FEATURE: DJ Premier, Still Shinin’

When it comes to hip-hop architects, few are as revered as DJ Premier. As one-half of the legendary Gang Starr, the Brooklyn beatsmith (by way of Houston) has crafted classic tracks ranging from underground gems (Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind,” the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ten Crack Commandments”) to radio jams (Common’s “The 6th Sense,” Jeru the Damaja’s “Come Clean”) to mainstream smashes (Christina Aguilera’s “Back in the Day,” Limp Bizkit’s “N 2 Gether Now”). Through it all, Preemo maintains his true school roots. That’s most evident with his label, Year Round Records, which houses hardcore acts like the NYGz and Blaq Poet. Taking a break from his Friday night satellite radio show on Sirius XM, “Live From HeadQCourterz,” Premier breaks down the foundation for his budding label and extends open invitations to Cory Gunz and Dr. Dre to spit on his tracks.

XXLMag.com: Why did you start Year Round Records?

DJ Premier: I started to see how the labels would not open their arms to the pure hip-hop. They were just taking the sucker shit so whatever way to alleviate that and just do your own shit is very time consuming, very costly but the love of the culture for me makes me wanna stick behind this and push this label through immediately.

XXL: What was it about the NYGz that made you sign them?

Preemo: I like the way the NYGz sound, plus they lived the lifestyle of what they talk about and they’re well respected in their hood. I appreciate someone I can develop more and they’re older—they’re in their mid 30s—and I’m not concerned about the age difference. I wanna be a label that doesn’t do whatever the other labels do. We all out to win together as a team despite all the stress and what it takes to survive in this shitty ass industry.

XXL: What about Blaq Poet?

Preemo: Blaq Poet’s album we’re about to drop in February. It’s done; I’m just mixing it. We just shot the video to Poet’s single called “Ain’t Nuttin’ Changed” right in the Bridge. It’s a record showin’ he still gets love whenever he comes and sees his people. It was fun shootin’ it in the cold and we got it in, but I produced the whole album and it’s called The Blaq Prince.

XXL: What should fans expect off that one?

Preemo: The album is actually a collection of songs that we just started working on in the studio and a lot of people was asking what we were gonna put out as a release. There are sick songs we have done in the past but I really like this record that we did called “Voices,” where he was hearin’ voices of Biggie and Pac and other deceased MCs—just great MCs period—talking in his head and he says it was ’cause he was drunk but he’s really telling the story of hip-hop. He does it in such an ill way where you gotta respect it, so a lot of people ask about that record.

XXL: Will this be the first official release off Year Round?

Preemo: This is the second release on my label as far as albums go. NYGz dropped Welcome to G-Dom last October and that did well for us just ’cause we were able to get them some shows in Europe. Now they’re working on their new album, Pros and Cons, and I’m producing the entire album.

XXL: What do you look for in an artist?

Preemo: Like I said, it’s very hardcore it’s very much needed right now ’cause I just like hard lyrics and hard beats. You don’t gotta be hardcore like a M.O.P. or a N.W.A, but you still gotta have some ill rhymes. Poet has the illest rhymes for a hardcore rapper that’s out right now and he makes sense. He’s a grown ass man but his lyrics can penetrate even the young ignorant muthafucka who still thinks he knows everything ’cause we’re speaking the language of the street. Everybody’s not thinking about the people that’s left behind and the people that’s on lock down, but we do it with a certain class.

XXL: Being that you’re independent and are working primarily with underground artists, what do you consider a success sales wise?

Preemo: I’m willing to start from the bottom. I don’t expect to be platinum overnight, we have that drive to win but not like, “Oh, yeah, we’re going platinum and this and that.” We just let it roll ’cause we understand that we gotta start from zero and even though I’ve had mad success in the industry, I don’t mind starting from the bottom because I’ve been there before so it’s easy to walk that road. It’s nothing I’m not familiar with and the artists have the same mentality because I could stop right now and I’m good. I’ve done my whole career and I’ve achieved pretty much everything I’ve wanted to. There’s still a lot more that I wanna achieve but if it stopped today I know I did a lot.

XXL: Is there anyone you wouldn’t work with?

Preemo: Dope is dope, but I really wouldn’t deal with a younger kid who’s like 15 because they really can’t rhyme about much that I can relate to unless he really just has some experience like when we were coming up. Other than that [I could] pump up some of the younger artists because they can hit the mainstream easier and the money comes a little quicker, but the hassle of doing something that you don’t love? I’m not gonna do it.

