There’s nothing like a DJ Premier beat. Simple but instantly recognisable. Sparse. Bouncy. Clumps of chunky samples, often, but not always, funk or soul. Classic boom bap beats. Choruses weaved out of whirling, rising lyrical scratches that lift the spirits.. You can’t help but nod your head. Premo’s legendary career has put him at the top of his game. Rolling Stone named him Number One on their top hip-hop producers (NME named him the 24th greatest producer of all time). It’s hard to argue with that. Just take a quick listen to a collection of the master’s top beats below.
Originally from Texas, Premier’s lived in Brooklyn for most of his life. Gang Starr is perhaps his main body of work but he’s produced beats for, well, literally everyone. At the moment he’s talked about working on new albums from Immortal Technique, Eminem and Nas. We had the chance to chat to the legend and ask him a few questions about the past and the future.
What are the 10 songs by artists outside hip-hop who’ve most influenced your life and why?
All I can say is that anyone who loves what I do should listen to all of these tracks and you will understand why I have so much soul
1. Jackson 5 – ‘I Want You Back’
2. Marvin Gaye – ‘What’s Going On’
3. Stevie Wonder – ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)’
4. Parliament – ‘P-Funk’
5. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – ‘Stretchin’ Out’
6. James Brown – ‘Mother Popcorn’
7. Prince – ‘Uptown’
8. The Time – ‘Cool’
9. Funkadelic – ‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’
10. Curtis Mayfield – ‘Freddie’s Dead’
The reason why UK hip-hop finds it hard to compete in the US is mainly because of the accent and use of language. I personally like some of it but the overall approach in the States makes it hard for most listeners to enjoy music from a different region. Look, it took many many years for southern hip-hop to catch on and I am from the south. But I was taught under a different cloth (that included the 10 songs listed above). This is the reason why other countries started their own sound and movement and became popular in their own towns. I wish it was not that way but it is.
The NY scene is getting better. Radio in New York is very bad. They have changed to the same bullshit that makes our culture weak. It is a closed door business now and real music has no place on terrestrial radio. That is why I am glad to have a radio show every Friday Night. It is called ‘Live From HeadQcourterz‘ and we ONLY break new music that has the style and sound of the Golden Era hip-hop. I do no favours for anyone when it comes to what I select to be played on the air, so that I don’t mislead the listeners in the way they’re being treated by commercial radio robot DJs.
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Listen to Premo’s latest show below
I like Jakk Frost & Malik B., Nutso, Action Bronson, Sean Price, Wu-Block, Tashane, Majestic Gauge, A. Bless, Kendrick Lamar, Mayhem Lauren…
I am proud of all of my beats. It is not easy to do as many tracks as I’ve done all by myself and stay consistent with keepin’ it raw. I give thanks to my parents, family and God for my ability to still do this at 46 years of age – I was 19 when I started.
Will sampling continue to have a place in hip-hop with the tightening of copyright laws?
We have survived sampling issues for years and years and I do respect the laws now since I have also grown as an artist/producer. We just have to be extra creative with how we do it. It’s all good.
Jay-Z, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, LL Cool J
To work with Prince or U2.
DJ Premier will play London’s Plan B on Thursday 28th February 2013 Details & tickets can all be found here