DJ Premier: The XXL Icon Interview

Wow. You’ve worked with all three of these artists. Who’s the best MC: Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?

Biggie. I knew Jay before I knew Big though. We were label mates with Jaz-O so he brought Jay with him all the time.

Why did you stop working with Jay after “So Ghetto?”
Just timing issues. I’m known for being slow. Everyone in the industry knows that.

I interviewed you for The Source in 2003. Back then, you told me that there was a time you had personal problems with Jay-Z. Can you elaborate?

I got mad at him for several things. When M.O.P. was coming out with First Family 4 Life, Rocafella said that they would use their logo on the back [of the CD] to promote but when it came time to do the video for “4 Alarm Blaze,” they wanted $25,000 for Jay to be in the video. But he said non-recoupable to M.O.P. At the time, I was ignorant. He wasn’t charging M.O.P. He was charging the label. We squashed it. I got mad when Big L died too. Jay said that he would get on The Big Picture. We already had Big Daddy Kane on “Platinum Plus.” I gave Jay the reel about a month in advance. I was calling his assistant and she was like, “He’s going to do it. It’s at the studio.” She was telling me the same thing over and over. One day, I saw his assistant and she was like, “The reels are not here.” She got up to go the bathroom so I opened the drawer where I had first put it and it was still in there. We deaded that. American Gangster was just a misunderstanding with getting him the track. They found [the track] and took it to Jay’s house. We were calling, no response. One day it was like, “Oh, he’s MIA.” Next day, no response. I don’t care if you say, “No.” Just let me know.

There are always these rumors about you producing an entire album for Nas. Why haven’t you guys worked together since “2nd Childhood?” Is it just timing?

Yeah. I‘ve been waiting for him to say, “Let’s go.” I just saw him at Rock the Bells in D.C. That was the first time I seen him in a year. He came up to me and these were his exact words: “If you do this album, will you tour with me?” I said, “Hell yeah.” Nas and Premier on tour? That’s going to be a success. The album will bang.

Besides not working with certain artists, what do you consider to be the greatest disappointment of your career?

I wish I obligated my Terror Squad deal with Fat Joe when I was at Atlantic. I told Joe, “I don’t care if you need an album, I’ll do it for free.” They gave me a grip of money and I never delivered an album. When I fuck up, I do make up.

The new compilation, DJ Premier Presents Year Round Records: Get Used to Us, has that classic DJ Premier sound. What prompts you to experiment or to switch styles?

I just liked to always top what I already done. There are always going to be similarities though. I can get away from it without you knowing its me. I’ve done Wal-Mart commercials that you wouldn’t know I did. I’ve done Back to School instrumentals for Wal-Mart. If you listen to them now, you will be like, “Yup, those are your drums, those are your bounces.” When it comes to hip-hop, I just always want to do something that will sound like me but be different from the last record I did. That’s how I think. Sometimes, I will do something and be like, “Man that cut sounds like the way I did it on that record. Scrap it.”

How do you respond to criticism that your sound has gotten stagnant these last few years?

It doesn’t bother me. It reminds of something Angus Young from AC/DC said, “Man, they said that we make the same thing 11 or 12 times. That’s not true. We do the same thing 13 times.” It may be stagnant to an over critical person but to a head, they are happy again.

You’re one of the few big-time producers who never their tried to rap? Why is that?

It’s not my calling. I might do it one day just for fun. I do plan on it.

Looking forward to it. [Laughs] What else is next for you?

Right now is just getting the label up and running. I‘ve had Year Round Records for about six years now. We are finished with the NYG’z album now but we just started mixing so we’re not going to be done by the end of the year. There is the Pete project—Pete Rock vs. Premier. We’re doing six songs each and not telling each other the artists. I already leaked out two artists that I wanted—Beatnuts and GZA. I’m also putting together a Gang Starr DVD. I’m putting out all this footage and sharing it with Guru’s son. We are splitting it 50/50. I went through my legal stuff and I have the rights to Gang Starr with the next of kin, which is his son.

What is the Gang Starr legacy?

The Gang Starr legacy is forever, period. It will never go away. We’ve been crowned icons. We’ve been crowned legends. From Jam Master Jay to Jay-Z to Rakim to Melle Mel to Marley Marl. Every idol that I’ve wanted to like what we were doing, has called us legends. I’m good. And the music never dies.

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  • Magnetic

    Dope interview. Gangstarr has got to be the sureshot

  • mick

    the greatest producer of all time. premo when you coming to scotland?

