In Part 1 Premo gave insight on his wish list of collaborations, critiquing the critics and an unreleased Jay-Z record. For the second half of TWV’s exclusive sit down with DJ Premier, we get the goods on the producer working with Eminem, Gza, Jay-Z‘s Black Album being an entire Premo production and continuing Gang Starr‘s legacy.
TWV: How do you feel about Hip Hop now as opposed to it, say, fifteen years ago?
DJ Premier: I miss all the styles that made me great and made me want to do it. There are a lot of old school artists that are constantly complaining and are mad. But what are you doing to make hot shit? We need y’all to make hot shit too, and the stuff y’all make is corny. I can’t do everybody’s record at one time, even though I want to…I’d love to do a record with Cold Crush or the Fantastic 5 to this day, and make it still classic with the break style. I would know how to orchestrate it because I understand and respect what they did. I know their rhymes and what type of breaks they use, just as a fan and a consumer and someone who respects those guys. Those projects demand your undivided attention. All projects do, but to do an album with say, Slick Rick or Cold Crush? You gotta set everything aside.
I’ll give you a funny story. Jay-Z reached out to me when he was going to do The Black Album — this was years before he put it out because he postponed it, ended up working on other stuff, and then he came out with the album and decided to retire. Way prior to that he called me and said he was going to do an album and that he wanted me to do the whole thing. But he said, “I know how busy you are, Premo, but I want you to not have anything to do with anybody for the whole time we make this album. I need like a two week window, and we just do it.” And I understood where he was coming from, because he knows it had to be that deep of a situation to get it to be right and to call it The Black Album. Prince already made The Black Album. If you’re going to make one, it better be top notch. There’s a lot that goes along with that. So to approach me about that? That’s the same way I look at the Cold Crush, Fantastic, Kool Moe D, all that. LL and I have tried two or three times to work on stuff. He’s somebody you gotta sit down with and really focus on because he deserves that type of attention. And I’m proud to give him that type of attention. I wouldn’t want to do a quick little rush job. And then you have ones like Termanology that can do a one night thing because they’re the new hungry artists that are ready to just write on the spot and get it over with. You know Jay always just writes on the spot off his head, and then he leaves the work up to me. A project like that is just that delicate. I treat my stuff based on the level of what it’s going to take to really make a masterpiece. I’m proud of all my work, but there are certain artists that just deserve a whole different special attention.
TWV: Speaking of people you’ve been working with, there are a couple rumored collaborations I’ve heard about. For instance Eminem…
DJ Premier: Me and Eminem spoke about a year ago when he did the ciphers with BET and we finally got to kick it face to face. We had a good conversation. There’s a uniqueness about certain artists, so with him? I have to put certain things aside to work with him, and I gotta be realistic with what my schedule already allows me to have going on. I knew if I was going to work on Eminem tracks, I can’t be working on anything else. Strictly Eminem. That’s how much I want to give him the illest, what-the-fuck-is-that type shit, where everybody is like “yo, did you hear the Eminem and Premier shit?!” I know it will be great. But he’s still alive, I’m still alive, and hopefully I will keep breathing, and in that time frame we’ll get around to that.
TWV: You keep saying that you need to give your undivided attention to things, and that’s understandable since you have your hand in a lot of projects right now…Teflon, Freddie Foxxx?
DJ Premier: Well with Freddie Foxxx, he’s always taken my beats that people won’t use or turn down. Our collaboration is a collection of all the stuff we’ve worked on that have never seen the light of day. Some have been on his albums before, then we have seven new songs that will be on there. It’s a compilation, a collection of stuff that I’ve made specifically for him and things that he took that had been turned down by others.
Tef had a deal with Def Jam a few years back, then when the regime changed from Lyor [Cohen] to Kevin [Liles] to Jay, Jay gave me a new situation. I never did take the situation but Jay allowed me to take my music and do something else with it elsewhere, and I thank him so much for that. I ended up keeping it under wraps until I figured out what to do with it. Tef is a personal trainer now. If you ever need to get in shape he’s the man. He’s training Wendy Williams, getting her in shape now. He will knock you out, but he’s so into health and people getting their bodies and minds right. I’m so proud of him. That album sounds so much like what’s needed now, and I updated it. I got Joell Ortiz and a lot of new artists on it now. I produced majority of the album. He’s really into the personal training now, so I was like “I’ll put this out myself and really make it crack.” MOP is on it. They gave me a real good banger. Papoose, Saigon…Papoose gave us one of the dopest verses I’ve ever heard. He laced it on a song with him, Saigon, and Tef.
TWV: What about Pete Rock and KRS?
