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Another DJ Premier Interview about Making Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt”

Of course my favorite album of Jay-Z! Enjoy this good read:

Ambrosia for Heads: Back in 1994, you produced “Show & Prove” for Big Daddy Kane and it featured Jay Z. Was that the first time you guys met and worked together?

DJ Premier: I knew Jay back in, like, ’88 when [Gang Starr’s] No More Mr. Nice Guy was out. I used to see Jay around because Jaz-O was my labelmate but prior to that, we all had mutual respect for each other. I was living in Brooklyn again ’cause I had moved from East New York up to the Bronx on 183rd St and lived up there for a while. Going to the corner store on Fulton [St]–and it was wild on the block back then, over on 4th and Marcy–that’s how we met Biggie. Biggie used to be there every day so we’d hang out with him. But prior to that, we used to see Jay Z at all the underground clubs with Jaz-O, like the Milky Way and Mars and the Payday, which my former manager Patrick Moxey used to run. You had to be somebody to get in there, even if you were a platinum artist, which was more rare back then. Jay Z used to come in there with that bigass chain on, you know the one he had on in [the video for Jaz-O’s] “Hawaiian Sophie.” So we used to see them coming in and out of parties, just posted up. And then on top of that, I used to see Big L always bring Jay around, too back then. You know, because Big L was more poppin’ or whatever with a major deal prior to Jay gettin’ a deal. When [Gang Starr] got signed to Chrysalis in ’90, we used to have to go to all these distributor meetings with MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, and Jaz-O and Jay would be at all of those. And he’d be with Big Daddy Kane alot. So I just remember seeing Jay around a lot, and he’d always be the highlight, too. Kane would be like “yo, you gotta check out Jay-Z,” and he’d get him to kick a verse for him. And he would always kill it, and then boom, that’d be the end of it. And then next thing you know, I was doing radio at the time at WBLS and I remember Clark Kent brought Jay Z with him to give me a 12-inch record that they had just done called “In My Lifetime.” Jay gave me the record, I listened to it during the commercial break and right after the break as soon as we were back I went right into it and started cuttin’ it up. So from there, Jay gave me a bottle of Cristal and I didn’t know what that was. I was used to Moet. And he was like “nah, this is way bigger than Moet.” He was already into the whole finer things in life type of lifestyle. So he gave me the bottle of Cristal and he gave me a really dope Cuban cigar as a thank you, and next thing you know, everybody started playin’ that record, and this is way prior to Reasonable Doubt.

Ambrosia for Heads: Patrick Moxey ran Payday Records too and signed that “In My Lifetime” record. Were you the one who took it to Patrick?

DJ Premier: Well Patrick heard the record because it started getting a lot of love from the mix show DJs, and next thing you know, Patrick said “I’m gonna sign Jay Z to Payday [Records]” and it was for a single deal, not an album deal. So that’s when Jaz-O did the remix and then they shot a video, and they used their own money. I knew they were having issues getting funding from the label and they were like “how you gonna sign me to a 12-inch deal but you don’t want to pay for the video?” And then from there, things didn’t work out and they left. We used to all be in the same van together doing promo. Me, Big Shug, Jay, Lil’ Dap, Melachi the Nutcracker, and Jeru [the Damaga]. All of us in the van doing promo.

Ambrosia for Heads: You mentioned Jay had Big L behind him, Jaz-O was a supporter, he had signed to Payday, he knew you. Jay had all these people in his corner from ’89 on, yet it took 7 years for Reasonable Doubt to come out. Why do you think it took so long for him to release an album that got traction?

DJ Premier: Well it’s always about making the right record, number one. Number two, Big L at that time really had a lot of status. A lot. And a lot of respect where his cosign mattered. If he cosigned you, you mattered. And Kane as well, but Kane was also transitioning from the earlier days to the Taste of Chocolate days and all that stuff. And then on top of that, Jay Z always had just one guest spot. He didn’t have a body of work of stuff with him just rhyming by himself. “In My Lifetime” and “I Can’t Get With That” was just two records, you know what I’m sayin’? But around there, that’s when he did “Dead Presidents.” I remember when they were cuttin’ that record because he was starting to come to D&D [Studios] to do work and everybody knew D&D was the place to go. And at that time, we were really hot so Jay started coming to D&D. I remember he brought a white Lexus with a television in it and he popped the trunk and showed me the VCR. He was the first person I saw with movies playing on the headrest. So Jay Z used to be up there all the time with them. And that’s how Ski became a major part of the sound and shape of Reasonable Doubt. He was really the go-to person. He was the Premier of their crew.

Ambrosia for Heads: How did you get involved with the project?

More of the interview can be found here.

Related: JAY-Z: “THE PROBLEM WITH PREMO IS HE’S ALWAYS TOO LATE”


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