What can be said about DJ Premier that hasn’t already been put to print? His career is thriving in its fourth decade when many artists have a difficult time seeing another summer as fads and trends ebb and flow. Premier is not trendy; he sets trends. His work ethic, music catalog, and adherence to time-honored principles rooted in the foundation of Hip Hop invite and entice fans spanning different generations. Because there is genuineness to the man behind the beats, he possesses the ability to make those around him better –better lyricists, better producers, and better individuals. The “best of the best” has always flocked to Primo and today seems to be no exception. With the rise of talented MCs like Joey Bada$$, as but one example, DJ Premier is providing soundscapes for a new generation of artists.
In the article that follows, read how he initially teamed up with Joey and would relish the opportunity to hit the studio with Drake and 2 Chainz. Also, Premier explains how Game’s “Heaven For A Gangsta” came about and that it was a must that the streets hear it despite it not making the album’s deadline.
What’s the latest on your album and what should your fans look forward to you from you in 2013?
I have my label Year Round Records and I also have my production company Works Of Mart Inc. Me and Bumpy Knuckles dropped an LP back in March 27, 2012 called :Kolexxxion” and we toured all over Europe in September and October of that year. We will do domestic shows to support it soon. I also am releasing for the first time consistently albums and EP’s from artists such as MC Eiht whose EP “Keep it Hood” was just released on January 4, 2013. We will share his label Blue Stamp Music and my company Works of Mart and release the full length LP “Which Way Iz West”. Also I have a group out of the Gang Starr Foundation from the Bronx and uptown Manhattan called NYGz, and they will drop before summer. I have an artist from Houston, Texas named Khaleel, he will be dropping an EP in a few weeks and then an LP this summer called “Already.” Then there’s D.I.T.C Inc. with Showbiz producing most of the project to showcase the younger generation of spitters that run circles around these popular radio rappers musically and lyrically. Then I am working with Lady of Rage, Joey Bada$$, Dynasty, Immortal Technique, Kool Sphere of Verbal Threat, E. Hart, Bumpy Knuckles and O.C.LP, and the highly anticipated Peter Rock vs. Premier LP. I stays busy.
If there was a biopic made about your life, what actor would play you, who would direct it and who would some of the cast of characters in the film be?
To play me would be either my twin brother Talib Kweli, Martin Lawrence, that’s off the top of the head. I would get John Singleton or F. Gary Gray to direct it. The rest of the characters would be my true friends old and young. They are the most bugged out group of people that I consider loved ones. I don’t want a biopic done on me though. I’m happy that people recognize my gift and I just will keep giving them music and I am fine with just that.
Guru had many timeless lyrics, but if you had to choose just one of verses, what would your favorite Guru verse of all time be?
I could never pick just one great Guru verse. He has way too many great ones. If you asked me for a few answers to that question, then I could answer it, but since you didn’t ask……
Talk about the love you have for hip hop culture and music in general?
What more is there to say? I’m 46, and I was here way before the culture started, so I wholeheartedly understand the mechanics of Hip Hop from every element from Breaking, DJ-ing, MC-ing, Beatboxing, Graffiti and all of the music that we had before Hip Hop existed.
When are you at your creative best and what keeps you driven?
I am at my creative best when I hear dope shit and when I hear wack shit. I’m inspired either way to make a banger.
I’m guessing it’s very important for you to “back-up” all your music and sound files. When was the last time your computer crashed on you where you lost music?
It is a MUST to back up everything and I definitely do that. I recently was in Hawaii for a wedding and I was in my hotel room on my day off re-dumping files to my new laptop it took a long time and I still am not done updating it, but at least I have ALL of my files.
You list scoring a film as something you want to accomplish. How has reaching that goal been coming along?
I dream of getting that opportunity and I am still waiting for it, but in the meantime I have plenty of work to do.
You’ve said that you would have no problem working on a a Miley Cyrus or Justin Beiber record, would you ever do an electronica record? If so, what would it sound like, what sounds would you incorporate and would it have a hip hop feel since that’s the culture you came from?
