DJ Premier caused quite a stir earlier this year when he listed his top 25 albums of 2010. Now, the legendary producer takes another subject to the lists: himself. Complex caught up with Premo to break down 38 of his most lauded productions over the years.
Premo explained the story behind Gang Starr’s 1991 classic “Just to Get a Rep.” He says that the video (see below) is actually based on a true event in which Guru’s car was stolen. He and Guru later found the thief and chased him down, but the perp accidentally got hit and killed by an ice cream truck in the street.
“This record was based on a robbery, which happened to Guru,” he explained. “He got stuck up for a brand new car he had. We just got our deal, he bought a 4Runner, and I bought an MPV. He went over to Bedstuy with some of his people, and some cats were eyeing him during the day. Later on that night, Guru went to the same spot by himself, so the same guys ran up on him, and got him and took the car. Couple days later, we see the car, so we run up on and chased the guy, which caused the cops to jump in, and they started chasing us. Then the dude who stole the car gets hit by an ice cream truck and dies. The video was a little reenactment, but that was a true story. It’s sad he had to die like that, but that’s part karma and things like that can happen.”
Premier also recalled his work on the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Unbelievable.” He revealed that he actually almost didn’t make the record due to time constraints, and that he gave a Biggie a major discount on the price for it. He also revealed a bit about BIg’s writing process at the time, saying that like his protege Jay-Z, Big didn’t use paper and pencil.
“I almost didn’t make the record,” he said. “Big called me at the last minute, and said, ‘Get me a track,’ and I told him, ‘I don’t have time to make one.’ I had other deadlines to meet at the time. He was on his way to blow up, and I loved him, and I wanted to help, but I really just didn’t have the time…he just kept pushing me like, ’Yo, Prem, please, please, I ain’t got no more money in my budget. All I got is $5,000.’ And I’m like, ’Dude, I cost way more than that, but I love you, and I’m going to go ahead and look out for you. Just get up here tonight.’ And I did that beat. He was here…he just went in there and spit it. No paper, no nothing. He actually just sits there for hours. And you’d think he’s not doing anything, or even concentrating, and then when it’s getting damn near three or four in the morning, you ask him, ‘Dude, are we going to do this tonight? Or are we coming back tomorrow?’ He’ll be like, ‘Nah, I’m ready.’ And he just gets up, and goes in there. Bangs it. Done.”
Premo also recalled a similar experience while recording Nas’s “N.Y. State of Mind.” He said that Nas actually belted out the song’s first in one take.
“That was just amazing because it happened in this room,” he noted. “Nas watched me build the beat from scratch. And he wrote the verse in the studio. If you listen to “N.Y. State of Mind,” you’ll hear him going, “I don”t know how to start this shit,” because he literally just wrote it. Before he started the verse, I was signaling him going, “One, two, three,” and he just goes in like, “Rappers I monkey flip ’em, in the funky rhythm.” He did that in one take. After he did that first verse, he goes, “How was that? Did that sound all right?” And we were just like, “Oh, my God! The streets are going to go crazy when they hear this!”