Primo: 38 classiques décortiqués…

Nas “I Gave You Power” (1996)

Nas “I Gave You Power” (1996)


DJ Premier: “I was on tour with Gang Starr, and I was just getting back. And I was going right back out to go to Japan. So I didn’t have any time to make any other beats for It Was Written. But Nas said, ’I want to make a record as if I was a gun.’ We started messing around, trying to figure out what he’s going to do, and we finally figured out a way, because he said, ’Maybe I should do a skit where I drop the gun, and somebody else finds it.’ And that’s how it all built, and I said, ’You know what? Instead of making this a hard mean shit, let me make it sound sad.’ Because he said I’m going to be the gun talking about being tired of all the stuff I’m doing to people. That’s why I put that emotion behind it.”

Gang Starr f/ Nice & Smooth “DWYCK” (1992)

DJ Premier: “It was just a fun record. It was a B-side joint. We did ‘Down the Line’ on the Nice & Smooth album, so we were like, ‘Ya’ll do one with us.’ So we just made a B-side and it was ‘DWYCK.’ WC was here when we cut that record. He was up in New York hanging with me. Don Barron from Masters of Ceremony was also here. Everybody cut their vocals, and Smooth came the second day. He laid his, and we put it out there, and all of a sudden it was a summertime smash. After that we were doing shows everywhere thanks to ‘DWYCK.’ It was a very high point in my life.

“It was supposed to be on Daily Operation, but the label wasn’t rolling with it. They just wanted to leave it the way it was. The buzz, however, was so big, we re-mastered it and tacked it onto the album, but then [the label] just didn’t do the re-pressings. I think we would’ve gone, maybe even platinum. ‘DYWCK’ was that big. We were upset, so we said, ‘Let’s at least put it somewhere down the line because even if they don’t want anything on the album, if they want ‘DWYCK’ on it, they’ll cop’em.’ So that’s why we put that on Hard to Earn.”


Gang Starr “Mass Appeal” (1994)

DJ Premier: “It was recorded as a joke. We just wanted to make fun of the radio on what it sounded like to get airplay. That’s why I made the background melody real simplistic. I was making fun of the radio, but I’m going to make a funky version of making fun of it. Everything’s a vision, and your brain has to be that intense to be able to capture that. What the radio played, when it came to hip-hop, it sounded too watered down. That was making fun of it, but that record did real good for us. We shot the video in Riis beach out in Far Rockaway, but don’t mention that video, man. It was cold, too cold.”

Jeru the Damaja “Come Clean” (1994)


DJ Premier: “Guru wanted six artists on Gang Starr Foundation. He said, ’I’m going to sign three, and you’re going to sign three.’ I never got my three. So I said, ’Let’s start with your three.’ It was Big Shug, Group Home, and Jeru. Jeru was the most ready, so we started with him. I cooked it up, and I thought about putting some melodies to it, but Jeru’s so grimy and hardcore, the beat was perfect for him. He didn’t need any extra keyboards, or melodic sounds. It just sounded raw, and no one made a beat like that. And I ended up making two albums with [Jeru]: The Sun Rises in the East and Wrath of the Math. I stopped working with Jeru because of business issues. I keep business and friendship separate all the time. So I was like, ’Let’s just chill, and we’ll keep it cool.’ And we’re still cool to this day.”


Notorious B.I.G. “Unbelievable” (1994)

Notorious B.I.G. “Unbelievable” (1994)

DJ Premier: “I almost didn’t make the record. Big called me at the last minute, and said, ’Get me a track,’ and I told him, ’I don’t have time to make one.’ I had other deadlines to meet at the time. He was on his way to blow up, and I loved him, and I wanted to help, but I really just didn’t have the time. I used to see Big in the area all the time. Just to hang. Mister Cee put me on to Big, and we would go down to the store where we used to buy 40s. We’ll see Big, and he’ll be like, ’Yo, what do I got to do to get put on?’ And I said, ’Well, you messing with Puff.’ And he’s like, ’Yeah, but he’s taking too long.’ And I would be like, ’Nah, stay with him. He’s going to help you get rich.’ He was just impatient like all artists, but it’s a process.

“So he just kept pushing me like, ’Yo, Prim, please, please, I ain’t got no more money in my budget. All I got is $5,000.’ And I’m like, ’Dude, I cost way more than that, but I love you, and I’m going to go ahead and look out for you. Just get up here tonight.’ And I did that beat. He was here. Standing right over there [points at the corner next to the turntable] while I was sampling the beat, and goes, ’I just want to watch [imitates Biggie’s breathing].’ [Laughs.] I don’t like people watching me making my beats, but with Big I was just comfortable. He was actually the one who said, ’Yo, scratch R. Kelly’s ’Your Body’s Callin’.’ You know where he goes, ’Unbelievable~’’ And I was like, ’Yo, that sounds like it’ll work.’ Then he just went in there and spit it. No paper, no nothing. He actually just sits there for hours. And you’d think he’s not doing anything, or even concentrating, and then when it’s getting damn near three or four in the morning, you ask him, ’Dude, are we going to do this tonight? Or are we coming back tomorrow?’ He’ll be like, ’Nah, I’m ready.’ And he just gets up, and goes in there. Bangs it. Done.”


Big L f/ Big Daddy Kane “Platinum Plus” (2000)

DJ Premier: “Jay-Z was supposed to be on [’Platinum Plus’] too. It was supposed to be the three of them, but he never had the chance to do it in the time frame. We really had to turn it in to make the date. So we just went ahead and did it without him. This is when Jay and Big L were talking about a deal, but they were friends anyway. L used to take Jay everywhere and go, ’Yo, this is my man Jay-Z. He’s dope.’ He took him to Stretch & Bobbito, and he would take Jay to all the spots. It wasn’t the other way around. I met Big L through Lord Finesse and Showbiz way back. [Finesse] met him at Rock N. Wills, which was one of the spots we used to go digging and all that. They used to have battles there. L was at a battle, he met Lord Finesse who he was a big fan of, and they clicked. He introduced to him to Show, and then Show put him on ’Represent’ on Runaway Slave.

“We were just always around each other a lot. L was just super funny. He was a jokester. One time, him and Showbiz were arguing about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King in this room. Showbiz was like, ’Yo, you’re stupid. You think you know everything, but you’re stupid.’ And L was still trying to justify himself. And he talks like he rhymes. He’ll be like, [raises the pitch of his voice] ’Yo, yo, yo, Premier like, that nigga don’t know what he be talkin’ bout. Yo, check this out, yo, Martin Luther King, he said in his book like, yo, Malcolm X, yo.’ You know what I mean? And Show was just like, ’You’re stupid! You don’t know shit! Fucking, you’re the dumbest motherfucker in the world!’ And L would be like, ’Yo, fuck you, you don’t know shit, yo, let me tell you about Malcolm X.’ And they were waiting for Fat Joe to get here to do ’Da Enemy.’ Joe finally walks in and goes, ’What are ya’ll arguing about?’ And then Show was still going at it like, ’You’re a stupid motherfucker.’ And L would be like, ’Yo, yo, yo, you don’t know shit. Yo, ya’ll get the beat ready? I already got my rhymes.’ And Joe was like, ’You go first.’ And then we heard L said his shit, and we were like, ’Oh, my God. When the streets hear this? It’s on and popping.’”


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