DJ Premier Blog » 2016 » June

DJ Premier and the Vinyl Revival (Interview)

Legendary producer DJ Premier talks vinyl’s role in the history of hip hop, DJing today and his massive record collection.

DJ Premier knows more about vinyl than we can ever dream to. Joe Woods chats to the legendary record producer, DJ and one half of Gang Starr to find out how vinyl has helped shape hip hop, the power of album artwork and his favourite records of all time.

Vinyl was central to 90s hip hop culture, how do you think it helped with the creation of the genre?

The culture of hip hop was born from hard times on the street, a lack of affordable recording equipment and instruments to create music. Kool Herc may have not done it how DJs do it now, and it may have been off time and off beat, but he took two copies of the same record, and extended the part we call the break, which is most people’s favourite part of the song, and that was the early stages of sampling. Repeating the part that we really like to hear, even if it’s just a bar, made people go, ‘damn, that’s hot! This guy is experimenting!’

They just played it over and over, so the crowd can enjoy the song for longer. Then all of a sudden, an MC is like ‘yo keep that going, play that part again’. This was way before the professional stages of hip hop, but it still helped to shape the art form of what we did to make the record last a whole different life. Without vinyl who knows if hip hop would have even came about at all, but it’s still such a big genre of music after all of these years.

What makes vinyl so special? Why have you not chosen to switch over to digital in recent years?

Well for a few years I was using CDJs, and then I felt weird not doing it the vinyl way, so I went back to doing it the vinyl way! I use Serato but I’m still doing it with turntables, still moving the needle, its all about really caring about the vinyl aspect of turntablism. Not that everybody should have Serato and Traktor, you should have to qualify for it, just like how you have to qualify for a credit card, or qualify to buy a new car.

The credit check would be like ‘have you ever held a record, have you ever scratched on a turntable? No? Yo get out of here then, you can’t use Serato!’ That would put a stop to microwave DJs, like these stars and movie actors who get paid $50,000 to do a gig, but when you put them behind a turntable they suck! They ruin the party, because they don’t know how to bring the next record in and their timing is off. The computer can hold 10,000 records, but if you take that computer away what can you do? Go and grab a crate of records and keep the party going, can you do it? No! I think that I actually need to be the President of Serato credit checks!

When searching for new music to sample and play live, do you still go into record shops and think, ‘that vinyl’s artwork looks good, I’m going to try that’?

Absolutely! That’s still fun for me, I’m 50 years old and the same passion I had going into it then when I was 19, is the same passion I still have now when I’m 50. I make beats, I still compete, and always have new stuff coming out all the time from pop to alternative, but I always make my underground jams. As long as I like it, and it’s got a good vibe, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like it.

Records that were used to scratch and sample back then, were records that we had in our household. Our household had Barry White, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole and anything Motown, that’s standard in any black household. If you’re surrounded culturally by your own race, and that’s all you see on the album covers, that’s what you will identify with; but I was always looking for artists who were bringing out good music, with that dope vibe, like The Eagles with Hotel California, so I used to play that, along with Carly Simon, the Bay City Rollers, AC/DC and Rush, y’know? I like that, I like the way it felt. But then hip hop came out and I liked the way it felt too.

I was born in 1966 and music was so pure back then, there’s no way of putting how great it is, and now we are hearing a lot of artists who aren’t so pure, so of course you get disappointed. It does not hold up to what I was fed, and nurtured on. It’s like giving me yellow milk, I don’t like yellow milk! I want the old white milk from a cow! And now I don’t want milk from a cow, but that’s what I was nurtured on.

You’ve worked with some amazing people over the years, from Nas to Kanye West. Is there anyone else that you want to tick off that list, and have you got any projects currently in the pipeline?

I’d like to work with Ghostface Killah from Wu-Tang Clan, I’d like to do a whole Wu-Tang album! As well as Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige and Sting, I’d love to do a dope album with him! I wish I could’ve worked with Prince too; I’m a Prince junkie. He left behind so many great records, and original things, I’m still mesmerised by it and he touched my heart a lot. I’d also like to work with James Brown, George Clinton, Ice-T, The Bomb Squad, Rick Rubin and Larry Smith to name a few.

