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Who is DJ Premier?

[ 0 ] August 14, 2022 |

Who is he, and how did DJ premier get started? Let’s discuss his background, music production style, and connection to the hip hop duo M.O.P. and his studio. Premier’s music is a mixture of hip hop and alternative sounds rooted in his love for music. Here, we look at his beginnings and how he cultivated his unique sound.

DJ Premiers’s background

When DJ Premier was a child, his name was Christopher Martin; he grew up in Houston, Texas. His family members were avid sports fans, and he also loved music. During the summers, Premier spent time in Brooklyn with his grandfather, a musician. The photos of the musician instilled a curiosity in Chris that eventually led him to pursue a career in music.

Premier’s first hip-hop debut came in the late ’80s as one-half of the hip-hop group Gang Starr. He continued to release albums in the mid-90s, and “Works of Mart” became a staple in MC’s repertoire. “Works of Mart” was a recognizable beat, and it was walk-on music for players in camo hoods.

Vocal choruses characterize Premier’s sound. Many of his beats combine short vocal samples. In addition to classic sampling soul and jazz songs, he has also experimented with atonal samples that transcend genre boundaries. During an interview with Crave Online, Premier explains how he was inspired to expand his musical palette and learn more about classical music.

DJ Premier’s background is rooted in the South, where his maternal grandfather was a DJ. He has worked with numerous Hip Hop artists. He is now widely recognized as one of the prolific hip-hop producers and has produced many tracks by Jay-Z. Although his roots are in Texas and hip hop, Premier has since ventured into other genres, including pop music.

While DJ Premier’s writing setup has not changed much since the early ’90s, the production process has. He once loaded music onto two-inch analog tapes. But he finally succumbed to the digital revolution, switching to Pro Tools. He admits that this has allowed him to produce music faster and more clearly than ever. He is also skilled enough to perform on the drums, guitar, and keyboard.

Dj Premier’s style of production

Short loops characterize DJ Premier’s style of production, perfectly timed scratching, deep bass lines, and weird background sounds. The tracks are held together by a slightly behind-the-beat groove. Fans often describe his style of music as aggressive and gritty. His eclectic style of music combines jazz, hip hop, electronic, and hip hop elements to create a unique style. His music is popular across genres and has a unique flow.

Premier’s music era is reflected in his productions’ sound. Premier’s production style has inspired countless artists, including rappers Kanye West and Rihanna. Many have hailed his style, including R&B singer Brandy and nu-metal band Limp Bizkit. Premier collaborated with Guru on his Ownerz album, which featured deep grooves and elegant rhymes, and was the last released Gangstarr during Guru’s lifetime. 

In the ’90s, Premier produced many of the hottest hip-hop albums in the East. His music productions can be found on Nas’ Illmatic, Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, and Jeru the Damaja’s Black on Both Sides. Premier continued to support and feed the nationwide east to west coast rap underground. This production style influenced hip hop and has been used in numerous genres.

DJ Premier’s studio

DJ Premier’s beats are recognizable for their vocal choruses, which he often creates by combining short vocal samples. His beats have also explored atonal samples outside of soul, funk, and jazz. He has also sampled a lot of early hip-hop, including the seminal jazz and funk sounds from the 1960s. This gives his music a unique and fresh sound that is unmistakable and hard to find.

After Guru’s passing, Premier was eager to help his family, creating the Gang Starr Enterprises company to help them. The company was established to honor the Guru’s memory, and sales of Gang Starr Enterprises have been used to put his son through private school. Premier has also produced music for various artists, including Christina Aguilera, X-Factor, and Lil Wayne.

He first recorded at D&D Studios in 1991. At the time, he was recording Gang Starr’s third album, Daily Operation. He had become friends with the legendary Guru, and they had dropped No more Mr. Nice Guy in 1989, which had done relatively well. 

D&D studios resulted from that success and a new platform for the group. Hundreds of artists had used Premier’s vocal booth. Today, his studio is a hip-hop icon and only recently was sold to become residential property. So all that magnificent memory and imagination is gone forever, only captured on tape.

