Panjabi MC Talks Making “Beware” With Jay-Z A Decade After Its Release, Working With DJ Premier

On “Beware” And How Jay-Z Worked On The Track

Let’s talk about “Beware.” Is it true that Jay-Z heard it at a club in Switzerland and then contacted you?
Yeah, that’s correct. He contacted us and basically said that he wanted to vibe on the beat. At the time, obviously, it was an amazing situation for not only myself, but for bhangra music and Indian music generally. For bhangra music—which is the street music from England—for Jay-Z and also for people like Spike Lee to directly phone me and say, “Look, we’ve been listening to bhangra for a long time, we’re big fans.” For me, it’s an amazing time, because I didn’t even realize that outside of our community, that people were aware of the music.

I used to play a lot of non-Asian shows because my music is very much blended with hip-hop and stuff as well, but it was usually an Indian night or something. Then all of a sudden, the mainstream was like, “Look, we’ve been listening to it as well.” It was a good thing, especially when it’s real bhangra and real street music that they’ve been listening to and not something that’s been targeted toward them.

So how did it evolve from Jay-Z hearing it in a club to being on the track?
I don’t think it even took him very long to actually do the verse. He was in the studio and I missed the phone call from America; I guess it must have been early in the morning. So he left a message for me, and he kind of spat the verse into my voicemail. Just that voicemail became a classic hit amongst my friends. We acknowledged that this is going to be a groundbreaking moment for bhangra music, definitely. Again, we hadn’t imagined that these guys, the mainstream hip-hop, the biggest artists in the world, are listening to bhangra music.