DJ Premier: KRS is on tour in Europe so when he gets back we’ll pick up where we left off. We did two songs already, so that album is going to be easy to do because I’m already used to how he works. That’s going to be the quickest album I do. He’s just so automatic. Pete vs. Premier we started already. We’re not supposed to tell each other who we’re working with, we’re supposed to just do it and surprise each other. He left one of the sessions in my studio and I got to hear it and I was like “oh my God, ok, that’s how you coming?” It’s a battle. But the artists I got so far? Oh man, I can’t even say the names. Only one I’ve already given up is the Gza. We gonna go in. We haven’t done the song yet, but Gza is such a lyricist. We’re only doing six songs each, so I got four, and have to come up with two more. I don’t know who to get. Everyone is throwing stuff at me. Whoever it is, it’s going to turn out to be bangin’ regardless.
TWV: Is Get Used to Us still looking at a December 7th release?
DJ Premier: Absolutely. I’m very excited about the album. I’m definitely going to make sure it delivers. There’s nothing lightweight on it, it’s just nonstop bang, bang, bang.
TWV: As a child, did you always see yourself doing music?
DJ Premier: Nah, not until junior high school. I was just a regular guy doing all the same old shit kids do growing up. I played baseball and football when I was young. We did the Cowboys and Indians, Batman and Robin, Red Light/Green Light…all that stuff. Where I lived we used to have this open field where these ponds people would drown in used to be. A friend of mine died trying to play a game in one of those ponds. He lied and said he could swim and he couldn’t, and we didn’t know that. He jumped in there and we had already gone home. Someone had told us he was out there, so we went out to dive in and help him. When I was in the 8th grade I took a class with my sister on how to save lives; I have certifications in lifeguarding. We went down there to go get him, but those type of ponds have a whirlpool that can suck you under, and you can drown from the current. We kept trying up until the wee hours of the night, and he ended up getting caught on some things underwater, so they had to call in the divers with the tanks to go look for him. I’ll never forget when they were like “I think I found something.” They dove one more time, and when they raised him up it was like when Jesus was born and they held the baby up before putting him up in the manger and all that. That’s exactly how they pulled him out of this pond. Mad mud and muck and stuff. I still remember how he looked. That was my first time seeing a dead body, at eleven years old. Bugged out. It just put a whole different perspective on valuing life, too.
TWV: Do you consider yourself successful? Are you satisfied, and what goals do you still have for yourself?
DJ Premier: To climb a new mountain. I’m more than halfway there but I’d like to be like Kevin Dillon on Entourage yelling “Victory!” I will be doing that soon. And I might make a song called “Victory” the day that I get there. Maybe getting into film and movies down the line. And continuing the Gang Starr legacy, too. I plan on doing a few Gang Starr projects that I’ll be in charge of along with [Guru’s] son and family, and we’ll do it right and make sure that we put all of our history out there. Guru always wanted a DVD. That was one of his biggest complaints in the last couple years of our career. When we came out with our last two albums he said, “Man, everybody got DVD’s, but we don’t.” So that’s when we started getting videographers to travel with us and collect footage. I had already been doing that for a while, really since day one. I have tapes from ’89 of us, of our Daily Operation tour — there’s just so much footage. We’ll probably do volumes of Gang Starr DVD’s, because we have that much stuff. It will be coming soon.
TWV: Is there still unreleased Gang Starr music?
DJ Premier: Not really. We did a few things that we didn’t finish that I have a few vocals on, but I have been getting calls from outside people saying they have vocals and they don’t even want money but would be proud to let me have it and to let me do what I need to do. So I’m working on communicating with that. They haven’t sent it to me yet, but if they do arrive and they’re official vocals that I can mess with? Then of course I’m going to make ‘em hot, that’s a no brainer. I do have one or two vocals that we didn’t finish that he had laid down, and I’ll see what I can do with them. There will be stuff down the line.
TWV: What do you listen to in your spare time?
DJ Premier: Rock. New Age. AC/DC, U2, The Cure, Psychedelic Furs. I like Iron Maiden, Pantera, classic Van Halen, Zeppelin. I listen to that a lot, more than Hip Hop, because Hip Hop is automatic. It’s like speaking Spanish. Like I can speak English one day and Spanish on another day. Hip Hop is my Spanish. Not everyone understands the language, but I do.
TWV: Where do you turn for inspiration?
DJ Premier: Anything. My parents, who are my biggest inspiration. And my oldest sister. I used to follow everything she did. She was very popular in school, very hip, she was always telling us what the new slang and dances were. To this day we’re really close. Honestly, I really have always been into watching people do interviews, on TV and in magazines, to see how they answer questions. I know Christina Aguilera called me the “tabloid whore.” I study it all. KRS said it on “BDP-Ism”, “I like to study, I like money, I like eating wheat bread with honey.” I love watching interviews. I don’t care if it’s an actor, a producer, I just love to see what makes other people tick.