DJ Premier Blog

PRhyme & The Badder – Rockin’ With The Best (ESPN NBA Countdown Remix) (Radio Rip)

Here’s the radio rip of the special song DJ Premier produced with his live band the Badder and his creative partner Royce da 5’9″ for ESPN’s NBA, enjoy:


Adrian Younge talks about working with DJ Premier on “PRhyme” Album (Interview)

Guru Talks About Making Gang Starr’s Hard To Earn with DJ Premier (1994, Rap City)

Interview with Guru and Donald Byrd (Rap City, 1994)

Bumpy Knuckles – EmOsHuNaL GrEeD (Feat. Sy Ari) (Produced by DJ Premier)

“Don’t Use My Seed, to feed your emotional greed.”
No one should use their child to hurt the other parent. For those that have made their children a part of the system because they wanted to hurt the other parent, this song is for you.

-Bumpy Knuckles-

Soulbrotha – The Golden Era Isn’t Finished (Feat. Big Shug, Afu-Ra & Blaq Poet)

Big Shug, Afu-Ra and Blaq Poet on the same track?! Dope!

Taken from Soulbrotha latest album = Classic SP1200 production by 12 Finger Dan & B-Base, buy it on iTunes or Vinyl!

DJ Premier Looks Back at Gang Starr’s ‘Step In The Arena’ with Author Brian Coleman

AUTHOR’S PREFACE: The interview used for this piece was done with DJ Premier many years back, in 2001, when Guru was still alive. The intention – beyond the initial, much shorter piece done for XXL’s “Classic Material” – was always to have a Step In The Arena chapter in one of my books. But I was always blocked from getting to Guru by the justifiably vilified Solar.

It didn’t seem right to do a Gang Starr chapter without input from both men (or without all songs discussed), so it never happened in print. But as that incredible album turns 25, I still wanted to get a fuller story of the album out there. I don’t like to keep knowledge from legends like Premier tucked away in my file cabinet. Considering the context above, I hope everyone enjoys this. Long live Gang Starr and R.I.P. Guru [Keith “Keithy E” Elam].

Many thanks to Bill Adler, Ben Ortiz and Katherine Reagan for the use of selected visuals taken from the Adler Hip-Hop Archive at the Cornell Hip Hop Collection.

Gang Starr — Step In The Arena
(Chrysalis, 1991)

There have been worlds of change in the hip-hop game since 1991, but one thing remains the same: Gang Starr’s Step In The Arena still sounds amazing.

The group’s accomplished sophomore platter was stripped down, but sophisticated. MC Guru’s poetic, sometimes abstract battle rhymes, and DJ Premier’s savvy, street-honed beats and hugely influential DJing combined that year for 18 tracks of pure, no-nonsense rap heaven.

Both Guru and Premier made New York their home in the late ‘80s, but neither one was a product of the five boroughs. Preemo [Christopher Martin] was raised in the Houston, TX suburb of Prairie View. His father, a biologist, taught at Prairie View A&M University. Premier explains, “A&M was a black school that produced some of the best engineers around. And we had one of the illest marching bands around, too! Our marching band was dangerous.”

He says, of his hometown, “Prairie View was country, but it had a city side, too. There was an urban social structure, just like in New York or LA, but on a smaller scale. Everyone there was very independent and did things for themselves, and I think that helped give me the drive to come to New York and do it on my own without any help. People are definitely nicer in Prairie View than New York, though [laughs].”

By the time that Premier hit New York for good, he wasn’t exactly a hayseed right off the farm, though. Since his earliest teens he had been traveling to the Big Apple consistently, so he had already soaked in a bit of BK atmosphere. Preemo recalls, “My grandfather, William Manuel, lived in Brooklyn, so we used to come to visit him on holidays. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was coming to visit him on my own, which was always an amazing experience for me. He was an upright bassist, and played trombone and electric guitar in jazz bands. He toured a lot, and he’d always show me his photo albums and tell me about his life in music. I was really interested in what Grandfather Bill – that’s what I called him – was doing, I was fascinated by his life. I have a tattoo of Bill, because I feel like I’m a duplicate of him. Hip-hop is my era, jazz was his era, and I appreciate his era, even though he didn’t really appreciate hip-hop. He just didn’t understand it, he looked at it as noise.”

