Once upon a time, before snare drums of Miami and the whiny synth of G-Funk, the gritty sound of the boom bap was the preeminent noise associated with Hip-Hop. The boom bap of the drum evoked video images of project hallways, dirty sidewalks, the crowded storefront boedga and the concrete jungle. At the heart of that grim reality music was DJ Premier, transplanted Texan with the turntables that changed the way people outside of New York viewed the city. His Gangstarr legacy alone is enough for the Hall of Fame. Add his work with Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas, and his resurrection of KRS-ONE and it doesn’t matter who the best MC is, they all came through his door.
Now after the tragic death of Guru, work with Christina Aguilera, coming work with Chaka Kahn and other side projects, you would think the boom bap would be silenced. But Primo is perhaps its greatest apostle, and he stands ready to spread the gospel with his new label Year Round Records and new artists like Nick Javas. Blessed are those who hear the scratch of DJ Premier, for theirs is the kingdom of Hip-Hop. Here is Primo 1:1.
Planet Ill: Obviously you have an astounding legacy when it comes to Hip-Hop. I guess they can call you the patron saint of the boom bap. How do you get people to separate your legacy and your history from what you’re trying to accomplish now?
DJ Premier: My main focus now is to continue doing what I’ve already been doing which is to put great music out. When it comes to what I’m doing now, I look at it as a new chapter; a new beginning, like Guru would actually say. I’m speaking on Guru because I thought there would be a time when we would reunite and do a 7th album which I planned to do after a few years of taking a break. And now that I know that there’s no way that it’s gonna happen, I have to accept the fact that he’s gone for real.
Like we have future projects, like I’m gonna do a Gangstarr Foundation album where we have all new material, we have other vocals that haven’t been released that I put new stuff to that he spit to where he sounds like traditional Guru and make it new, but I have to accept moving on. I’ve lost lives in the past and I’ve moved on. Headquaters was an influence on naming the studio Headquarters.
This is the legendary D&D[Studios]. My radio show that I do every Friday on Sirius/XM satellite radio is the future. It’s on Friday nights, ten to midnight. It’s called “Live From Headquarters,” dedicated to him. We take that energy and keep pushing forward and make things better and better like I always have strived to do as a DJ, artist, producer and now a label owner.
The compilation album is just a stalling album to stall while I get their [his artists] albums ready to come out for 2011. I really intended for their albums to be ready this year, really the year before, we planned in ’09 having these albums ready. Nick Javas has been touring with me the last two years straight. Blaq Poet did the same thing
Planet Ill: That’s [MC] Poet from back in the day?
DJ Premier: Yeah, that battled KRS-ONE and made big history. He was the first in history every to be bold enough to even stand up to Boogie Down Productions and then diss them hard body even knowing there was gonna be repercussions and he still stood his ground. He spoke for The Bridge and that’s what made me discover him, back in ’86 when he did “Beat You Down.”
Planet Ill: You had a pretty extensive run with KRS as well. Was there any leftover feelings from that old battle?
DJ Premier: Yeah, Poet still had feelings with him, so did Just Ice had funny feeligns with Poet. I actually told Just Ice that I was messing with Poet and he was like, “As long as he don’t mention that we got no problems.” I was like, “Come on man, we grown now. At the time he was just standing up for ya’ll dissing him, You know what I’m saying?” Not him but dissing The Bridge.
I’ll be short with it, Poet was coming to a Rock Steady event and I said, “Yo, Just Ice is coming, so come up there.” And boom, when it happened, Poet saw Just and went right to him and said, “Yo, I’m Poet, remember me?” And He [Just Ice] was like “Premier told me he was gonna be working with you!” Now they just buddies.
And then, KRS reached out to me when he did the Marley Marl album, when they did Hip-Hop Lives, and he said, “Yo man, I want Poet on a record with me.” And I asked Poet and he was a little resistant at first, he was like this is deeper; it cuts a little deeper. You know they were really going at it; they were going back and forth with it. Scott La Rock was dissing him, like “Poet, you a crack head,” back when they were running things. All those excerpts where he was like dissing him on the radio.