If I did an electronic record, it would have the elements of what’s popular now but it would still be unique where it would have no problem standing out amongst the current popular ones that bang in the clubs. I always want to be unique and different with my work. I might just do that style of music and release it under an alias.
Back in the day, hip hop was more rooted in story telling, the struggle and the streets, where emcees seem to put time and emphasis on the lyrics as well as the message. Whereas some may say it isn’t so much the case today. Is that the fault of the artists of today or just a result of the generation they came from?
It is not the artists fault. The industry and radio have made rap music very corporate and watered down.
You seem to “give back” hip hop a great deal and “naturally” educate the younger generations, as an ambassador even a professor in some cases, if you will, why is it important for you to give back and teach?
It is important to give back because I love the Hip Hop culture. I DJ, produce and I’m a recording artist because those are the jobs within the culture that I am qualified to do at a high level. Correctly. I respect the founding fathers and sisters of this culture and refuse to misrepresent it in a bad way. I forever live Hip Hop.
Interview done by Jan Braula for The Message Magazine:
The legend himself talks in an exclusive interview about one of his favorite producers: Brenk from Kaisermühlen, Vienna and their collaboration for the new MC Eiht album „Which way iz West” . Furthermore he has some good news about the release of the LP.
TM: Have you finally met Brenk personally?
DJ Premier: Yes, finally! I´m very happy about it, cause I tried to meet him already a while ago. We were in Cologne and he came by. He is a real cool dude, very humble kid. I love his beats. I think he has a real dope and original style and we are now working on the last few details for the MC Eiht Album.
When did you get into contact with MC Eiht and Brenk for the first time?
With MC Eiht back in 89 when we had our first westcoast performance with Gang Starr…R i p Guru. With Brenk we had the first contact probably early this year.,but I met Eiht already before that after years. He told me that he is working on some new material and that he has about 50 songs. I wanted to check it out and he handed over a CD. I liked it, it was a real new sound.so I asked: „Who is this producer?“ He just answered: „Brenk Sinatra“. There were quite a lot of shoutouts for him on the tracks, so i already knew the name and I asked if this is a dude from the westcoast and he said: „No a guy from Europe…a white boy from Austria“. – „Fo Real?!“ Eiht explained that he has a lot of lyrics and beats, but he by himself is not good in mixin. So he gave me everything and let me play around with it. I only did three of the beats and of course some scratches. I also want just one MC Eiht Single with my beat to make sure that people know that I´m in there. But the rest of the beats are Brenk´s. He is the main and I´m the executive producer.
Why does it take so long to release the album?
We had some label problems. We wanted to finish it before the KoleXXXion Tour with Bumpy Knuckles. But meanwhile, Brenk and MC Eiht, kept on doin a bunch of new stuff, that sounded better than the sound they already sent me, so we had to rework the details. I said: why we are not doin an EP, pick out seven songs and release that now. And then put the album together with the newer stuff.
When will you release the EP?
I´m workin on that right now at the hotel. I want to finish it at least in the next two weeks and upload it digitally. Just to start and drop the album out in January or February.
Brenk said in an interview that MC Eiht has about sixty of his beats. How do you select the beats for the album?
We haven´t communicated about my selection. I´m an underground DJ, and as an underground DJ at the end of the day, if he has the opinion that there are beats he would rather like to hear on the album, I´m fine with that. It´s just about shaping an album, that´s what I do. You know the Group Home Album the first one I did that, Jeru´s first two albums, all of the Gang Starr Albums, I did shape. I have picked the songs, I have picked the sequences, you know even the spaces between the next songs, I do all that and that´s all a DJ mentality. Eiht is sending me all of these tons of songs and I say: that one´s cool, but I don´t really like the rhyme, or I think the beat is dope but the rhyme could be better, you know…certain things…and sometimes it´s like: yow I like both parts!