XXL: What about someone like Cory Gunz, who’s young but a beast on the mic?

Preemo: Yeah, I would work with him because I know his father [Peter Gunz] is showing him [the ropes]. So Cory I would definitely do a deal with… But I also have this kid Nick Javas from New Jersey. He just graduated from Rutgers and is a real witty MC. I’m really looking forward to working with him. We’re actually about to leak a song called “Opportunity Knocks.”

XXL: What’s that about?

Preemo: He told me he wanted to do a song about him trying to convince me to sign him, so it’s him coming to see me at the studio but I’m busy. He’s sayin’, “Look, I’m here; why don’t you let me get in the booth?” I told him I don’t do it like that and he’s still pushing me and I’m like aight, I’ll give you one shot so I give him one shot and he drops 16. When he asks me my opinion on the verse I respond to him with cuts. I don’t ever speak, I’m just letting the cuts say it like, one line I’m like why are you wasting my time like this? I cut that line from Fast Times at Ridgemont High so instead of me talking, the record’s talking.

XXL: What’s going on with your solo album, Man of Few Words?

Preemo: I’m thinking about starting my album [soon], but my wish list [of artists] keeps changing. I’ve changed it at least seven or eight times, but I finally found one I like and now I’m gonna stick to that. Now it’s more of a time thing. It has to be timed out right because it’s like me gathering 10 or 12 of my favorite artists. It’s a lot of pressure but I’ma make sure that it happens. Yeah, let’s just make sure we don’t end up with a bunch of delays like Dr. Dre’s Detox. [Laughs] I would love to get Dre on my album. I wish I could do a beat and he would spit to it. I don’t care who writes it for him—Dre just has a dope flow when he recites rhymes that he wrote or were written for him. He always knows how to project it right that’s why he’s a true producer. Maybe one day that will happen…That’ll be a good collaboration.

XXL: Word, any possibility for one more Gang Starr album?

Preemo: My answer is if Guru is ready, then I’m ready. It’s really up to him, he says Gang Starr is originally his creation, which I really have no problem of giving him that, but the history we made together from ’89-2004, that’s the purest part of Gang Starr history that anybody will ever remember. In order to do it right again, if he’s ever ready again, I’ll be in the lab that day with the tape burnin’. —Anslem Samuel

  • Simple like ABC, 123

    People like Dj Premier kept Hip-Hop alive & pure.

    • Devon

      Where’s trick dd

    • Devon

      He want get the rekonized like Dj Khalid with the TV time because he’s not fake like the rest of these bitch ass djs this is a real Dj and producer

  • havoc

    respect

    • Devon

      This is the only real shit on this site

  • D-Block

    DJ Premier= best producer alive

    no questions, hands down #1. J Dilla and Pete Rock are tied for #2

    • UARK83

      I’ll give you Pete Rock but why J Dilla!? He was good and all but people weren’t on his nuts until he died. So what he may have a gem or 2 but not a great body of work. I can name 5-10 producers better than him.

      Questlove
      Large Pro
      RZA
      Dr. Dre
      DJ Hi-Tek
      Q-Tip

      Hell even DJ Paul and Juicy J have a better catalog

      • TonyStackz

        Co-Sign on that one Yeah Dilla’s Got Some Classic bangers but in my opinion not enough to fuck with RZA or Dre’s Catalog and how can he be Tied with Pete Rock when hes the master of what Jay Dee Does!!

  • Jamal7Mile

    “DWYCK” was the ’92 campus anthem for me and “Come Clean” was simply incredible (still is)! A Preemo/Dre collab would be history in the making, but I somehow don’t see that happening.

  • http://xxlmag jb

    GURU is fucking up that Gangstarr album. I been reading for the past 3-4 years about how he doesn’t wanna do it! What the hell man? I think it needs to be 1 more album. Gangstarr is the only group 2 me that’s timeless.
    http://www.myspace.com/lidujay

    • UARK83

      I agree…I can listen to Gangstarr (and don’t forget another timeless duo, Outkast) all day errrrrday!

      • http://xxlmag jb

        I don’t know about Outkast! 2 me Stankonia was their last good album.

