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Full Clip: DJ Premier Gives Backstory On Entire Gang Starr Catalog

No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989)

What comes to mind during that time was my amateur production skills [laughs]. I didn’t fully produce this album. Three of the songs The 45 King produced before even I joined the group. Then the ones I did produce, [including the single “Manifest”], I didn’t really have an understanding of how to make a record. So Guru and Slomo Sonnenfeld, who was the engineer at Such-A-Sound studios in Brooklyn, would help me put the SP-12 together. Guru and I would hit some snare sounds and Slomo would say, “Put the high hats like this.” And then I would throw in something and make it turn a certain way. Like Guru used to say, that was our early regiment because I wasn’t fully aware of the recording and production process. But those were some great times. Guru and I would catch the bus to the studio together.

I remember the day I walked into the studio to cut the first record with Gang Starr I tried to fist fight the engineer. I flew from Dallas to New York with my turntable coffin and I’m like, “Yeah, so where can I set up?” And Slomo said, “Oh, you’re not setting that up today.” And I’m like, “Motherfucker, this is how I make my beats!” They had to chill me out like, “Yo, this is not how we make records. You can lay it down on tape.” To this day, I only do my scratches on the last day of recording.

Step In The Arena (1991)

On the first album, I brought in a demo with just me repeating the drums over-and-over on one record and then I would start cutting up the records. I didn’t know the process of using a drum machine and trimming it straight to tape. But Step In The Arena is where I started to do the production all by myself.

The music started sounding the way Guru and I really wanted it to sound. There was more sampling and more musical concepts. Once I learned the process vs. by way of doing demos on a four-track, I knew the concept of how to lay a beat and make songs. With arrangements, I always had that down, but Step In The Arena is really my first all-production…just straight beats. You could hear our confidence growing.

Daily Operation (1992)

By now I was establishing the Gang Starr sound. My confidence level was 100 percent to where I was like, bring on anybody. I’ll take them all on! Before this album, I was getting a few calls from other artists to work with me. KRS-One reached out, but I was like, “Nah, I’m not ready yet.” I thought Kris was too large of an icon for me to even think that I could pull off an album with him. I was too nervous. But when he reached out after Daily Operation I said, “Ok, I’ll do it.” I did so many songs with other artists after that album.

We blew up big after Daily Operation. But we wanted to please the audience that already loved us as we were. That was always a conscious effort on both of our parts. And that’s the reason why Guru started doing the Jazzmatazz albums to protect Gang Starr from being pigeonholed as jazz rap. Guru used to hate being called that so much [laughs].

Hard To Earn (1994)

By this time, people were saying that I only used jazz samples. And that was cool early on because I used a lot of the jazz records to be different. Everyone else was sampling James Brown and Parliament, including myself at times, so much so that we started running out of the ill funky beats. But people started to over-emphasize the jazz samples and not listen to how dope Gang Starr’s sound was and how we converted it to hard beats. So I said, “You know what? On Hard To Earn I’m going to completely strip it down and use space sounds, helicopters or whatever, just to show it doesn’t matter what I use. And it’s going to be hard.” That’s what I did purposely to prove a point on songs like “Tonz O’ Gonz” and “Mass Appeal.”

Moment Of Truth (1998)

As I said before, this was the most emotional album for both of us. I had actually left the group before Moment Of Truth came out. We were not getting along over stupid shit. I just pretty much said, “Yo, I’m out of here,” so we put the album on hold. But it never got out to the press that I had bounced. At that time Guru was going through his gun trial and he was facing a five-year bid, so we thought he was going away for a long time. That’s when I called Guru and said, “I want to do this.” After we made up, people were telling me that we weren’t going to be able to tour. They just wanted to get the album out there while he did his bid. I remember when they read all the [not-guilty] verdicts and everything…it was just crazy.

I also remember the day we recorded the [title track] for Moment of Truth. Just looking at the emotions in Guru’s eyes doing the vocals to “Moment of Truth”…he was really nervous that he would be found guilty. “JFK 2 LAX” was a true story. And with “The Next Time,” I made that record the day my accountant passed away. She was someone who was a major part of my life. When she died, that fucked me up. The sample almost makes you want to cry because that was the mood I was in. It’s still an emotional song for me to this day. And it’s one of my favorite recordings, period. Moment of Truth ended up becoming our biggest album. Guru would say, “All I want is a gold album.” We finally got it with this one.