Premier continues, “Earlier on, I also remember seeing hip-hop going on in the Bronx in 1977 and 1978 when I went to New York. Grandfather Bill had friends in the Bronx, on 183rd, so we’d go to visit them and I saw the sound systems and people in the park, breakdancing, all that. Then, when I started going to Brooklyn more often in the early ‘80s, [hip-hop] was more full-blown, it was everywhere. The music had grown so much, and I always loved that with hip-hop, you would let the music fight for you, instead of using your fists, like with DJ and MC battles. I brought all that with me when I’d go back to Texas and DJ parties and start working on demos. Music definitely has a way of travelin’, and I guess I was part of that, in my own way.”

In the mid-‘80s [he says from 1984 to 1986], Premier had a local crew in Texas, and they went from MCs In Control to being called ICP (for Inner Circle Posse). The group included Premier, then going by Waxmaster C, and MCs Top Ski, Sugar Pop and Stylee T. Sugar Pop and Stylee were from Texas, and Top Ski was from Boston, but going to school with Premier at Prairie View A&M. Premier explains, “It wasn’t too serious, but we were trying to do our thing. Stylee T was a really unique dude. I swear to God, before I ever saw Flavor Flav with Public Enemy, Stylee was exactly like him. He dressed and danced crazy and he was just so original.” The group never put out anything on wax, although they had a name around the area, in part because of Premier’s rep as a DJ.

In 1985, Premier decided to give the home of hip-hop a try for real, so he left Texas and his studies at Prairie View A&M and headed to Brooklyn. He remembers, “I said: ‘I’m gonna try the music thing, and if it don’t work out then I’ll just go back to school.’ Top Ski moved to New York when I did, so we gave it a shot as a team. When I got there, I lived in East New York [Brooklyn], with a family named the Franklins. They took me in like I was their own son, but they also wasn’t gonna let me stay for free. I had to work. That summer I worked at a young peoples’ camp in Prospect Park to earn my keep. It was definitely a new thing to be there in New York coming from Texas, but I had been there many times before, and was already used to it by then. I met a lot of the friends that I still hang with today during that time.”

The earliest seeds for the Gang Starr partnership were planted in the mid-to-late ‘80s during record label demo shopping that Premier had begun. He had worked on music even before he got to New York, but once he arrived, he picked up the pace with dreams of landing a deal. He says, “All my demos back then were getting turned away. I even had a meeting with [super-producer and head of the famed Juice Crew] Marley Marl back then, face to face, but it didn’t come to anything. The demo I gave him at the time wasn’t that tight, though, so it’s not surprising. It was my first one.” Years later, Premier would go on to work with Marley, on his Future Flavas radio show out of New York.

Preemo knew (and worked for) Carlos Garza, who promoted parties at Prairie View A&M and also owned a hip-hop record store in the Houston area called Sound Waves. Carlos bought plenty of New York hip-hop, of course, and knew Stu Fine at Wild Pitch Records, who had put out records like Chill Rob G’s “The Court Is Now In Session”; Latee’s “This Cut’s Got Flavor”; and Gang Starr Posse’s “Believe Dat!”.

Read more…

DJ Premier Tells The Story Of This Photo With D’Angelo, Alchemist & J. Dilla, In His Words

DJ Premier tells Ambrosia For Heads the story about the night he, D’Angelo, Alchemist and J. Dilla gathered in the studio and took what would become an iconic photo. These are his words about the photo, that night, and the other supremely talented men with whom he posed:

“Gang Starr Moment Of Truth was out. We were feeling a real good way ’cause Guru had just won his trial. He was facing five years in prison, and he won the trial, which is why we named the album Moment Of Truth and had the court room setting as the theme of the album cover. He didn’t know if he was gonna beat the case or have to go to jail once the album was released. His lawyer—who actually [since] passed away, God bless him—told [Guru], ‘If you lose, the album’s still gonna be out while you’re in prison, so we need to promote it as much as possible the best we can in case you do go to jail. So that was a pivotal moment of him winning the case, and our first gold album—that was our first gold [Gang Starr] album, ever in our career.

Then Belly came out, at the same time that I did [‘Devil’s Pie’] with D’Angelo. I remember [then Def Jam Records CEO] Lyor Cohen asked us if we could put it in the movie. They showed us the scene that they wanted it to be in. It ended up being in the movie as well, which got us another check and more exposure for the record. The record actually happened because…it was originally Canibus. We had worked on the song at my studio, D&D [Studios] at the time. It didn’t pan out to do the record. Once Canibus left, that same maybe hour later, D’Angelo just called me out of the blue. Like, ‘Hey, what are you up to?’ I’m like, ‘Yo, I’m just ending a session. I was working on a beat for Canibus, but we’re not using it.’ He said, ‘Can I hear it?’ I said yeah. He said, ‘Well, come over here to Electric Lady [Studios]. I’m over here just bangin’ out my album.’ So I went over there. I already knew D’Angelo from when his first album, Brown Sugar came out. We were [Virgin/EMI Records] label-mates. We knew each other through mutual people. So we were already cool with each other.

