The Architects of Illmatic – DJ Premier
"Not the one that's on the album. The one on the album is a remix." During the making of Illmatic, ...
Christopher Edward Martin (born March 21, 1966), better known by his stage name DJ Premier (also known as Preem, Premo, or Primo for short), is an American record producer and DJ, and was the instrumental half of the hip hop duo Gang Starr, together with emcee Guru. Born in Houston and raised in Prairie View, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York during his teen years, he has lived in Brooklyn for much of his professional career. Rolling Stone identified Premier as arguably Hip-Hop's greatest producer of all time.
The Source placed DJ Premier on its list of the 20 greatest producers in the magazine's twenty-year history, while the editors of About.com ranked him #1 on their Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers list. He also made the "Finals" in the search for The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All Time by Vibe. He attended Prairie View A&M University.
Premier is known for producing all of Gang Starr's songs as well as many of the Gang Starr Foundation's songs. His work also includes production for heavyweight rappers such as (alphabetic order) Apathy, Big L, Big Daddy Kane, Bun B, Canibus, Common, D.I.T.C., Evidence, Fat Joe, Game, Ill Bill, Immortal Technique, Jay-Z, Joell Ortiz, Kanye West, KRS-One, Lord Finesse, M.O.P., Mos Def, Nas, Rakim, Royce da 5'9", Snoop Dogg, The LOX, The Notorious B.I.G., Vinnie Paz, Xzibit, rock band Limp Bizkit and Busta Rhymes. In 2006, pop/R&B singer Christina Aguilera recruited Premier to produce her album "Back To Basics".
Premier collaborated with MC Jeru the Damaja on the album The Sun Rises in the East, released in 1994, as well as the 1996 follow-up, Wrath of the Math. Also from the Gang Starr Foundation, Premier produced and supervised Group Home's Livin' Proof; although overlooked at the time of its 1995 release, the album has since come to find similar acclaim. Among others in that are closely tied to the Gang Starr Foundation who have worked with DJ Premier include Afu Ra, Bahamadia, Krumbsnatcha, Big Shug, Smiley the Ghetto Child, and NYGz. He recently produced the majority of Blaq Poet's Tha Blaqprint in 2009 and will produce the entirety of NYGz sophomore album.
Style and influences
DJ Premier's style of production epitomizes the New York sound of his earlier peers. He is known for sampling jazz, funk, and soul artists, as well as sampling an artist's past work when creating a new track for that same artist. For example, on Jay-Z's "So Ghetto", from the 1999 album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, Premier samples an older Jay-Z song, 1997's "Who You Wit II". In addition, his encyclopedic memory of hip-hop lyrics allows him to distinctively speak with his hands by scratching in lyrics from several different songs to construct new phrases. Premier's beats are known for his oft-imitated combinations of short vocal samples, often from multiple artists, to create a chorus. Premier has also experimented with atonal samples that are not confined to soul, jazz, and funk. For example, he sampled chopped up seminal electro-acoustic music from the 1960s on the track “Mental Stamina” by Jeru the Damaja.
In an interview with XXL Magazine, DJ Premier was asked how his sound evolved, to which he replied, "Marley Marl is my number one inspiration. Jam Master Jay, Mixmaster Ice and UTFO. Grandmaster D and Whodini. DJ Cheese, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa. Jazzy Jay, even Cut Creator. Seeing them do what they do. It’s black music, it’s black culture, it comes from the ghetto. How can you not relate to ghetto people when that’s the rawest form of blackness? Even though it’s not a good place in regards to the economy and how bad people have it in the neighborhood, the realism’s there, and that’s what we were born out of. So I very much pay respect by doing the same type of music in return." DJ Premier attended Prairie View A & M University and may have been influenced by the musical atmosphere at the university.
Relationships with artists
The early line-up of the Gang Starr Foundation in the mid-1990s included Jeru The Damaja, Group Home, Big Shug, and Gang Starr. DJ Premier was fully responsible for the production of Jeru the Damaja's first two albums, The Sun Rises in the East and Wrath of the Math. Jeru released three albums since then, with Premier having nothing to do with any of them.
As far as Group Home was concerned, Premier commented, "They don't respect what fed them," in a 2003 interview, going on to say that the only reason he produced a track (The Legacy) on their second album (A Tear for the Ghetto) was because Guru said he would rhyme on it.
Besides the Gang Starr Foundation, Premier is closely affiliated with M.O.P., which he names as one of his all-time favorite groups. The relationship started with the remix of “Rugged, Neva Smoove” in 1994, a single from the group's first album, which also included the exclusive B-side “Downtown Swinga.” From then, Premier produced about one-third of the songs on each subsequent album and overseeing and mixing the projects. On M.O.P.'s 2009 Foundation album, however, DJ Premier provided only one track, which was called "What I Wanna B."
Recent and future projects
DJ Premier has his own record company named Year Round Records. Among its artists are New York group NYGz, New Jersey rapper Nick Javas, and Houston rapper Khaleel. Tha Blaqprint by Blaq Poet, which has thirteen Premier productions, was released by Year Round Records through Fat Beats Records. On December 7, Premier's label Year Round Records released a digital compilation album titled Get Used to Us. At the moment Year Round plans to release a debut album fully produced by DJ Premier with the NYGz tenatively called Hustla's Union: Local NYG along with a Nick Javas debut album named Destination Unknown. Khaleel, another label-mate of Year Round Records, is planned to release a debut album titled Already!. DJ Premier hosts a weekly 2 hour show Live From HeadQCourterz on SIRIUS Satellite Radio's Hip-Hop Nation on Fridays. DJ Premier was one of the artists followed in the 2012 documentary Re:GENERATION music project. The film followed his production of the song Regeneration using live performance of his work by the Berklee Symphony Orchestra . In a recent interview, DJ Premier said he will produce a beat for Immortal Technique's upcoming album, titled The Middle Passage. He contributed a song on Game's last album The R.E.D. Album called "Born in the Trap." and a song on Bushido's last album Jenseits von Gut und Böse. In an interview in 2012, DJ Premier confirmed on Shade45 that he is working with Eminem on his upcoming album. DJ Premier is also expected to produce a full album for New York rapper Nas. The album will be released as a collaboration between the two hip hop icons.
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