  • TheRefriedMexican

    PREMIER IS DEFINATELY A LIVING LEGEND. HIS LEGACY IS CEMENTED. I HATE TO RAIN ON HIS PARADE BUT STOP SAYING HE’S THE BEST PRODUCER OF ALL TIME. DR. DRE IS THE BEST HANDS DOWN BUT I WOULD DEFINATELY PUT PREEMO AT NUMBER 3 OR
    EVEN 2
    +++++++++++++
    ++++++++++
    +++++++
    ++++++
    ++++
    ++
    +

    • steven

      hell no dre isn’t number 1. Your on some good shit son. He’s not even top 10. He’s a fake ass wannabe gangsta from the suburbs son. You got it twisted. He had classics but nothing near premier. You still have dilla,pete rock,q tip, rza, 9th wonder, hoodini, quest love, hi tek, alchemist so many.dre. Not number one. Sorry guy

  • http://bones_42@hotmail.com Doobie42

    Preemo all god damn day

  • http://xxlmag.com yung gee

    PREEMO IS DA TRUTH!! HE GOT LONGEVITY IN THE GAME. KEEP DOIN YA THING PREEMO . LIVING LEGEND

  • IndyKid

    Who says Outkast is equal to Gangstarr?!? No way bro! Like a lot of us are saying, Gangstarr is timeless. Every bit. Outkast, eh…not so much… They’re older stuff is already outdated and boring to listen to. You ever heard ATLiens?BORING. Just my two cents…

    Indy

    • AVENGER XL

      I just don’t think Kast is your cup of tean beatse they are anything but boring. They are one of the few rap duo’s that actual change completely sonicly with each album and stll manage to be dope.

      so that is definitly opinion.

      • UARK83

        Avenger you’re right, but look at the user name who said OutKast was boring and outdated…his name is IndyKid. He is probably just that…a Kid.

  • IndyKid

    Hate to break it to ya UARK, (wtf does that mean btw) but ‘kids’ run hip-hop. Always have. Andre 3k and Big were fresh outta high school when they dropped Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in ’94. And how could i dislike Outkast because of my age? Gangstarr dropped their first record 5 years before Outkast hit the scene? Maybe you’re just trying to defend something you like by attacking the person that doesn’t like it. That’s a false argument btw. Go back to school dude. Might learn something. And Avenger, you’re probably right dude. Outkast just isn’t my thing really.

    Game. Blouses.

    Indy

    • UARK83

      Haha I got to give it you IndyKid I like the “Game. Blouses.” We probably got off on the wrong foot. But UARK is short for University of Arkansas where I got my degree…so there is no reason to go back to school. But “kids” don’t run hip-hop, the record companies just use them to sell records. There is a difference between running hip-hop and selling records. If age did run hip-hip we would have nothing but crappy ass Soulja Boy running the show, and this article obviously shows that is not the case.

      Now make me some pancakes.

  • BobbyGringo13

    ATLiens boring?!?! Man that is the best album of all times in my eyes! Aquemini is a close second. No disrespect to Gangstarr, but in my opinion, Outkast is the best hip-hop group of all time as well. Noone else is even close, again just my opinion.

  • IndyKid

    OK. I think I just made a friend in Arkansas. I’m with ya on the Soulja Boy dillemma (as well as the rest of the hip-hop community), but I still feel that hip-hop would be nothing without the young guys. Gangstarr, to me, represents the epitome of hip-hop. Outkast is just a little too ‘out’ there to be considered the best in hip-hop or best of all time or whatever. Now don’t get me wrong, they are legends. Maybe not legends that I like, but legends no doubt.
    My opinion = Gangstarr > Outkast

    I’ma go purify myself in the waters of Lake Minetonka.

    Indy

  • BobbyGringo13

    Also I must say, I think ya’ll are selling Dilla waaaay short. Most people don’t realize he was producing for Tribe back in the day. Dude has an extensive catalog. I’d put him ahead of Pete Rock fa sho. Donuts is the only instrumental album I’ve ever liked.
    MY LIST (favs, not necessarily best)
    1. Preemo
    2. Dr. Dre
    3. Rza
    4. Organized Noize
    5. Kanye (dude brought soul back to hip-hop)

  • BobbyGringo13

    Yeah, I see where you’re coming from wit the ‘Kast argument. But, even though hip-hop is my favorite genre…I listen to everything. Beatles, Dylan, Tool, Coldplay, Al Green, ect.ect.(just no country) and even with all of those influences, Outkast is my fav group, ATLiens fav album, Andre fav MC. I know ‘Kast only puts out an album every 4 years or so AND Dre is splitting time on the album with Big Boi but…I’ll take Andre’s best against ANY MC’s best all day. I know he don’t have the catalog that Jay does but, I’d take Dre’s best over Hov’s best. But that’s me. I like abstract ish.

