From The Vault: DJ Premier (Get Used To Us)

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Photo courtesy of The Real Hip-Hop

In late 2010 legendary producer DJ Premier was readying a compilation album to showcase the artists on his new label, Year Round Records. I’d spoken to Premier earlier that year at All-Star Weekend in Dallas, but I jumped at the chance to interview him again when asked. Preem is the greatest Hip-Hop producer of all-time, period.

DJ Premier presents Year Round Records – Get Used To Us featured an All-Star cast of artists including KRS-One, Grand Puba, Saigon, Papoose, MC Eiht, Joell Ortiz, Blaq Poet, Styles P, Teflon, Lady of Rage, Young Maylay, Dynasty, Nick Javas, NYG’z, Khaleel, Brenk Sinatra, Showbiz, Royce da 5’9”, and Freddie Foxxx.

Fourteen years after the release of Get Used to Us Preemo hasn’t slowed down one bit. He continues to bring heat, as evidenced by his recent instrumental album “Beats That Collected Dust, Vol. 3.” He also continues to collaborate with elite emcees such as Snoop Dogg (Can U Dig That?), Common (In Moe (Speculation)), and Nas (Define My Name).

During our 2010 discussion DJ Premier provided insight into Get Used To Us, the artists signed to Year Round Records, and the Gang Starr album that would become One of the Best Yet.

TRHH: Tell me about the new compilation album.

DJ Premier: I actually put it together because I have three artists on my label that I was trying to get out, NYG’z is my gutter group from the Bronx and Manhattan, Nick Javas is an Italian emcee from New Jersey, and Khaleel from Houston. Long story short, I was trying to get the NYG’z and Nick Javas’ album up and running for the summer but we weren’t ready yet. As we got closer to the end of the year it didn’t make sense to try to rush it. So, I wanted to have some type of product out, so I said let me just do a compilation album in the meantime.

I pulled songs from all the projects that I have coming in 2011. I compiled it to give everybody a taste of everything to let people know that we mean business with what we’re bringing. The compilation album is really just to stall while I get my albums finished. I figured let’s call it “DJ Premier Presents Year Round Records.” I have so many projects lined up and this is the best way to give a little taste of everything. It’s like when you order appetizers, you can order just chicken fingers or you can get the combo platter where you can order chicken fingers, shrimp, soup, everything! That’s pretty much what it’s going to be.

TRHH: When I listen to “Not A Game” and “Opportunity Knocks” from Get Used To Us by Nick Javas his originality is what stands out the most. He rhymes about things that a lot of cats don’t rhyme about. Talk about how you discovered Nick, his style, and his upcoming album in 2011.

DJ Premier: Well, what happened was I met him at Big Shug’s listening party for Street Champ. Since Shug is Gang Starr Foundation I had to make sure I was there to represent that. This guy named Spence that I know in the industry brought Nick to shop his demo. He brought him to a lot of different events to get him recognized, so he introduced me to Nick and he was a little overconfident in my opinion. He was like, “Yeah man, I’m nice.” I’ve heard that about everybody. He had the same little cocky attitude and I’m used to that. When he came off like that I wasn’t impressed because I’ve heard that from so many other people. Every time someone tries to impress me like that I hear the same old bullshit and their demo turns out not to be hot. When it came down to that I said, “you know what, I’ll take a listen to it later.” When I walked away he was staring at me with this stalking look. I’m wondering why he’s staring at me like that? But I just let it go.

Fast forward, I ended up moving to a new house and when I was unpacking all my stuff I had a box of all my demos that I hadn’t listened to. It was like ten of them and most of them were trash. Nick Javas was the guy who was talking about he was nice. I popped it in and I was impressed with his wordplay and wittiness. He used a lot of sports references and I like sports. I liked the cleverness of how he said what he said. I called the number on the CD to see if it worked and he picked up the phone. He was having a Super Bowl party at the time. He was sweeping the floor and putting food out and all of a sudden, I call. He was like, “Is this really DJ Premier?” From then on, we ended up talking for two hours. We took it to the next level and I told him, “I’m very picky about white artists being that you’re not from the ghetto. This is a black culture, but I welcome any race. You’re coming under Premier and my whole level of the game, so you’ve got to come off differently from the other white emcees that I like. I like Eminem, I like Apathy, Esoteric, I love what La Coka Nostra’s doing, Everlast, Slaine, Ill Bill, Necro, Vinnie Paz, Jojo Pellegrino, so many different emcees.

I’m like, how can I make him stand out differently? And this guy just started throwing out all these ideas. “Hey man we should do a record where I’m trying to convince you to sign me to a label and let’s call it Opportunity Knocks.” I liked that idea. That’s why I made the beat with the knock on the door as a subliminal message that he’s really trying to get my attention to go down as another great one going down in the books. We cut the record and the record came out good. I graded him on his lyrics by responding in scratches instead of me talking to him and telling him what I thought of his verses. In the first verse he’s a little too cocky like the first day I met him. That’s why I’m pretty much knocking him down and tell him he’s wasting my time because I don’t want him to easily get the deal like that. We shot the video which also came out great.