DJ Premier Dangelo J Dilla Alchemist

So I went over to Electric Lady, played him the beat. He immediately just screamed, ‘Whooooooo! Oh my—yo! Let me do somethin’ to it! I’ll come over [to Electric Lady Studios] tomorrow!’ That whole night, before I came back to cut the vocals with him, he wanted to film me scratchin’ on the turntables so he’d have it for the archive footage. So we were just runnin’ the beat. I guess he has the footage. His engineer, [Russell “Dragon” Elevado] may have it. Dragon is in the picture too—in the background, the Asian guy. I just remember they were filming for almost a half hour, nonstop, of just me goin’ off, doing crazy things with his D’Angelo 12″ records that we had there, in the room. I was just finding little things to bug out on just to show him—I was freestyling everything. I did that for maybe a half hour, just to show me scratch.

The next thing you knew, the next day, when I got there, I had Alchemist with me. We had just got done touring together for The Smokin’ Grooves Tour, which was with Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad, the Black Eyed Peas—who were a brand new group that nobody even heard of. They had a small band and they were doin’ all these dance moves. They were nothing like they are now; Fergie wasn’t in the group yet. Mya was on the tour. Wyclef [Jean] and Pras was on the tour. Canibus was on the tour with us. Literally, right after is when we did the record. Everything’s all love with me and ‘Bis anyway, ’cause we did a record [‘Golden Terra Of Rap’] after that. It was a massive tour. I told Al—he liked to smoke, I liked to smoke, ‘We’re gonna go over there and blaze up, so bring some of that Cali’ good.’ [Laughs] He was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll roll wit’chu.’ So when he came over, Questlove was just finishing up doing drums to ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel?)’—the one where he was naked in the video. He was there. Raphael Saadiq had just left. And J Dilla was there at the session.

Al was in the loop with the Dilla stage, so he could lamp with us and smoke for a lil’ bit. We just hung out. I knew him for a long time as well. So we were just buggin’ out and smokin’, and whatnot. I forgot the guy who took the picture. But I know somebody ran into me last year, and was like, ‘Hey man, I know the guy that took that picture.’ I said, ‘Tell him I want an original copy of it. Because I always wondered what happened with that picture because I never had a copy. Back then, it wasn’t email or text messaging a pic on the phone. We weren’t even at that stage in ’98. The [copy] I got has a lil’ splotch on it. If you Google it, it has a lil’ splotch. I want the clear copy. If he wants me to pay for it, everything’s negotiable. Whoever that guy was that took it captured an incredible moment. Hey, we’ll give you your credit. That was a great moment.

On the third day is when Lyor Cohen said, ‘Hey, we want to put it in Belly.’ First D’Angelo said, ‘No. We want to save it just for the album.’ Then I saw Belly; they showed us the film. I was like, ‘You know what? I think it’d be dope—especially where they put it [in the film]. They were showin’ the drugs, how that applies to what he meant [by] ‘Everybody wants a slice of devil’s pie’ in the lyrics. I remember there’s part where he mumbles, and said, ‘Yo, I’ma leave it like that. I didn’t know what to put there.’ But whenever it came on in the clubs or around women—’cause I always gauge certain records that have a groove to it based on how women react–I said, ‘Alright, I guess we got a banger.’ [Laughs] That actually [resulted] in my second Grammy that I earned. Jay Z’s [Vol 2. Hard Knock Life] album, which I was on, I got a Grammy for that one. I got one for Voodoo, ’cause I was one of the producers on there besides D’Angelo and his team that produced a record on the album. And Voodoo was just a dope album anyway.

I met Dilla through Q-Tip years ago—back when [A Tribe Called Quest] was doing Midnight Marauders. We met then. I think Large Professor was with me. It was just one of those days where…we used to just all be around each other. Me, Large, Pete [Rock], Q-Tip as well—we’ve clearly each got bugged out memories. I got stuff that’s crazy! [Laughs] But we all got memories. We were all very active and high on the level of popularity during that era. Tribe was big, Gang Starr was big, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth was big, Main Source was big. And then all of us as producers, we were all poppin’. Aside from our groups, we were all getting a lot of work doing a lot of remixes and production. Me and all of us…and Dilla were already doin’ [production work outside of our groups]. As the years passed, Dilla got even crazier styles. His styles went a whole different direction.