The Ownerz (2003)

We had one of the dopest staffs at our label Virgin, but they all got fired when Mariah Carey’s Glitter failed. That made them get rid of a lot of people. Before that, Virgin would always let us do whatever we wanted. We always picked our own singles and the sequence of the album. We always did the gutter street song first, followed by the radio record, a follow-up single and then the tour. That was our routine every year. But when it came down to The Ownerz, we had to switch over to an all-new staff. And the crazy thing is our new urban music president was the same guy who produced Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20. Dude was two years younger than me! He didn’t put his foot down and let Gang Starr do what we usually did.

We disagreed on the choice of singles and I started purposely being an asshole and not answering the phone. I would call up to the Virgin offices talking shit like, “Yo man, you better call me! [laughs].” Part of that was that I always held down Guru. His spirit knows that I’ve always been there to hold him down whatever we were dealing with. I didn’t mind being the spokesperson. We had to get out of that situation. But the legacy of Gang Starr was too big to destroy. We matter to the fans. We matter too much to hip hop.


The Internet: Keeps Me Laughing Since 2000

Warning, this post got nothing to do with DJ Premier. I (gimantalon) just had the feeling I wanted to post this because I laughed my ass off. Wassup with Kanye West? Why is everybody going crazy about the dude, give his ego some rest, but I’m not going to diss someone who I don’t know personally. So sorry Kanye, I’m just not a fan. And I respect the people who like him, that being said.

Today somebody wanted to sell me the next Kanye West single for ‘Good Ass Job’. He was asking a price tag of 350 bucks. I immediately smelled the humor in it, but seriously, this guy should be removed… Still though, the internet is one funny place to be at! Start reading under:

At first I thought he wanted to rip me off, but now I wonder if this is really a snippet of the next Kanye West single “Power”? If it is and you want it, it’s just 350 bucks people! It’s a cheap deal! C’mon please…

Kanye West – Power (Snippet)

Still, this guy made my day.


Exclusive Interview With Eddie Sancho

Hello everybody, I tell you one thing: anybody who doesn’t know about the name Eddie Sancho isn’t a real Gang Starr head. Voila. I always had this man high in the list of the people I want to ask just a couple of question. I remember buying my favorite 12inches (off course Premo produced) and always saw (almost everytime) this name popping up… Who the fuck was this guy? Just read the discogs profile as we enter the interview: “”Engineer Extraordinaire” aka Eddie Sancho is an engineer from New York, NY, USA. He is mostly known for his work with hip hop’s greatest stars, such as Jay-Z, Nas, Gang Starr, KRS-One and many more.”

– Some people say your are one of the reasons of the Premo sound in the 90s, can you introduce yourself to the readers?

What up this is Eddie Sancho, born and raised in Queens, New York. Premier has always been crazy with the production and beats way before we even met. But it’s true when we started working together, both of us excelled in our craft.  Premier with the beats and me with my engineering skills created something special! It’s hard to find words to describe our combination, but M.O.P. summed it up perfect with their lyrics on Follow Instructions, “Bill and Fame make magic like Premier and Eddie Sancho”. What more can I say!

– How did you got in touch with engineering and with DJ Premier?

Way before becoming an engineer I started off as a DJ. Any income I was making at the time would all be gone buying records at the famous “Rock & Soul” record store in NYC.  I would vibe off all genres of music and loved to read the credits on them. I started noticing and realizing that theirs so much involvement that goes on in making music. I would read the credits and see produced, recorded, engineered and mixed by such and such and I was like what does this all mean. While looking for answers to all this, I remember hearing a radio commercial for IAR (Institute of Audio Research) and basically the message was “get involved in the music business, make a future for yourself in audio”. I knew right there and then this is what I wanted and that I was gonna make it happen!

My first collaboration with Premier happened while working with Lord Finesse on “Return of the Funky Man” Remix. Premier came in to record scratches for the song and at the time he was looking for a studio to work on the “Daily Operation” album. Premier liked the way the mix sounded and contacted me the next day to assist him on the album. Premier had another engineer working with him, but he quickly noticed my work ethic and made a decision for me to take over the project, and as you know the rest is history!

– A lot of people are misunderstanding the work of an engineer, can you tell us exactly what you did and what the process was?