  • oskamadison

    2 things: 1.) In terms of pure, untampered with, don’t give a damn what it sells hip-hop, DJ Premier is the best producer that ever did it, point fuckin’ blank. 2.) To all the cats frontin’ on J Dilla, go listen to Slum Village’s “Fantastic, vol. 2″. Ignore the rhymes. Listen to all those tracks and (try to) convince me that he doesn’t deserve all the props that he gets, and should have gotten while he was alive. If “Fantastic” ain’t enough, pull out Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate” (which J did the bulk of).

  • UARK83

    I’ll give you that Indy, when I think of “pure” hip-hop I think of a DJ and an MC and Gangstarr is that perfect example. The only thing is they stay in the same “sound”, which isn’t a bad thing cause I know I will get a solid album from them but the beauty about Outkast is they don’t do the same stuff, they are progressive, never doing the same thing. Then again I’m biased cause I’m from the South.

    As for Dilla…he didn’t start working with ATCQ until their last 2 albums, which in my opinion were not there best (still good but not great), but he does have one of the best bangers of all time with Common’s “The Light”. I just can’t put him in my top 10. His stuff with Slum was not all that great…

  • $ykotic

    I remember when cats would blow their budgets trying to get a Preemo beat.

    Anyone remember NaS’ “It was Written”? Dre produced some cuts off that album. Remember “NaS is Like”? Off of “I Am”? Preemo did that.

    Pete Rock’s best work came with CL Smooth spitting.

    J Dilla(RIP) was nice with his.

    Large Pro and Easy Mo Bee get no love. Albeit Mannie Fresh and DJ Muggs.

    The lane is long and large enough for many to ride in. Just be good at driving.

    And the young do not run things. They are bloodsucked and brainwashed. The T.I.’s want the kids to disrespect the elders so this way they alienate theirselves and never learn the truth. Until it’s too late of course.

    Believe me the OG’s wanna co-sign fresh new artists that are striving to be successful.

    But just getting your feet wet don’t make you Micheal Phelps.

    Maybe one day XXL will let me do a guest blog on that topic.

    Peace.

    p.s. And please do not forget Preemo never rhymed. Not like other dudes that have(no bias please. Dre is cool rhyming.) Preemo let’s the beat and the emcee tell his story. And I didn’t say singer either.

  • http://www.myspace.com/junclassic junclassic

    One of The All Time Greats.

    And if you ever met him his humility will surprise you…

    Much MUCH Respeck Preem!

    Cant wait for The Blaq Prince!

  • IndyKid

    UARK, I feel ya. The more we argue the more we agree w each other. I can respect that Outkast is diverse and fresh everytime they come with it. For my listening, they’re just too diverse. Honestly, I actually enjoy Boi and Dre when they’re rhyming solo. I know it sounds weird but I just don’t like it when two polar opposites come together.

    As for Dilla, I really wish I could argue with ya’ll but I’m just not familiar with his catalog as much as I’d like to be.

    Yo $ykotic, who runs it then bud? Nobody’s ‘disrespecting’ elders here. Even T.I. didn’t really diss anybody important. Unless you consider Lil Flip important…. hahahaha. I think my generation has pretty much gave respect where respect is due (except for Soulja Boy, but once again, unimportant).

    Indy

    • $ykotic

      Naw homes.

      T.I.’s(tall israelis)!

      If I remember correctly, Boi and 3 Stacks said they don’t even be around each other when they record or write. That’s the reason why I think their sound works.

      LOL @ the Lil Flip ref. But Flip does go in when he wants to.

      ‘Nuff respect 2 you. U bring a brain to the table.

    • $ykotic

      Did u make UARK his pancakes! LOL

      Ya’ll have a good night/Sunday/whatever fits you.

  • http://xxlmag jb

    It kills me how no one ever puts Marley Marl in their top five. He laid the foundation and got just as many classics as anyone. I mean what producer has been sampled more. Eric sermon also should be mentioned.
    http://www.myspace.com/lidujay

    • oskamadison

      jb, you’re exactly right. Marley pretty much owned the game from ’86 ’til about ’90. As far as E-Double goes, go back to those first four EPMD albums and count all the samples they flipped first. You Gots to Chill, It’s My Thing, Please Listen to My Demo, Rampage, Underground (for all you Black Moon/Beatminerz fans), Head Banger, etc.

  • http://xxl All Dae

    it’s almost refreshing to see Premier working hard even thought he’s a legend who can rest on his laurels and say he did it already.

    To many dope producers to name but the beatmakers that caught my ear is

    Premier
    Dr. Dre
    RZA
    Havoc