Soundtrack Of My Life: DJ Premier

Legendary hip-hop producer, says he'll still be in the booth at 100

The first song I remember hearing

The Jackson 5 – ‘I Want You Back’

“I probably first heard it when I was five years old. My mother always played records in the house, and I remember seeing the cover of ‘Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5’. I’d never seen a kid dance and move like that. And then the records were really incredible! It made me really get into music at that very point.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Isaac Hayes – ‘Theme from Shaft’

“It was something about the sound of that guitar riff! At that time, there wasn’t really cursing in records unless you were listening to [comedian] Richard Pryor’s albums. So when Isaac Hayes says, ‘Ya daaamn right’ and then ‘They say this cat Shaft is a bad mother…’, before [the singers] go, ‘Shut your mouth!’ – I was like, ‘Wow!’ It was something that fascinated me, [as well as] the whole orchestration and arrangement of it, and how big it was.”

The first album I ever bought

The Jackson 5 – ‘ABC’

“Me and mother would always go record shopping together, and I always got to buy three records. By that time, The Jackson 5‘s second album, ‘ABC’, had come out: the cover art, with the band all playing with those big ‘ABC’ blocks, as a kid I’m thinking, ‘Oh that’s fun, it looks like a playground!’. ‘ABC’ was such a big record.”

The first gig I went to

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James Brown at the Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas, 1971

“The whole family – me, my mum, my dad, all my sisters – went. My second concert at the Sam Houston Coliseum was Ike and Tina Turner. It was an incredible experience as a child – those shows were very memorable.”

The song that reminds me of home

Maze and Frankie Beverly – ‘Happy Feelin’s’

“It was a really, really well-known record in our town: Maze and Frankie Beverly were huge in Texas. A lot of people know Maze for ‘Before I Let Go’ and ‘Joy & Pain’, but for us ‘Happy Feelin’s’ was a humongous record. That one always resonates in my head.”

The song I wish I’d written

Eric B. & Rakim – ‘Eric B. Is President’

“The original 12″ version, not the album remix – though shout-out to the great Marley Marl, who’s one of my mentors in this game. The 12” version is so dope: it’s a big difference in the way that it’s arranged and edited. The way Rakim wrote that rhyme: ‘Thought I was a donut, you tried to glaze me.’ Who writes like that?! He brought a new style and sound to hip-hop that we just never experienced before.”

The song I do at karaoke

Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – ‘It Takes Two’

“I don’t really do karaoke, but if I had to, I’d probably do ‘It Takes Two’: ‘I wanna rock right now / I’m Rob Base and I came to get down.’ I don’t think I’d even need to look at the lyrics! But it’d be fun to just do it and pull somebody on stage to act stupid.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Crimeapple and DJ Skizz – ‘Wonder Years’

“Right now I’m bumping this artist called Crimeapple – shout-out to DJ Skizz who produced it. They just put out an EP, ‘Breakfast In Hradec’, that I just keep playing on loop.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Earth, Wind & Fire – ‘Keep Your Head To The Sky’

“Man, I don’t really think about death! If you think about death, you can manifest it and it can turn real. So I think about life and living! I’ve never thought about [my funeral song], but I’d definitely request ‘Keep Your Head To The Sky’. Rest in peace to DJ Crazy Toones, WC’s brother: they played it at his funeral, then ‘Zoom’ by the Commodores – two appropriate songs. But [living to] 100 is my goal!”

The song that makes me want to dance

Alicia Myers – ‘I Want To Thank You’

“It’s just a really feel-good record, which I like. As soon as it comes on, your body starts to do [DJ Premier starts dancing] and all of a sudden, your shoulders start going, then the hands… When it makes all of your body parts, including your toes, move, it’s a good record.”

‘DJ Premier: Hip Hop 50 Volume 1′ is out now

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