DJ Premier recently sat down with Pepsi to talk about his three favorite studio sessions in three different cities, read on:
“One of the best sessions was really doing “Unbelievable” with Biggie. I didn’t have time to do a track when he had already [almost] finished Ready To Die. He was like, ‘Yo. I need this last one. I need a B-side for my first single “Juicy.” I wanna play it for you.’ He came and played it for me, he hadn’t shot the video yet. He was like, ‘I need a beat where I gotta still do it for my [people] at home on the block.’
“I was like, ‘Yo, man. I don’t have anything to concentrate on right now and I don’t wanna hold you up.’ He said, ‘Man, I don’t care. I need something.’ So I told him to just come on up and come down.
“He came down and as soon as he walked in I was playing him those little notes. [Starts humming the intro to “Unbelievable” as we know it.] I was doing all of that. He was like, ‘Yo, I like that. Make it dance and not do the same rhythm.’ So I programmed in the beginning with the intro beats. [Starts beat boxing] And then I did the hook. He was like, ‘Yo. That’s it!’
“Now, the “Unbelievable” part with R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Callin’”—I didn’t plan on putting that in there. I didn’t know if it was gonna be in the proper key. So when it came down to him asking me to put that in there, I did it. I did it the next day because I didn’t have the record on me at the time. This day and age I could have went straight to Harlem and did it. But it happened. It sounded exactly like how it was supposed to sound.
“I remember the very next day, me and my label manager was driving home back to Brooklyn. There was a car blasting music. You know how when you drive by somebody and they’re blasting something that sounds like hip-hop, you gotta maybe roll down or crack the window? But you don’t want them to see that you’re trying to hear what they’re playing, but you want to hear what they’re playing? I was hearing “Unbelievable” playing. Biggie was always known for giving his stuff away to his boys because they would be playing it in the hood on the block. At that time, I lived right down the block from him. So when I’m driving and I’m hearing the guy playing it. I was like, ‘This has to be one of Big’s homies.’
“I roll up and I’m like, ‘Yo, where you get that from.’ And he goes, ‘Flex is playing it on the air right now.’ And I was like, ‘How is he playing it?’ But they made an acetate from mastering. Acetate is like a dub plate. When you’re mastering a record, they make a dub plate for you to test it out on the turntables, so that everything is cool and that it plays right. Then, you approve it. And then they press up the regular vinyl.
“But the acetate is so thick you can’t really scratch it or run it back. You can only get about three or four plays out of it. And after that all you hear is [distortion]. It’ll eat the record up. So, they gave him an acetate straight from mastering and it was already playing on the radio. That let me know that it was about to pop off. All of sudden, everybody was on it. That was my first gold single. That was a blessing.”
“Another session that was really dear to me just happened recently with this guy that I was put on to when I was visiting record labels in London last year. That guy named Rag. He’s a young kid, Rag ‘n’ Bone man. He’s dope! You can go to YouTube and look him up. Look up “Reuben’s Train.”
“”Reuben’s Train” is an old song that didn’t really have lyrics. It was like an old Jazz/Blues record. He did it and made his own acapella harmony and then wrote his own lyrics. He used “Reuben’s Train” as a concept of focus. He shot the video. He posted the video.
“He’s a big guy. He’s almost like 6’7. He looks like a big bodyguard. And he had a soulful voice that’s way beyond other artists. He had this soulful rock voice like Chris Cornell. Some label played me the “Reuben’s Train” video and they showed me another where he did a little freestyle. He was singing at somebody’s house. That was dope. I was like, ‘Ok. I like this guy. I def wanna work with him.’ And then, they were like, ‘Well, he’s not signed. We’re trying to get him signed.’ So since they were working on getting him signed, I reached out to him because I wanted to work with him. I hit him up on Twitter and I just came to London and got to do three demos with him. They all came out so dope. He’s gonna be somebody you’re gonna see. Rag ‘N’ Bone man.”
“Man, I gotta say working with Miguel in L.A. That was cool because we never worked together. We met at SXSW years ago when he just had the one single out with J. Cole. Back then, he was like, ‘Yo man. You’re one of my idols. I wanna work with you.’ And you know, Mark Pitts, who managed Biggie and handled Big L. I called him Guc. I know him from way back as Gucci. I call him Guc. I told him hook me up with Miguel because I told him I wanted to work with him.
“Me and Miguel covered the extensive. He put me in the studio with him. And, he doesn’t even go in the booth. He sits there at a laptop with his headphones on and he has this old school ’70s mic that they used to have on Soul Train. He sang into that.
“Everybody was in the room and he was telling everybody to be quiet. But we was chilling there, talked, did the hookah, and he laid it down. He was real quick. He knew where to punch his own lyrics where he messed up and everything. We came up with a banger called “Damn.” I’m looking forward to that. It might be a single. It’s not official yet, but I hope it is, because it’s really a dope song.”
What do we have here? Exclusive! The instrumental DJ Premier provided Spike Lee & HBO for the comedy special around Jerrod Carmichael aired last week. Enjoy:
For more info about the show click here.
Click on read more to watch the BET Hip Hop Awards with DJ Premier (Pause the clips first because they all have auto-play)
This is from earlier this year, but I didn’t post it up yet so now I do it.