I told him [Poet], I said, “Yo, this is a good look.” KRS came over here and they went out, just the two of them, and after that KRS was like. “Yo I want you to perform with me tonight at Irving Plaza.” And brought Poet on stage. And I thought that was dope.
Planet Ill: What happens behind the scenes that makes it jump from just the music to taking things real personal?
DJ Premier: Part of it’s ignorance because your honor, your manhood’s being tested and then Hip-Hop comes from a street environment so the mentality is let’s scrap let’s fight. I’m from Texas and we’re raised on fighting with our hands because everybody carries guns. Our laws, we can carry a gun in the glove compartment and I’m not used to all these laws when I moved to New York. Like damn I can’t carry a gun and keep it in my glove box? What if I’m in danger or whatever? Same thing with a rifle, as long as it’s visible in your window, you can carry a rifle. So we all have a different understanding with guns where I’m from where everybody’s raised to fight. And back in our day, like they say you live to another day. Your bruises will heal and you win some, you lose some.
On the mentality of Hip-Hop, I mean look how far, even with Boogie Down Productions. It got a little violent when they were going at it. Just Ice coming to The Bridge with a shottie looking for cats over a rap! Me and Javas was talking bout this the other day. A couple years ago, if you never been in a fight at all, and youre’ doing rap music, you’re gonna get tested on some type of level where you might have to fight some body. But he’s been in fights way before he was rapping.
Nick Javas: Unfortunately.
Dj Premier: He played football, he’s a sports guy, on top of that he’s got a temper. He’s not a punk. Even if he was, that doesn’t have anything to do with what I respect about him, musically and artist-wise, but I’m glad he’s not a punk he can stand up for himself if somebody tests him, I mean I’ve witnessed it firsthand that he’s ready to go, and other people that he’s grown up with have said the same thing, “Javas got a temper and he’s ready to take it there.”
And we’re all like that. I’m definitely not tough; I’m definitely not hard or rugged like that. I love hardcore music, I’m very polite; I’m very much a gentleman but I’ll fight anybody. And usually the bigger people is who I’d like to fight. They usually, they size be an intimidation factor. The little ones be who I look out for, cause they usually got a weapon on them; they’ll jig you with a knife or something like that. You don’t mess with the short people unless they start something.
Nick Javas: You can’t lift weights with your face.
Planet Ill: In your [Nick Javas’] song, “Not A Game,” you mention the aspect of Hip-Hop being a game, not a sport. Do you think that the fact that people call it the Hip-Hop game allows more people than necessary to think they can “play” it?
Nick Javas: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of reasons people take it lightly. People see a lot of things on TV they see, MTV, MTV Cribs; they just see all the glitz and glamor of it. They only see the upside. They don’t see all the people that failed trying to make it. They don’t see the people who make it, failing, cause they fail! You have to fail to get there.
You know how long these cats were probably stressed out before they got to MTV Cribs, before they got to the Grammys, and to the BET Hip-Hop Awards and any type of these things that you see on TV where it’s all good and it seem s like you could just make it overnight? Yo there’s a lot to go into this and if you don’t love it, and you’re not doing it for the right reason it’s going to be really hard for you to do. Especially when you start hitting the road and doing shows the way we do.
Premier’s been taking me on the road for almost a year now. I was like, “Wow, this ain’t fun and games,” all the time. You’re sleeping like two, three hours a night, doing a show in a different country every day. Shit, there’s sometimes I don’t even know where the hell I am! I was in Switzerland talking something about “GERMANY!!” They were like “Fuck Germany!” Like oh shit. Damn and I cleaned it up real quick, I had the Switzerland wristband under the hoodie so they hadn’t seen that yet, so I thought it was a good time to bring that out.
The point I’m trying to make is, yeah a lot of people take it lightly; they think it’s a quick trip to the bank. Nah, man. It’s really not; you gotta work hard at this. And now I’m just happy that I’m in a position where I know that I deserve everything that’s coming to me because I know how much I sacrificed. I know how hard I worked to get here. And if you would have checked me five, six years ago when I made my first demo, I thought I was going to be a star overnight. I thought I was just going to throw my demo out and somebody would be like, “Yo, this kid is dope let’s sign him, let’s make him a star.” The harsh reality is, this is a business. It doesn’t work like that.