Right now I’m finishing up a mix for an artist called Torii Wolf, we have a new single that is out right now called ‘1st’. I’ve got some underground stuff rolling too, I produced a whole album for NYGZ, who are part of the Gang Starr Foundation, and it’s a straight, raw street album. I also executive produced MC8 from Compton’s Most Wanted’s new album, which is called ‘Which Way Is West’, and I did three songs on there, but the album is really really dope!

There has been a real resurgence in sales of vinyl recently both sides of the pond, why do you think this has happened?

You can’t ever kill off something that is supposed to be here, vinyl is supposed to be here because it’s the pure sound of music. CDs are just too clean, crispy and compressed, which I dislike because I am a purist of sound as I was raised on tape and analogue. With album covers, they’re like a big book, you can open it up and look at the pictures, the artwork, and people have put real time into the artwork. I still feel respect for the artwork and entire package that you sell, and vinyl has that presence and that imagery. That’s why I like Jack White of The White Stripes, he’s got a mobile vinyl store that he takes to his shows.

But hip hop has kept vinyl alive. I used to work in a record store, and hip-hop vinyl was always rockin’, it always sold, and kept on getting requested and to this day, it’s still a big deal in the vinyl world.

We’ve already touched on your musical tastes, but what was your first ever vinyl purchase and what are your top-five must haves?

My first ever vinyl was ‘I Want You Back’ by Motown, it was a 45 that my mother got for me. I remember putting it on the machine, putting the arm on top, and suddenly the needle drops, lands on the beginning of the record and it’s like, ‘how does it know to move that far and land at the beginning of the record? What are the mechanics behind this!?’ My top five records would be Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full, Boogie Down Productions by Criminal Minded, Dirty Mind by Prince, AC/DC’s Back In Black and Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.

Props to The Academy Music Group

Torii Wolf – 1st (Feat. Dilated Peoples) (Remix) (Music Video)

Classified Talks Working With DJ Premier & Slug of Atmosphere

Slice of Spice Releasing Another D.I.T.C. x DJ Premier 12inch

I can only applaud that! New 12inch single with a DJ Premier remix on it… Thanks again to Slice of Spice, keeping hip hop and vinyl alive.

A1 Connect 3 (DJ Premier Version)
A2 Connect 3 (DJ Premier Inst.)
A3 Connect 3 (Showbiz Version)
B1 Rock Shyt (Vocal Version)
B2 Rock Shyt (Inst. Version)
B3 Connect 3 (Showbiz Inst.)

Available via Slice of Spice website, Fatbeats and in Europe…


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.


Roc-A-Fella Records’ Kareem “Biggs” Burke & DJ Premier Discuss Jay Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’

On June 25, 1996, one of the most celebrated albums in Hip Hop history was released. Jay Z began his reign as a member of the culture’s list of highly accomplished emcees when Reasonable Doubt hit stores on that date.

The LP celebrates its 20 year anniversary in 2016. There will surely be plenty of events, articles, and moments honoring Hov’s classic debut.

Viceland recently held a Facebook Q&A with two insiders that played a big role in the creation of Reasonable Doubt. Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke and legendary producer DJ Premier sat down to answer questions from fans.

Watch Kareem “Biggs” Burke and DJ Premier’s interview below.


DJ Premier Playing Not Once, but Twice at this Belgian Festival this Summer

Great news for the Premo fans outta Belgium… At Dour Festival he’s not playing once, but twice! Ow yeah, he’s coming with Royce da 5’9″ to represent PRhyme and two days later you can catch him on main stage with his live band The BADDER.

Dour Festival starts the 13th of July and ends 4 days later. More artists who are joining are Wiz Khalifa, Mobb Deep, Kirk Knight, Ta-Ku, … Combi tickets with camping goes from €150.


MC Eiht’s album “Which Way Is West” reportedly finished

Finally! Is that a snippet from the premo track? 😉

Related: this old flyer:

Torii Wolf – 1st (Feat. Dilated Peoples) (Remix) CDQ

Oh shit, Dilated on the remix tip!