Interview with DJ Premier

Interview with DJ Premier

You’ve been making music for as long time now. How have you changed as an artist since the Gangstar days?

I think I just keep getting better as I go along. The older you get the wiser you get and obviously you’re more hungry when you’re younger. Now I’m set in a place where I’ve seen the industry did really really bad and ruin the culture, sound of Hip Hop with garbage. So now I’m a point that my hunger is back where I’m treating the industry like I’m trying to get in. when you do that you got to sharpen the knives and come up with a new sound. Now I’m back to recreating and reinventing myself. That old sound from back in the day I’m going back to that but I’m still gonna update again and go to another level but keep that sound. I know how to do that based on the fact that I’m a DJ and DJ we got to keep up with everything and I do. New young artists that are coming out I keep up and I still study the game. I don’t do that ‘that’s just a new artist coming out but I wanna play my record’. That’s cool if you do that I wanna know who’s selling records, who got the hottest beats. Even if I don’t like the record I wanna be aware so when I come around I don’t do what they do. I’ll stay different as I always have, being original. And that DJ mentality I’ll always have it and will know about the new artists.

You show a lot of love to the ‘old school’ artists. Are you not satisfied with the newer acts or is there another reason you don’t work with them?

I got love for old school but I’ll produce new ones also. It’s different with everybody. I like T.I., got a few people I like that’s current. [I have nothing against new artists.] as long as they show me love I’ll do the same for them.

Working on ‘Classic’ with KRS, Rakim, Nas and Kanye must have been quite an experience. Could you share your emotions from that track?

That record right there was really a remix that I did. Rick Rubin did the original. It was to celebrate the Airforce-1 Nike shoes. You know for how many years it’s been out… I got a call from KRS-1. Kanye West had a CD that Rick Rubin gave him with 10 or 12 beats, something like that and he picked that particular beat from Rick’s CD. And when he did KRS called me like ‘We did a version that Kanye picked but we don’t really like the track and we gonna send it to you and let you hear it and see if you can fix it’. And I was like ‘All right, fine, send it to me whenever’. And when he sent it to me I studied it for a day. Rakim was on it but not on the version that he sent me because Rakim did a version to another beat that he made and it was a different tempo. It got there 3 days later and when I got it I scratched Rakim’s voice to match the tempo of my beat. This is the thing you don’t know but as a producer I was gonna stretch it. When you listen to it it sounds like Rakim did it in the studio with me. Even when you see the video it was in my studio where we shot it but the song itself is his voice stretched from he did. He did it to a slower beat. Again I’m good at what I do and I knew how to make it sound like we all made it together. I don’t know what Rick Rubin thought about it. I don’t even know if he got it. He’s one of my favorite producers of all time. I was just doing the favor that KRS asked for and Ron Stone from Cornerstone Promotions. They asked me and when I turned it in they wanted the video that week. And I was like ‘Yo, I don’t got time to do the video. You can shoot it in my studio’. So they came with cameras and director and a friend of mine, who is really into that he helped me out. He got that graffiti element in there and it came out dope. I was on my DJ tour and they sent me the link to the video. Rakim would laugh on the record but I thought the video looked good.

You have your own labels. Could you talk about that?

Yeah, it’s called Year Round Records. The reason I named it that is ‘cause I’m always working, I’m always in the studio, non-stop. I’ve done so many records, so many albums and I’ve done it all by myself. I’ve never had somebody help me. It’s like my beat, their beat. Everything that’s done I did myself. Drumming, the turntables, the baseline, everything. Just in my accomplishments I think it’s an appropriate name.