  • Worley

    Salute to Preemo. A Nas/Preemo album and tour would be epic. Some Fresh Fest type sh!t.

  • Don mcCaine

    “I’ve heard you say that Group Home’s Livin’ Proof was your toughest project


    A lot of people think it’s your best work.

    I had to make it that way [because of] their lack of lyrical ability and technique”

    ^ BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA…AND WE STILL SUPPORTED IT…’Baby Pa’ is my fave song on ‘Livin’ Proof’.

    good read here…Can you “fans” see that there was no rap cumbaya holding hands sh^t? None of that “I’m too good to respond” bullsh^t. Anyway…

    “I’ve done Wal-Mart commercials that you wouldn’t know I did. I’ve done Back to School instrumentals for Wal-Mart”

    ^ I have a blog up about the ‘The Rap Alphabets’ that speaks on stuff like this. There are other ways to get you’re music out there…

  • Q461

    Wow. My thoughts.

    # 1 Primo is the best producer in hip-hop history. Pete Rock, Dre, Rza are all up there but Primo’s sound defined a whole era, a whole coast. Greatest of all time that’s my word.

    # 2. I’m disappointed his work wit Kanye wasn’t on the album . I was looking forward to that shit.

    # 3. I always thought it was ironic how Primo is from Texas and Guru is from Boston, yet Gang Starr epitomizes the whole New York sound of the mid 90′s.

    # 4. Crazy had Primo pretty much outright admitted Grouphome was wack lyrically, but that it was widely considered his best work ( the Livin Proof album).

    # 5. I remember when Chuck D was swoll about that Biggie sample. Crazy how Primo went off on dude at a 711 lol.

    #6. For someone wit only a few albums, Jeru the Damaja had beef wit a lot of niggaz. Dude threw darts at the Fugees, Threw subliminals at Puff and Biggie and hinted that he thought Death Row and Foxy weren’t “real hip hop” Must have been crazy for Primo to produce Kick in the Door knowing Big was throwing shots at Jeru (Not to mention Nas, Ghost and Rae). Respect to Primo for having Jeru’s back even when around Biggie and Puff.

    #7 Crazy how dude didn’t hesitate about the question Who’s the best MC Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas? If anyone would know it would be Premier.

    # 8. Funny how far back some of Jay-z’s shady business dealings go.

    # 9. That album Premier vs Pete Rock got me souped! That will be some historical shit yall.

    # 10. Premier’s sound ain’t stagnant. I think dude is like Michael Jordan, he makes any nigga sound better over one of his soundscapes. RIP Guru. Gang Starr one of the best groups to ever do it, fuck going platinum, those niggaz are legends. Period.

    • Don mcCaine

      Q whaddup? you know I was aggy there were only 4 comments…

      #1 will be debated to the death (tho’ I agree). #3 is on point. heads are gonna overlook #8. #10? his sound ain’t stagnant, cats are fickle trend followers, no longer trend setters. So with that said…

      ‘Moment Of Truth’
      ‘Beyond Comprehension’
      ‘Come Clean’
      ‘Nas Is Like’
      ‘My Mind Spray’
      ‘Mental Stamina’
      ‘Da Realness’


    yo, this interview is one of the MOST f*** UP .
    Premo dropped a bunch rap secretzzz..s***

    interview review 10/10

  • Q461

    @ Don McCaine

    What up nigga? Yeah tere were zero comments when I first read this, but 4 by the time I finished my novel lol.

    In keeping with tradition:

    Krs one-outta here
    Jeru The Damaja- D Original
    Das Efx-Real Hip-Hop
    Fat Joe-The Shit is Real remix
    D an D All stars- 1, 2 pass it ( one of the best posse cuts of the 90s imo)
    Bahamadia-3 tha hard way
    MOP and G Rap-Stick to ya Gunz
    Rakim-Been a long time
    Gang Star-Mass Appeal
    Bun B-Let em know

    I can keep going lol… dudes got a million classics….

  • Sha

    You know what? I would love to read a whole book about behind the scenes convo with Preemo, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, and any other mega producer. I’ll bet they have hella stories. Preemo did XXL a solid. He could have made a book with this info. Just goes to show you how down to earth dude is. A true legend. Take notes young producers.

  • Don mcCaine

    Sha I see you ova here…name some songs homie…

    ‘Salute pt 2′
    ‘Robin Hood Theory’
    ‘Who Got Gunz’
    ’1st Of Tha Month (rmx)’
    ‘Next Level (rmx)’
    ‘Lady (rmx f/AZ)’
    ‘Ten Crack Commandments’
    ‘Rap Phenomenon’
    ‘Devils Pie’

  • Dick B.