His approach to sampling was not like any other. I know Madlib is an extension of what we miss about Dilla. But Dilla formed his own crazy world of samplin’ that I never heard from anybody. Nobody was doin’ it like Dilla. And no one [has since]. The closest thing is Madlib, and I know they had the kind of relationship where I know Dilla rubbed off on him, to a certain degree, to carry that torch, so to speak.

DJs and producers, we’re scientists. So we really dissect where we place things. You look at The Bomb Squad in all of those Public Enemy productions. You look at where they placed stuff. Marley Marl, where he placed stuff. We would know what it is. ‘Yo, he took such-and-such and where he put it!’ Dilla was just the most upside down—the man without eyes who could still hit his target. He’s crazy, man! Nobody placed the stuff like he did. He just did it in a really, really strange way—and I like strange. [Chuckles] The weirder you are the better I like it.

He was playing the drums when I was in the session with D’Angelo. But we all play drums. That’s the way I mix the bass and drums the way I do with my beats when I do Hip-Hop. Yeah, there was a nice drum kit that was set up at Electric Lady. When I got there, Dilla was on the drums. Quest’ had just laid the drums to ‘Untitled,’ and he had to leave. So Dilla was on the drums, bangin’ out. The one thing I do remember [about what we were listening to] is…I’m a big Prince fan. I know Prince as much as Prince knows himself. I go back to the For You album, all the way to what he’s doing now. And I met Prince, with D’Angelo. He told me he was a Gang Starr fan. I introduced myself; Treach from Naughty By Nature was standing right there with me in the back room at Tramps, which no longer exists. That was a club that used to have a lot of Hip-Hop [at a time] when there were really no performances in New York, in Midtown. Prince was back there, and Treach from Naughty By Nature was standing there. I walked right there said, ‘Oh my God, this is Prince!’ He was like, ‘Yo, I just want to let you know that I’m a big Gang Starr fan.’ I was just like, ‘…what? Fuck.’ But me being a Prince fanatic, owning all of his imported records, B-sides, all the collections, all of his [Paisley Park] umbrella…I remember D’Angelo had the 1999 picture of the whole Revolution, which was—and they weren’t called The Revolution to us yet. If you look at the 1999 album, it says “Prince and The Revolution” on the one, in the middle, real small. [D’Angelo’s recording studio room at Electric Lady] had the Venetian blinds, The Isley Brothers album cover in the room, Parliament, Sly & The Family Stone, and of course [Jimi] Hendrix everywhere. He left those up. He said that was his inspiration to lay it all out when he was recording.

This was way before [J Dilla] got sick. He didn’t tell people. Again, we already had a relationship prior to D’Angelo; we were already cool. So it wasn’t, ‘Hey, it’s so nice to meet you. Let me hear some of your stuff,’ it was, ‘Hey, what up, my nigga?’ Alchemist was the new guy. ‘Cause I told him to come with me, [D’Angelo] was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Bring him.’ I brought him.

[D’Angelo] played me ‘One mo’Gin.’ Once I heard that—I didn’t need anything else—I was like, ”Yo, whatever else you got on that album, it doesn’t even matter. [Chuckles] It’s gon’ bang. I was just a big fan of ‘One Mo’Gin’. He played me maybe three songs, ’cause he’s very meticulous about playing stuff [before] it’s done—we’re all like that, really. We always feel like you’re gonna judge it before it’s done and not understand what stage it’s at unless you are an artist. If you’re an artist—a true purist like we are, you’re gonna get it, even if it’s rough. He played me maybe five joints. But he would always give me the disclaimer, ‘Okay, this one’s gonna be this right now. It’s not gonna have this, it’s not gonna have that.’ But it didn’t matter to me; I knew how to gauge a rough song that’s not finished versus a finished song. The labels and A&Rs and execs all go, ‘Hey, bring in these guys. You can bring in this guy to finish this.’ It’s like, ‘Yo. It’s not done yet. Let me finish it before you start commenting.’ D’Angelo would say what records he wanted to roll with. No one told us what to do. It made it easier for them to do the marketing and promotion because we knew what would work as far as what would make the records really big.

