that features the talented @anderson_.paak. Now this is where the Hip Hop Geek in me gets giddy. Not that it's an important factor to the song, but I was able to help Preemo find some phrases to a scratch hook he was getting ready to lay down. Look at my recent old IG pic with me, Preemo & @xzibit to give you an idea. I wish I could've gotten a picture with the Good Doctor but I didn't want to interrupt their workflow & overstep my welcome. Even if I never get to meet him again or ever work with him at all, I'm good because I was able to witness history in person & was able to check off a Hip Hop bucket list. And oh yeah, the album is bananas! Thank you to @therealphd @focus3dotz @xzibit for the opportunity as well as congratulations to them & @djkhalil @fredwreckla @therealcold187um @laylawmusic @ianschwartzman & many others. And thank you to the man himself @drdre. Whether people realize it or not, you're about to smack people over their heads. They're might be naysayers but I think you really don't care because you're having so much fun. Congratulations & welcome back. #Compton #August7th #Aftermath #StraightOuttaCompton #NWA #WestCoast #HipHop
Tracklist from the album “Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre”:
01. Intro f. Dr. Dre
02. Talk About It f. King Mez & Justus
03. Genocide f. Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius & Candice Pillay
04. It’s All On Me f. Justus & BJ the Chicago Kid
05. All In a Day’s Work f. Anderson Paak & Marsha Ambrosius
06. Darkside/Gone f. King Mez, Marsha Ambrosius & Kendrick Lamar
07. Loose Cannons f. Xzibit & COLD 187um
08. Issues f. Ice Cube & Anderson Paak
09. Deep Water f. Kendrick Lamar & Justus
10. One Shot One Kill f. Snoop Dogg & Jon Connor
11. Just Another Day f. Asia Bryant & The Game
12. For the Love of Money f. Jill Scott & Jon Connor
13. Satisfiction f. Snoop Dogg, Marsha Ambrosius & King Mez
14. Animals f. Anderson Paak
15. Medicine Man f. Eminem, Candice Pillay & Anderson Paak
16. Talking To My Diary f. Dr. Dre
Pre-orders are available on iTunes!
Many children are obsessed with video game franchise Angry Birds, but Sidney Max, son of Black Sheep’s Andres “Dres” Titus, took his infatuation to a whole new level. After falling in love with the franchise, Max began creating rhymes about the game and showcasing them to his father in his spare time. Dres filmed a video of his son performing an Angry Birds tribute, which garnered Max a social media following. Dres then called up his buddy DJ Premier to discuss the possibility of him producing the track. Premier said yes. The trio then teamed up with a contact at Rovio, the mastermind behind the famous game, and Angry Birds signed on to go hip-hop.
On July 1, Angry Birds took over the streets of New York to film a music video for Max’s track “Here Come The Birds.” “It’s a really cool track,” says producer DJ Premier of the track that made him want to work with Max. “He has the cutest little voice. It’s pre-puberty!” The video features Angry Birds graffiti, green screen animations, as well as DJ Premier, Max, and his Dres. “Sidney even gets to pull out a bow and arrow and yell ‘the birds are coming’ and shoot the pigs and things,” explains Premier. “It really was a fun shoot!”
Angry Birds will drop the video on Aug. 17, which will kick off an official weeklong hip-hop-themed tournament on Angry Birds Friends. “You can play this on Facebook or on the mobile game and the beauty of it is that you are competing against your friends,” says Rovio Entertainment’s marketing director, Kai Torstila. This particular tournament will center upon the culture of old school hip-hop. “It will have special graphics that are inspired by Max, Dres and Premier’s contribution to the genre,” Torstila adds. “We wanted to do little nods towards Angry Birds in a visual style and wanted to achieve something that is stylistic, a little bit retro, and pays homage to the hip-hop culture, but with a lot of modern twists to it.”
Once the video is released, it will provide gamers with instructions on how to enroll in the tournament. Rovio will also be providing links where people can download the exclusive track. “It’s not the first time that we’ve dabbled in music,” says Torstila. “But this is certainly the first time we’ve done a custom collaboration at this level and a video to kick off a social gaming campaign,” he adds. Going forward, Rovio says they absolutely intend to keep working with high profile artists and fusing their take on the Angry Birds world into upcoming projects.