The role of a engineer is not only to record audio, but to edit and mix it in such a way to make the audio sound the best it possibly can! Times have changed and everything is digital now, but I’m glad I came up in the era of analog. I remember recording on 2″ tape and mixing down to 1/2″ tape. Setting up for live sessions with lots of outboard gear and making sure everything would work properly. It was definitely more work, but it was a great learning experience! I feel there are two sides to an engineer: The Technical and the Creative side, both that I have mastered with my experience over the years. During the recording session, my responsibility is getting clean, balanced recordings of all audio tracks. Beyond that, I can be involved with the creative process as the client wishes. It all depends on the relationship with the client, but for the most part they respect my opinion. Once all of the audio has been recorded, and if any overdubs or edits are needed, the next process is to mix the song. Mixing is
what I concentrate and do more of now. This is what I truly love in taking a song at it’s raw stage and making it bang through the speakers!

– You produced Rawcotiks “Hardcore Hip Hop” and a few other tracks, how come so less? Never thought of becoming a producer?

Absolutely!! It’s just a matter of finding time within my work schedule due to all the requests I get as a Mix Engineer. Part of my success as an engineer is because I’ve been doing it for so long now and I’m good at it, so to put my name as a producer on something has to be right and carry the same weight, but I’ve made it a priority to get my production heard this year and beyond. It might take me a little longer like I said due to my schedule, but it will be worth
while, trust me!

– You worked with the most classic tracks in hip hop history, any stories behind these tracks?

I have way too many stories and unfortunately they are very personal to me and won’t be able to share them all, but there’s one Jay-Z moment I can speak on, it happened back in Oct. 1999 while working on “So Ghetto”. There was a baseball playoff game between the NY Mets & Atlanta Braves. (FYI: I’m a huge Mets Fan!) So everyone is watching the game in the lounge as well as Jay-Z and I remember he was on his 2way texting back and fourth with Jermaine Dupri (he’s from Atlanta) about the game whether the Mets would come out with a win, and I remember when Jay-Z was ready to do vocals, I had him waiting until the game was over (laughing), but he was mad cool about it. It was just a funny situation.

– With the tragic passing of your friend Guru, how was he in real life? Who was Guru for you?

To be honest it hasn’t really hit me that Guru is not with us anymore. I was on my way to L.A. when I heard the sad news and just maintained focused by blasting Gang Starr music on my iPod. Guru is family and we shared great times together! Not only do I respect him as a person and an artist, but he was a good friend as well and just very blessed to have worked with him in the early start of my career. I will never forget the love he always showed. Guru will be missed, but his legacy will always remain with us through his music!!!

– You probably the man to ask, do you know anything about unreleased Gang Starr tracks?

I don’t know of any that I’m aware of.

– What’s favorite tracks that you’ve worked with?

Oh man, way too many to name, but any songs from Gang Starr, Jay-Z, Biggie, Nas, KRS, Dilated, Evidence, Alchemist, M.O.P., Prodigy, Rakim. I can go on,  just way too many too name!!!

– What you’ve up to now Eddie?

On the Mixing Side: currently I’m finishing Ev’s new album “Cats & Dogs”, be on a look out for that dropping this year! Then I will be working with Rockin’ Squat from France on his upcoming album. Dilated Peoples new album towards the end of the year and a couple of other projects in between. On the Production Side: I’ve been in the lab working with two great artists this year… The first is with Singer/Songwriter/Bass/Guitar player Iserene Oasis the Bass Sis! With an intro like that you know it’s gonna be dope!! (laughs). It’s a mixture of funk, rock, neo-soul, folk alternative with some straight headbanging beats! Check out more music from Iserene at The second is with the talented Maria Isa. I met Maria at an Evidence show in New York City, but she resides in Minnesota. I was very surprised when I listened to her album “Street Politics”. I felt her vibe and everything about her music. We’re currently working on a couple of songs for her upcoming mix tape album “Sip It”. All I can say is that she got skills with the rhymes and can sing as well. A multi-talented powerhouse! Check out more music from Maria at

– Why can’t we see you anymore on the inner notes of new Premo 12inch?

It’s coming!

Under: Biggest Gord, Mike Rone, Lil Dap, Jeru’s cousin Main
Up: DJ Premier, Jeru the Damaja, Guru, Eddie Sancho

I would like to thank Eddie for his time and making me feel like a journalist haha. Oh Lord, why did I start this blog? And yes, there are unreleased Gang Starr tracks Preem told me. You can check out Sancho’s almost complete engineering list at Discogs and you can also follow him on Twitter:

Once again respect to the 90s.