„Where u goin 2“…I love that beat. I don´t know which equipment or which sample Brenk used. But I know that he works also with some equipment from back in the days. That shows that it doesn´t matter which equipment you use. A lot of people always ask: what equipment are you using? But it doesn´t do anything without making you doin it. It´s just a machine and we turn and manipulate it to something else.
Compared to other projects: how important is the „Which way iz West“ album for you?
Very important, so I´m taking my time. I don´t want to throw something out there, just because it´s MC Eiht. It still has to be so tight as people expect it from him. He has a fanbase with a high expectatin level. But with us working together it has to be the right choice.
Can we expect more collaborations from you and Brenk?
I would love to get him on board with some other artists. I would really love that. You know: get him with Game, get him with Nas…I can make that connection.
Interview: Jan Braula
Picture: Lukas Gansterer
Keith Edward Elam was known to the world as Guru – Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal. He made his name as one half of the legendary hip-hop duo Gang Starr and went on to reinvent the genre by fusing jazz with hip-hop in his widely acclaimed Jazzmatazz project.
But this dazzling musical success is just part of his story…a story that ended in tragedy and controversy.
In a unique programme, BBC Radio 1Xtra exclusively hears from Guru’s family, his Gang Starr partner DJ Premier, the stars who worked with him, and Solar, his last business partner, who would be at the centre of the claims and counter-claims surrounding the rapper’s untimely death.
The story starts in Boston and Guru’s father, brother and sister help tell of his growing up there as the son of a judge. Original Gang Starr member Big Shug explains how he taught this well-educated, middle-class kid to rap and of Guru’s move down the coast to the birthplace of hip-hop, New York.
It was in New York that Guru would join forces with DJ Premier to form the now celebrated final line up of Gang Starr. Side-by-side for almost 15 years and six albums, together they pioneered jazz sampling hip-hop, working with Jeru the Damaja, Snoop Dogg, Nice’n'Smooth, Jadakiss, MOP, Big L and Inspectah Deck of Wu Tang. Later Guru’s solo project, the Jazzmatazz series, brought together jazz musicians and rappers including Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, Kool Keith, Angie Stone and Slum Village.
DJ Premier, rapper Common and Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s Trevor Nelson will all talk about working with Guru, giving listeners an insight into his rhymes, the music, the man and his character. Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Semtex and Benji B will study Guru’s lyrics, style and delivery, looking back at when they first encountered Gang Starr, the group’s early impact on hip-hop, and how Guru’s Jazzmatazz series would cement his place as a musical innovator.
It was while moving back and forth between Gang Starr and Jazzmatazz projects that Guru would first meet the producer Solar. Although Gang Starr never officially split, Guru announced his next musical project would see him work with Solar and they went on set up their own label. It is from this point that The Story of Guru becomes disputed.
In this programme we’ll explore how DJ Premier and members of his family began to feel distanced from Guru, struggling to maintain communication with him. Even so, Guru was busy with Solar, making music and playing live. But when Guru was diagnosed with cancer, the real problems started.
While Guru lay in hospital his family claimed that Solar banned them and long-term friend DJ Premier from visiting him. Guru’s nephew posted a very public video on YouTube entitled “Guru. The True Story behind hospital and coma” in which he asked people to help him and his family gain access to his uncle, referring to Solar as “manipulative.” However, Solar says he was doing what Guru told him to and so it was Guru who chose who he wanted to visit him.
The situation peaked when Guru died on 19th April, 2010. Solar released a statement, which he says was written by Guru himself, which shocked family, friends and fans alike. Not only did it ask Solar’s family to look after Guru’s son, but it also requested his “ex-DJ” Premier to dissociate himself from Guru’s name. Many believe this letter to have been penned by Solar himself, it caused outrage among many who knew Guru, and in this programme we’ll hear both sides of the story.
Irrespective of the drama, or rights and wrongs of what happened in those final days, no one can dispute that Guru was an incredible artist. He left fans with ten albums to enjoy, including massive hits like ‘Full Clip’, ‘Just To Get A Rep’, ‘Moment of Truth’ and more.
This programme will celebrate the music Guru left behind and try to solve some of the mystery surrounding his untimely death.