    Premier’s the best, what else is there to say except why doesn’t he have XXL cover?

  • Q461

    @ Sha

    Co-sign dog. I think a Behind the scenes book on producers would be crazy to read… So many hidden stories niggaz don’t know about …

    @ Don

    Gang Starr- Royalty
    CNN-Grand Royal
    Rakim-New York ( Ya out there)
    Rakim-When I be on the mic
    AZ- the format
    Pitch Black-It’s all real
    Xzibit-what a mess
    Snoop Dogg-the one and only
    Royce da 5’9-Boom
    Common-6th sense
    Mos Def-mathematics
    Limp Bizkit and Meth N 2gether now
    Jay-Z- a million and one questions

    • Don mcCaine

      OK my niggg…I quit…I’ma put one in the air for ya…knickerbockers almost had them…’bout to 2 check blazers/mavs at the bar…

  • Q461

    lol Word we can be here all night with Primo’s hits…

    Yup My knicks showin some heart though…Amare’s a monster and if we get Melo it’s fuckin on for real….

  • abhishek denzil

    nice interview!

  • Don mcCaine

    word Q…

    if this post don’t reach plat status, on everything I’ma throw DARTS…there will be a 100 comments on BULLSH^T media PRESS RELEASES, BUT there will be few comments on HIP HOP MUSIC.

    Hip Hop music lover>>>>>>>>>>>>>mainstream rap fan

    p.s. them my Knicks 2 n^gga…shouts 2 my homie Black Just (Melo’s physical)…


  • ell

    this interview made my whole day man premo..some info whe would have never heard of the best interviews

  • scjoha

    Great anecdotes. Probably the best of all the recent Premo interviews. Thanks and respect to Premo and the XXLmag reporter for this interview. This is how hiphop history is to be covered!

  • SenghorChild

    This GOTTA be one of the BEST interview I ever read from anicon. In comparison the DRE interview which drops this month is weak…

  • sb

    one of the best interviews i’ve read on this site all year!!!!

  • EmCDL

    That was a dope interview, and I think thats the first one I’ve read from him…ever. Them albums he working on got me hyped…Nas and Preemo? Lets Goooooo!


  • Sha

    What up $yk!

    1. Baby Pa— I love the Dice skit. That beat is so sick! The way he brought in some Spanish Music on that shit. Preemo is the master of the Intros and Loops.

    2. B.Y.S.—– The way Preemo cut up that Slick Rick and Dougie.

    3. Invasion—- Don’t need to say anything about that one

    4. Rappaz R. N. Dainja ——Kris slayed that one

    5. Unbelievable—- Flippin R Kelly was some shit I never thought of. Definitely from another angle.

    6. New York (Ya out there)—– The way he sliced up New York was on some mind blowin stuff

    7. In Memory Of..—– Seems kinda prophetic with Guru’s passing

    8. 2nd Childhood—— Nas and Preem. Dope!

    9. Represent—— Another Nas joint

    10. New York Ryder Music —— He HAS made some new classics. Agallah killed that one.

  • Curtis75Black

    This is one hot interview. Straight thorough. Premo went thru a lot of shit. That background book would be hot. Funny how homie is surrounded in a studio taking up for Jeru !! What’s crazy is didn’t Nas say “Kick in the door” for him ?


    premo is a legend, a true king on this rap s***.Dude blessing us with affiliattions like I GAVE YOU POWER,NAS IS LIKE,KICK IN THE DOOR,UNBELIVABLE,MASS APPEAL,ABOVE THE CLOUDS,WHATEVA…

    nobody can t touch him,bro…. =_= ( good ***d ) !

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  • caino

    See XXL, you can pull off real hiphop if you interview the correct person! Dope interview, Preemo coming across as a straight up guy, with enough stories for that novel , like sha suggested! .

    The sun rises in the east – full album
    Memory LAne
    NY State of Mind

    like everyone else l could go on!

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  • oskamadison

    Dammit!!!!!! I was late as hell seeing this joint. It looks like y’all covered evrything there is to say about Preme. Most of y’all even share some of my top 5 favorite Preme joints (Gang Starr’s Speak Ya Clout, Unbelievable, Kick In The Door, Royce Da 5’9′s Boom and Rakim’s New York.) Peace to all the TRUE heads that really know and can comment on the MUSIC, not just all the b.s. As always, $yk, what’s up!!!! Q, I see you too. 75 Black, ain’t seen you in a minute, what’s up?

  • TUMI