Meanwhile, Premier has found a whole new area calling. “Now the video has taken place, we are talking about possibly doing a whole soundtrack with kids and I’ll produce it. That hasn’t materialized yet but it would be dope if it does,” he tells Billboard. The famed DJ/producer also revealed that the game has grown on him quite a bit since becoming involved with the campaign. “I was in the studio with my artist Khaleel and his son’s mother when [she] grabbed my phone and put the game on it.” And after months of sneaking in gaming sessions in between recording time, Premier is an Angry Birds mastermind at this point. “It took a minute but I got it down. I can get to all the high levels now,” he says with a laugh.
One of the two custom tracks by DJ Premier for the NBA 2K16 soundtrack
Related: NBA 2K16 Soundtrack Revealed
2K has officially revealed the tracklist for the NBA 2K16 soundtrack, the most expansive musical collection in NBA 2K franchise history. Curated by DJ Mustard, DJ Khaled and DJ Premier, the soundtrack features more than 50 tracks available in six in-game playlists. NBA 2K16’s partnership with the 3 DJ’s brings with it two custom tracks from each producer, for a total of six new tracks produced specifically for this year’s game.
You can listen to it on Spotify, right here.
DJ Premier Playlist:
Custom Track: Papoose Prod. By DJ Premier, “Hold the City Down”
Gang Starr (feat. NYGz, H. Stax), “Same Team, No Games”
Nas, “Made You Look”
Living Colour, “Cult of Personality”
Jeru The Damaja, “You Can’t Stop The Prophet”
Custom Track (Instrumental): DJ Premier, “Bum Bum Bum”
Ramones, “Blitzrieg Bop”
DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles, “More Levels”
PRhyme, “U Looz”
DJ Khaled Playlist:
Custom Track: DJ Khaled (feat. Ace Hood, Vado, Kent Jones), “365”
DJ Khaled (feat. Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Baby, Lil’ Wayne), “We Takin’ Over”
Ace Hood, “Hustle Hard”
Rick Ross (feat. T Pain), “The Boss”
Jay Z, “Where I’m From”
Custom Track (Instrumental): DJ Khaled, “Black Rims”
Wiz Khalifa, “We Dem Boyz”
Ace Hood (feat. Future & Rick Ross), “Bugatti”
DJ Khaled (feat. T-Pain, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross), “All I Do Is Win”
DJ Mustard Playlist
Custom Track: DJ Mustard (feat. RJ), “You Don’t Want It”
J Cole, “Rise and Shine”
Fergie, “L.A. Love (la la)”
Imagine Dragons, “I’m So Sorry”
Custom Track (Instrumental): DJ Mustard, “Ball at Night”
MGK, “Till I Die” (Cavs Version)
Drake, “0 To 100”
Iamsu!, “I Love My Squad”
Santigold, “Disparate Youth”
2K Classics Mixtape:
Gnarls Barkley, “Going On”
Friendly Fires, “Skeleton Boy”
LCD Soundsystem, “Time to Get Away”
Santigold (feat. Spank Rock), “Shove It”
OneRepublic, “Everyone Loves Me”
RJD2, “Clean Living”
ZION I, “Ride”
The Flaming Lips, “The W.A.N.D. (The Will Always Negates Defeat)”
Hogni, “Bow Down (To No Man)”
The Chicharones, “Little By Little”
Around The World:
Rael, “Vejo Depois”
Calvin Harris (feat. John Newman), “Blame”
Zedd (feat. Selena Gomez), “I Want You To Know”
Emicida & FeFe, “Bonjour”
Ana Tijoux, “Vengo”
Major Lazer (feat. MO & DJ Snake), “Lean On”
Club Dogo (feat. Arisa), “Fragili”
AM444, “Lies” (Jay. Soul Truth Remix)
Bag Raiders, “Shooting Stars”
Dynamic Duo & DJ Premier, “Aeao”