[I did not know that Alchemist would reach] the stage that he’s at now. He was already playin’ beats on the tour bus. We would hang all the time on the Cypress Hill bus, on the Gang Starr bus. We were all on each others bus, ’cause we also had M.O.P. and Freddie Foxxx, and Big Shug. All the Gang Starr Foundation, they were all on tour with us. We just hung like a family, man. If there was any drama in a town, we like, ‘Yo, we ridin’ together. We fightin’? We all jumpin’ in. Whatever goes down, we all together.’ We protected each other and never had any problems.

[That photograph] will carry major effects for the rest of our lives. Dilla’s not here, physically. His music will always speak to us like he is physically here. To have [known] him prior to his being sick and puttin’ the memory of that session together, that’s my screensaver at the studio. It penetrates every time it comes on. Even when I turn off my computer, before it goes black, I always say, ‘Peace out, Dilla.’ And I take my hand and fist-bump his face to salute him before it goes black. It’s a little spiritual thing that I do. Honestly, I can’t turn away from that because that’s energy he still possesses in my life and everybody else’s.”

DJ Premier is performing at this year’s Dilla Weekend, celebrating the fallen MC, DJ and Producer. The Miami, Florida event will take place the weekend of February 5-7, and will be hosted by Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey. With Slum Village, Royce Da 5’9″, Rapsody & 9th Wonder, Bun B, Blu & Exile, Pro Era, Diamond D, AG, A-F-R-O, and Mr. Green already as confirmed guests, and more announcements coming. For tickets to the all-star weekend visit the event’s site here. Preemo said the following about what to expect from his set:

“I actually made a beat the week he passed away that I did to imitate him. M.O.P. used it on their [Foundation] album. It’s called ‘What I Wanna Be.’ I chopped it—not intending for M.O.P. to use [it] but I just wanted to make the beat to say, ‘Hey, this is how Dilla would do it.’ I’m gonna open the [Dilla Weekend] show with that beat, and then I’ll explain, after I introduce myself. It’s chopped into all these weird places. It’s almost like, ‘Damn, I can see you chopped it. But where’d you grab it to make it loop around like that?’ That’s how I’ma start my show.”

DJ Premier also named his favorite Dilla beats. Perhaps some of these classics will creep into his set, as well:

“Body Movin’”
“Love Jones”
“One For Ghost”

Props to Ambrosia For Heads

“In Control” Interview with Marley Marl, DJ Kevy Kev, Pete Rock, & DJ Premier

DJ Premier & The Badder – Rockin With The Best (Feat. Royce Da 5’9″)

NBA Countdown – ESPN’s NBA pregame show – has earned an excellent reputation for its stellar music selection – a smooth mix of modern and classic hip-hop.

Music director Kevin Wilson and Countdown production team members Amina Hussein, Lisa James, Terrell Bouza, Alvin Anol, Brandon Lowe and Tyrone Frison always have their ears to the streets for music that will add to the show.

And, starting on the latest edition of NBA Countdown (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), the show will be rockin’ with the best.

Legendary hip-hop producer DJ Premier, the driving force behind several legendary acts and artists, has teamed up with Royce Da 5’9”, one of the most respected lyricists in the genre, for a new track called “Rockin’ With The Best.” The track will be the central part of NBA Countdown’s new broadcast open, which features highlights of the top NBA stars.

For Premier, this is his second go-around with NBA Countdown. In 2014, the “Preemo,” through his connection with famous hip-hop fan and ESPN NBA Countdown analyst Jalen Rose, contributed several new beats to the show.

Front Row caught up with both Premier and Royce to discuss the collaboration.

How would you describe “Rockin With The Best” with Royce Da 5’9”?
DJ Premier: The title describes us and it describes the competition that goes along with basketball. It’s the attitude that you need, so we wanted this track to carry that vision.

What is it about working with NBA Countdown that prompted you to collaborate again?
DJ Premier: I’m such a fan of sports and ESPN is the “go to” channel, as soon as I wake up every single morning, in order to get the happenings of the day. It’s a blessing to even have the opportunity to get involved musically with NBA Countdown.

Describe working with DJ Premier.
Royce Da 5’9″: Working with Premier is always an honor no matter how much music we’ve made together in the past. Being recognized for our talents and having the opportunity to work with ESPN and the NBA is next level. You forget the magnitude of your work until your father calls you and says he just heard you on ESPN; that’s when it really hits you!

Source: ESPN Front Row

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