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Ok, before we get started....I have to start a new bag series. I love - LOVE - doing the Music Tribute series, and have absolutely no plans of stopping with that. However, these days I'm finding that more and more I want to make bags based on the people I'm most excited about RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Which doesn't really correspond to "legends" of music, in a lot of cases.
For the most part, I listen to hip hop. That's always been the case, since about 7th grade. So, I'm lucky enough to have been around for the early years - what some would call the "golden years" - when De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. and Rakim, Organized Konfusion, Main Source, Black Sheep, etc. were getting air play. By the way, I'm coming off the top of the head here, so please don't look very deep into that little list of names I spouted; there are many, many names that would be added to that list but I don't really have the time or the space to expound upon that right this second. Suffice to say, while there are a whole of candidates within the world of hip hop that I feel can be added to the category of "legend of music" in general (I've already done Dilla and Rakim), there are a whole lot more people I can think of who have been banging stuff out for years but have only just begun. Mostly I'm focusing on hip hop production, as that's what I've been into these days.
Black Milk. Ta'raach. Waajeed. Khrysis. 9th Wonder. Sa-Ra. J Rawls. Kev Brown. Oddissee. The list goes on. Anyway, I'm probably going to feel the urge to make a few bags based on these guys. I'm not really sure how I'll do it; I might make "regional" bags (for instance putting out a Detroit bag featuring Waajeed and Black Milk), or I might actually go ahead and do individual ones. I don't know. But they're coming.
Now on to the topic at hand: DJ Premier (aka Primo, Preem, Premo, or probably any other misspelled variation you can think of). I went off on that ramble, actually, because he is an artist that can fit into the category of "legend" OR "hot right now". Because his beats have been hot for years. I actually found some production credits for things I had absolutely no idea he had been involved with! I knew he'd first broken into the scene with Gangstarr (he and Guru dropped their first album together in '89). However, I quickly found out that he had worked with Lord Finesse in 1990 on a remix of "Funky Technician". He worked with Ice T in '91. He worked on the "Blue Funk" album for Heavy D in 1992 (young cats, trust me, Heavy D was a shoe-in for hits at that time) along with Pete Rock. He did stuff with Soul II Soul that year too.
Of course, he's best known for his work as one half of Gangstarr. Right from the start, he created his trademark imprint on the single "Words I Manifest" (Robbie, I hope you're reading this somehow). He's widely known for creating choruses by cutting and scratching lyrical samples rather that having the mc (in this case, Guru) actually rhyme out a chorus. In this song, he simply cut up one line, but as the years went by, he became an absolute monster with the technique. There's some later tracks where he pulls up half a dozen or more amazing, relevant samples and strings them into a perfect chorus.
I had a hard time trying to decide whether or not to include clips of just his instrumental versions (since he never really gets on the mic) or to go go ahead and put the full tracks with the mc's up. In the end, I went with the latter. Mainly because one of his strengths has always been his ability to fit the track to the mc. And he's worked with a ton of 'em. I'll get back to the Gangstarr in a second, but in my mind, one of the sickest tracks ever was the beat he put together for Jeru the Damaja on Jeru's debut album "The Sun Rises in the East".
I can't even imagine anybody else making something this dirty, and it matches Jeru's voice and cadence PERFECTLY. When this came out in 94, my friends and I completely lost our minds. Mostly because it was the followup track to another of hip hops best beats ever: "Come Clean", also by Jeru. Also produced by Premo. Oh, what do you know! Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I'm just going to put up this video somebody made of Jeru's whole album, taken in snippets. A good, quick way to check out the production across the whole thing, which is masterful. (Be aware, this album has profanity! If you don't want to hear it don't click! Yeah, this pretty much goes for the rest of the clips after this too.)
Getting back to Gangstarr....I can't even come close to listing all of the amazing beats Premier put out for Guru to flow over. but I think it says a lot of Premier that he was able to tailor his production to the deep monotone flow that Guru brought to the table. And - much like Jeru, who is still (for better or worse) making music today - you can see the difference in quality when Guru rhymes over a Premo beat versus somebody else's beat. Ummm....Jazzmatazz series, anybody? All kidding aside, it's just not the same. Premier made mc's better, period.
OK, I'm just going to say this: All of Gangstarr's albums, from 1989's "No More Mr. Nice Guy" all the way through 1998's "Moment of Truth" have banging production from Premier. Honestly, I left their last album ("The Ownerz") on the rack, so don't ask me about that one please.
Premo has made hits with more relevant artists than possibly any other producer in hip hop today. I'm going to leave that statement sitting on this screen while I keep writing, and see if in the end, I can think of somebody else who trumps him....anyway, he worked with KRS-One in 1993 on his album "Return of the Boom Bap", which kept KRS in the game after the end of the Boogie Down Productions (BDP) era.
He produced Mobb Deep's first single ("Peer Pressure"). He made arguably one of the best beats on arguably one of the best hip hop albums ever...."New York State of Mind" off of Nas' 1992 debut "Illmatic":
He made some of the craziest beats for another guy that some would consider the illest of all time: Biggie. Tracks including "Unbelievable", "Kick in the Door", and "Ten Crack Commandments" remain classics to this day...as much due to Premo's work as due to the lyrics and flow of the late B.I.G.
Add to the list Das Efx, Fat Joe, Jay Z, Rakim, Brand Nubian, Mos Def, Big L, Common, Dilated Peoples, Snoop Dogg, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Kanye West, and Kool G Rap. Just to, you know, name a few of the other luminaries that have benefitted from Premier productions.
On a side note, I really wish that a) Storch had never gotten hold of Fat Joe and b) Pun was still around.
This is getting pretty long, but I can't really skip the fact that along with the big names, Premier was always down with the groups that didn't really get a lot of radio play, but were loved by the "core" of hip hop fans. There's a quote that stuck with me while I was watching the "Beat Kings" documentary DVD. Premo is talking about the state of hip hop, and to paraphrase, he basically says "There's no such thing as weak hip hop. There's hip hop, and then there's weak music." This is something he really takes to heart, and it's apparent in the collaborations he's done with all different types of people. Reflected in his work with "underground" legends such as Group Home:
and Show & AG
he brought in his whole crew from the famed D+D studios for this one
and not-so-much-legends like Paula Perry somehow got blessed with this amazing track
To this day, he continues to provide heat for artists big and small, such as "So Amazing" from Termanology's 2008 "Politics as Usual"
That's probably enough for now....aside from hip hop, he's done tracks for Janet Jackson, Christina Aquilera, Alicia Keys, and many other artists to boot. He'll probably be rocking that MP-60 for a long time to come.