DJ Premier started making music professionally in the 1980s. But listening to his just released DJ Premier Presents Year Round Records Get Used To Us compilation album, it’s hard to tell that the producer emerged more than 20 years ago.
After all, most of his initial peers have been pushed out of the music business for a variety of reasons. Some, to put it politely, stopped making quality material. Others couldn’t adapt to the changing sonic landscape, while others simply left the music industry to pursue other opportunities.
DJ Premier Collaborations
- Mos Def
- Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
- Fat Joe
- Snoop Dogg
For his part, DJ Premier has remained steady, churning out tracks for Jay-Z, Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., Christina Aguilera and his group Gang Starr, among others, during the last 20-plus years. The DJ-producer says there’s a reason he’s been able to maintain the quality and quantity of his output.
“I’m just still as passionate about it as I was when I tried to get my first deal,” says Premier, who will soon be releasing a deluxe version of Get Us To Us that features a video for each of the collection’s 16 tracks. “That’s really where it all lies. A lot of the artists from my era or even the ‘80s that came before me, a lot of them feel like they’ve got to keep up with what the youngsters are doing and do that style, but that style don’t work for us, so we don’t need to do that. We need to keep doing the traditional style because our audience that grew up with us wants more of that.”
Indeed, DJ Premier has an uncanny ability to merge the classic boom bap production sound that he pioneered with the attitude and sensibility of the modern rap industry. Rap legends KRS-One and Grand Puba, for instance, deliver a rousing religious overview on the string and beatbox-accented “5%,” while longtime DJ Premier collaborator Freddie Foxxx delivers “Gang Starr Bus,” which depicts the good times the members of DJ Premier’s extended musical family had in their prime. Compton icon MC Eiht also contributes the sizzling “Fine By Me.”
But it’s the songs from several promising rappers that demonstrate how DJ Premier deftly combines his classic sound with today’s energy. Female rapper Dynasty rips through impressive braggadocio over a slow, piano-driven beat on “Epic Dynasty,” while Houston rapper Khaleel puts his confrontational lyrics on the spare, eerie “Hot Flames.”
Then there’s Nick Javas, who went from someone DJ Premier viewed as almost a stalker to one of his flagship artists. Javis recreates his audition for the revered producer on “Opportunity Knoccs,” whose video debuted on MTV January 19.
Thanks to his work with newer acts like Joell Ortiz (“Sing Like Bilal”), Dynasty, Khaleel and Javas, as well as his status as a living legend, DJ Premier has noticed more females and an increase of younger fans at his shows, some sporting Gang Starr T-shirts and espousing the merits of such classic Gang Starr albums as Hard To Earn and Moment Of Truth.
My audience has changed, but at the same time, I’ve stayed active non-stop.
By connecting with rap fans young and older, DJ Premier remains relevant – and driven. “My audience has changed, but at the same time, I’ve stayed active non-stop because I’m just addicted to being an entertainer and I’m addicted to the music business being that I was able to capitalize off of it by doing the right thing,” he says. “I didn’t rape it. I didn’t pimp it, or anything. I literally dealt with the industry with respect and passion.”
To get a feel for DJ Premier's production work, Checkout this track from Royce Da 5'9:
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