DJ Premier’s work with other artists

Christina Aguilera

The first collaboration between Christina Aguilera and DJ Premier came in 2006, when the two collaborated on a track, “Ain’t No Other Man.” and the album “Back to Basics.” The song is considered a fusion of soul and jazz. DJ Premier also wrote the song’s lyrics. “Ain’t No Other Man” won Christina a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Aguilera also credits DJ Premier for the energy and creativity between the two of them.

His collaborations with the singer included “Free,” a song about true freedom from within. Its sampled beats are also very distinctive, with the sound of a harp evoking a 60s rock song. 

On the album “Back to Basics.” “Ain’t no other man,” a song featured on the album, sampled a Dave Cortez and The Moon People song. He and Aguilera obtained sample clearance from Clyde Otis Music Group, TufAmerica, and Codigo Music.

After working on the album, Premier recorded segments of music composed by Brahms and Vivaldi. Then, he moved all his equipment and furniture to Kaufman Astoria Studios in Long Island City, Queens. The yellow notepad paper lyrics on the wall will now become a table in his new studio. 

 M.O.P.

Despite their differences, M.O.P. maintained a close relationship with Premier, contributing a song to his 1992 compilation The Hill That’s Real. He later worked with them to record a song for the soundtrack of the film Get Rich or Die Trying, and both artists contributed to a remix of the track “I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy.” In 1994, Premier and M.O.P. released their debut album, To the Death, on the small label Select Records. The album was almost entirely produced by DR Period. In 1994, Premier remixed “Rugged, Neva Smoove.” Premier has since gone on to produce several songs from the hip-hop duo. 

NAS

The two have worked on several projects, including Nas’s debut studio album Illmatic. Nas and Premier have worked on several projects together and recently reunited for a video. The track is titled ‘Wave Gods,’ and the music video was directed by Hit-Boy, and features scratch legend, Gang Starr. Nas and DJ Premier also worked together on a music video for ‘Mad City.’

As a fan of both artists, it’s exciting to hear about any of their latest collaborations. While a Nas and DJ Premier album has long been on the wishlist of rap fans, it has yet to be released. However, the two artists teased the project via social media. In the video, a gold Illmatic plaque hangs above the door to Nas’ “Control Room B.” In the background, a snippet of the track sounds.

Jay-Z

One of the most infamous hip-hop legends has collaborated with DJ Premier for years. The two have worked together on many songs, including “A Million and One Questions,” “Rhyme No More,” and “So Ghetto.” They also teamed up to produce Jay’s most recent album, 4:44, which debuted at No. 1 and is already certified double platinum.

Notorious BIG

The one-man musical through-line has worked with hundreds of artists, from underground acts to world-famous superstars, but maybe one of the most poignant is Notorious BIG. The first time DJ Premier recorded music for Notorious BIG, the two became fast friends. Premier produced Notorious BIG’s “I Want It All,” a track that eventually topped the Rap World Charts. Notorious BIG and Premier’s friendship led to their first major collaboration. Both were featured on the cover of FADER magazine. 

“Impeach” is another classic Biggie collaboration. Premier rearranged Big’s “Impeach The President” sample to make it sound different from the rest of the track. The song was a hit, earning gold and platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. Premier initially had doubts, but Biggie was insistent and convinced him to try it. The result blew him away.

Mos Def

DJ Premier has worked with and produced for several hip-hop artists, including Mos Def and the Gang Starr retrospective. His music is eclectic, free-spirited, and rooted in a love of music, and he is one of the most successful rap music producers today and partly produced black on both sides, the debut album from Mos Def.

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About the Author ()

I’m a part-time DJ and music digger. Although my days of digging in crates have finished for my love of all things digital. That’s unless a real special vinyl pops up for my collection. In my spare time, I enjoy checking out SoundCloud, Bampcamp, and swapping funk soul hip hop, and dance ideas with other DJs. I also have a cat, so any final decision on the music comes down to her.

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