Interview: DJ Premier (of Gang Starr)


    Since it seems we’ve become obsessed with lists, here’s a topper: DJ Premier. Hailing from Houston, but more famously half of Brooklyn’s Gang Starr, Primo helped pioneer New York hip-hop alongside MC Guru, and has worked with nearly every emcee worth mentioning since 1990. But after the death of Guru back in April, and the subsequent controversy, 2010 just didn’t turn out the way the producer had anticipated.

    The legendary producer maintained a steady stream of talent through his studio, but the vast majority of the tracks have yet to be released. That is, until Get Used to Us dropped this week (December 7th) via Primo’s own Year Round Records. Featuring Blaq Poet, NYGz, Freddie Foxxx plus newcomers Khaleel and Nick Javas, the album is just one of at least three Primo will be releasing in the next few months. With a few minutes to spare during a stop in Chicago, Consequence of Sound caught up with Primo to discuss the releases, future collaborations, where he hides his Grammys, and if there is still any emotion left in hip-hop. And in the time CoS shared with Primo, is was clear there was an honest humility, and respect for the game, prominent in his thick, raspy voice.

    So, when was the last time you rolled through Chicago?

    It was the last Red Bull Big Tune Event. Na, Na, Na. I remember it was with 9th Wonder, and we went in through the back way.

    Road Manager: No man, that was [the Nationals] in Atlanta.

    Have any of the contestants landed on your label, Year Round Records?

    No, right now the only three artists I have on my label are Nick Javas, NYGz, and Khaleel. I want to start slow, and grow independent.

    You’re introducing some of the guys on your upcoming compilation. Is the title Get Used to Us a challenge to the rest of the hip-hop community?

    Shabeeno from the NYGz says it all the time, ‘Get used to us, get used to us. There ain’t nothing you can do than just get used to us.’ And I was like … really sticking out my head, because that is what I really want all my people to do.


    And you’ve known the guys from NYGz for years now.

    Yah, they’ve been friends for a while. Even though it is business when we do music, they were already friends of mine because I lived on Panchi’s block on 183rd St in the West Bronx – which is really where hip-hop started, not the South Bronx. We were where it was all getting started.

    The new compilation album contains tracks from everything that you have been working on during 2010. How have you gone about compiling the tracks, and artists for your label?

    Good music, period! What it is … I have always tried to be different. And I really think that is what I got some fame from. With the label, instead of having strictly East Coast, I have one New Jersey artist who happens to be Italian (Nick Javas). I have one street-gutter group, NYGz, who are from the Bronx and Uptown. Then I got Khaleel, (looking at phone) who’s hitting me up right now, from Texas. They are really the only artists I got right now, but I also got what I refer to as “specialty projects”. Projects like KRS-One and Premiere: The Return of the Bap, Pete Rock vs DJ Premier, and Freddie Foxx’s The Kolexion (The Collection).

    And really that is a collection of stuff we already did years ago. Freddie and I did a lot of throw away beats in the past, stuff that just never went anywhere. Freddie asked for what we did, so I gave him a whole batch of ‘em. And like the next day he had six or seven songs. But it’s like, take whatever you want, because I want to keep workin’ on the newer stuff’. And then I have Beats That Collected Dust, which is my instrumental series. Volume II will be dropping the first week of January.


    With that Pete Rock joint dropping soon, you have multiple releases on the horizon.

    Yah, that we’ll be wrapping up early next year. That was really easy to do. We’re each doing six tracks with six underground artists. But we’re not telling each other who we got.

    I know! But can’t you give us any more details?

    I am teasing with GZA from Wu-Tang and Beatnuts. But the other four I am not going to say.

    With all the releases and your own label, you must be getting more demos than you know what to do with. Everyone wants Primo to be their producer. What drew you to the initial recruits?

    With NYGz, it’s just picking up the slack where Guru left off because they are Gang Starr Foundation to begin with. And then on top of that, they were signed to Guru’s Ill Kid label first and they came out as Operation Ratification. They were NYGz to begin with, and then went back from Operation Ratification to NYGz.

    What struck you about Khaleel?

    Khaleel actually, is really a look out deal. He was signed to another label called 24 Hundred Records. He had done a record with Lord Finesse and Showbiz while he was in New York visiting to do some records with us. He paid us a heap of money and everything came out good. Then after that label folded, and after I had just done some production for them, the owner asked if there were anyway I could help him get in the business or find a deal with somebody. But since I liked him, I agreed to do one album. We already wrapped up the recording, and of course the entire Year Round family will be on it.

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