If you find a better crate digger, a more creative beat disector or a more musical scratch DJ, please give me a call. I have seen him perform DJ sets twice in Amsterdam and although he’s not the smoothest party DJ, he adds tremendous legend value since he also produced half the hits he plays. Premier’s productions feature cinematic soundscapes, highly creative loop-making and the best beats known to Hip Hop, IMHO.
Premier was the silent half of superstar rap group Gang Starr. This man has created so many classic Hip Hop anthems, it’s about time we celebrate his very best party tracks. These joints are guaranteed to make a crowd go wild.
10. Nas - Nas Is Like (1999)
The high-pitched strings are borrowed from an obscure rendition of ‘What Child Is This’, a 19th century Christman carol, creating the foundation for a legendary Nas track. The eerie sounds that begin at the first bars are actually birds. Believe that.
This track, taken from Nas’ third album ‘I Am…’, did not do particularly well on the charts but gave him back the street cred he lacked after his ‘It Was Written’ and Hype Williams-video era.
9. Group Home - Livin' Proof (1995)
Livin’ Proof features sub-par MCing over above-par beats. This track didn’t gain much momentum, although it’s arguably one of Preemo’s tightest productions. The hypnotic, slightly out of tune loop rules the treble spectrum. The slamming snare drum is a Premier’d-up version of the Impeach snare, while the kick drum is supported by sub-bass that’ll shake the room.
8. Big L – Platinum Plus (featuring Big Daddy Kane) (1999)
Again, a loud and high-energy string loop on this track. It’s taken from a Stylistics track (0:18) and brilliantly re-timed and re-purposed. Its panoramic sound creates a narrative feeling. Premier sometimes chops it up, like transforming, which he uses often to keep it Hip Hop. It’s a gem in Premiers trackology.
7. KRS One - Rappaz R.N. Dainja (1995)
KRS snatched a hit off Premier’s shelves. Again an exceptional example of creative sample use: any beatmaker would dismiss the trumpet intro of Jaco Pastorius’ Come On, Come Over as too fast-paced and quite silly. Premier pitches, cuts and slices and there you go. And please note the phenomenal cutting with the song title. Questions, anyone?
6. Mos Def - Mathematics (1999)
To one of Premier’s own favorite beats, Mos Def speaks of social issues, asking listeners to ‘do the math’ after he sums up numerous racial injustices. The bridge consists of numerous scratch samples, a signature Premier production method. The choppy guitar riff is created using bits and pieces of the opening of Fatband’s track ‘Baby I’m-a Want you’.
5. The Notorious B.I.G. - Unbelievable (1994)
In an interview, Premier disclosed he charged a $5.000 fee for the production of ‘Unbelievable’. At the time, he had no signs of BIG blowing up as he did. In retrospect, we can say this is one of BIG’s signature tracks. Over the famous Impeach beat, Preemo samples R. Kelly’s (1:06) vocals and some choppy, eerie organ samples.
4. Royce Da 5’9 – Boom (1999)
The clock ticking at the start of this track has a Pavlovian effect on a crowd. They know the famous string chords are coming in, with an underlayment of rock hard beats. The rearrangement of the chords is again an example of Premier repurposing odd tracks. Just like he brilliantly re-cut a 6/8 signature (!) Blues track by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for Notorious B.I.G.’s Kick In The Door.
3. Rakim – When I B On Tha Mic (1997)
The God MC on vocals and DJ Premier on the beats. Wide, airy samples (0:07) chopped up beyond recognition and a killer beat. Just like on It’s Been A Long Time, the first collaboration between Rakim and Premier, it’s an instant classic with strong Premier production DNA. Also note the music video – gritty New York high speed hood images and a mic on fire. Nice.
2. Gang Starr – Full Clip (1999)
The video is as energetic as the track. When a crowd hears Premier say ‘Big L Rest In Peace!’, they know what time it is. Although it’s 17 years old, it’s still guaranteed to break the house down. Who would have guessed that king of soft pop Burt Bacharach was to contribute (0:25, listen closely!) to one of Hip Hop’s most classic tracks.
1. KRS One – MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know (1995)
The first chords of Clifford Brown’s ‘Yesterday’ are the blueprint for Premier and KRS’s legendary track. An odd pattern of bells tops it off. Premier extensively uses The Teacher’s own voice from previous recordings to pimp the track (“Going out to the hardcore Hip Hop, off course we don’t flip flop!”) as well as the track title (2:20). It doesn’t get any better than this.