I signed 4 artists, got an album coming out October 9th. The group is called NYG’z. their album is called ‘Welcome to G-dome’. It’s my first release. It’s not the official album. This is like the pre-album. The official album is called ‘Pros and Cons’. That’ll be the first album I produce entirely since the last Jeru the Damaja album. It’ll be first in 6 years. I’m really excited about that. The album coming out October 9th showcases the whole crew. NYGz is a big family, big movement. I produced the first single that’s coming out called Ya Days Are Numbered. It’s a really good album. Got MOP on the album. Got Blaq Poet, who is my next artist coming out. He is from Queens Bridge with Nas. He’s an incredible artist too. He’s very hard core, very grimy, raw, hard, straight Hip Hop. I also signed a young guy from my home town. His name is Khalel. He is a young cat, but he can really rhyme. He’s got a nice style, you’ll be hearing about him. Then also I have an Italian rapper. He’s my first ‘white rapper’. His name is Jabas. He’s from NJ. He is very very very skilled at rhyming. I mean not to play race here but not a lot of white artists that I give full respect to on a lyrical level. For me to sign a white artist being that it’s predominately a black culture they have to be on a level where I can stand behind them and really co-sign their lyrical abilities. The whole entire image and everything, he’ll learn and listen from the legends. He studies and keeps up and he’s really good at it. He got the whole look and attitude. He’ll definitely be a unique artist on my label. I don’t wanna focus on him being white, I focus on him being a good artist. The first record that he’ll put out is called Opportunity Knocks. I made the beat from sampling knocking on the door. Right now they are the 4 artists that I’m gonna start with. There’s gonna be a real good situation with all of my artists. I’m excited about this year and this year with Year Round Records.

Did you finish your work on Kool G Rap’s and Saigon’s albums already?

Kool G Rap invited me to do a track for him. He’s in Philli right now. As soon as he’s done I’ll sit down and get it out there. Saigon is still writing to the record that I gave him. I’m also executive producing MOP’s album and Royce Da 5’9’s album. He just got out and he made a song pretty much about why he was in jail and now he’s out, he’s got a life. The song is really hard, extremely ill. It’s gonna be a good year with new music.

What is the key to being a great producer and a great DJ to you?

Knowing how to record and knowing what is a good take. A lot of people get credit for being a producer ‘cause they made the track but a lot of them are not involved in the whole process of dealing with the artist. Producer make the artist bring out the best in them. You can put me in the studio with anybody, Nas, Sting, no matter who. It don’t gotta be only Hip Hop. And I can relate knowing that we are on the same page. It’s all about the process of production. I may not have a band and I make the drummer sounds and everything else, but I understand and respect the sound of music where I know what to do when it comes to the culture of music. Real producers know when to say ‘Hey, that line, let’s do a better take on it. It sounded a little chapped there. You ran on your sentence right there.’ You got to know when you hear a good tape. Like in a movie, there is a line that you could say better. You got to know how to do that and real producers pocess that skill. Dr. Dre has that. I have that. It’s not just laying a beat and saying you produced it, but producing it all along. That’s the reason why me and Christina Aguilera got along well, because I wasn’t just a DJ and a beat maker. I was a producer.

Producers now have a lot of power, more than MCs. Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing because lyricism lost a lot of its power?

It’s a good thing if… again going back to if you’re a good producer who cares about being there the whole time and developing the beauty of the song. There are certain people that can do that. KRS-1 has that experience of producing and MC’ing. It really depend on the artist and how far they take it. It really doesn’t matter who is winning, it’s just a matter of if you are a good artist and producer. It’s about the individual and how much they put in there. Again, a good example is Christina Aguilera. Everything that I did on her album she instructed me to do. I liked [that process]. Some people do that and some just put it together. She didn’t want to play me any music, she was like ‘This is what I want’. And I wasn’t really listening to her old stuff when she was really pop. She told me what she wanted out of me and I was like ‘Say no more, let’s go in’. We went in and made it a very classic album.

Do you believe in making music from scratch or is sampling the way to go?

It depends on the artist. Some sound better one way or the other. Dr. Dre sample any kind of music. Kanye West dropped music where it was more keyboard sounds on the tracks. I don’t care if it’s on the keyboard or sampled, as long as it sounds dope. Only reason I like sampling its ‘cause it’s the art of the old 70’s sound. It’s really what the old sound of Hip Hop originated from. Artists didn’t have the equipment so they used records as the background music. Then Rapper’s Delight came out and they were doing it more with a baseline and that was dope either way. There was Marley Marl. Public Enemy sampled like crazy and it was done right. And Whodini’s first record sounded incredible. It was sampled and it was a Hip Hop record. Doesn’t matter to me. I choose sampling ‘cause it’s an art form.