Not a Game was just a B-side for the single. I always like to do songs that’s not on the album that’s a B-Side. I ended up doing Not a Game because of that reason. Because of the beat and how it went he came up with the concept to equate sports and how life is not a game. He said he wanted to use the Allen Iverson sample and when he said that I just started doing it by hand, but I used the record button to remind me how I referenced it. I ended up kind of liking it like that. I leaked it out and a lot of DJ’s said, “I like the song but it sure would be good to have some scratches on it.” So, I did two versions, one with cutting on it and one with “not a game” throughout like you see in the video version. Now he’s working on his album Destination Unknown and I’m telling you his album is going to be very incredible. He’s very unique and he’s definitely going to be a star.

TRHH: Another joint on the album is “Hot Flames” by an artist on your label, Khaleel. He also has a unique style, talk about Khaleel and that Hot Flames joint.

DJ Premier: I actually did that record back in 2002 and I just never released it. Me and Khaleel met because he was on another label and ended up signing with me because that label fell apart. The owner asked me if I could try to find a way to get him into the business and get him plugged into the right people. I said, “you know what I’ll do one album with him,” and I did it. That’s what it turned out to be. At the end of the day, I’m very happy with the way it turned it out as well. Being that the other label shut down I made sure that I wasn’t going to release it until I knew I was ready to because I thought it was a good enough single to introduce him as well. I’ve just been sitting on it for all these years and now it’s time to launch it. It still sounds like we just did it.

TRHH: The last time we spoke in Dallas you let the cat out of the bag that you and KRS were hooking back up for Return of the Boom Bip. KRS & Grand Puba have a joint on Get Used To Us called “5%.” Talk about how that joint came together and give some insight into Return of the Boom Bip.

DJ Premier: 5% came about because I originally did that beat for Rakim when he was on Dr. Dre’s label, Aftermath. What happened was we were all just building in the studio because Rakim moved on and we ended up moving forward saying we’ll work on some stuff later on down the line. I played them some of the beats that I had on stash, which I usually don’t do because I make my tracks. When I played it for him he said, “Man, I wanna do a record about the 5% on this, like how we used to talk about it in rhymes.” I said, “Okay, we can do that.” He said, “I wanna get somebody to guest on it,” and right when he said that there was a knock on my door and it was Ice-T.

Ice-T walks in because he heard I was in the studio. He was upstairs doing a session on another floor. We started kicking it with Ice and we told him about what was going on with the song and Ice-T said, “You need to get somebody like Brand Nubian or Grand Puba that could talk that God talk,” and right then we looked at each other and said, “Puba.” I grabbed the phone and called Lord Finesse because he had just been with him the night before. Lord Finesse gave me his number, I called Puba and told him the deal and Puba totally liked the idea. I went and picked him up at a bar. He even slid the drink in the sleeve of his jacket and snuck out of the bar. We rode and talked together. I played him the first verse so he could hear it and he came in and blazed it.

TRHH: You’re also working on a joint album with Pete Rock. What made you two decide to get together to work on a joint project?

DJ Premier: We were in Tokyo doing the Pete Rock vs Premier concert for Manhattan Records there. It’s a record store over there that’s very famous. They were having their 25-year anniversary, so they asked us to do this concert as a one off. On the way home Pete and I was just talking shit. It turned into a battle talk and his manager was like, “Y’all should do an album!” Me and Pete looked at each other like, “You wanna do it?” It was like, “Let’s do it.” I said, “What we gon’ call it?” and he said, “Let’s call it Pete Rock vs Premier.”

He said, “I’ll get 6 artists and 6 songs and you do the same thing, but I’m not going to tell you who Im’ma get and you can’t tell me who you’re gonna get neither and we’ll just do it like that.” So that’s how we’re gonna do it. I’m bringing 6 artists to the table and he’s bringing 6 to the table and then we’ll combine ‘em and see who has the hottest stuff at the end of the day. We all know the name of the game is to have a really solid body of work.

TRHH: Is there a timetable on that, because that sounds crazy?

DJ Premier: We just started, but we’re gonna actually do it right after Christmas holiday. I gotta get my album out for December 7th then everybody takes a break. On top of that Pete’s been doing a little touring and whatnot. We both started the project already. I got my first one in the can, but I still got five more to do. Pete already started his and then we’re gonna go full throttle and make the shit pop.

TRHH: Gang Starr means so much to so many people. With the passing of Guru will we ever hear unreleased Gang Starr joints on Year Round Records?

DJ Premier: Absolutely, we will. Once we straighten out a few things with his family. I do have the rights to Gang Starr along with Guru’s son. Everything is gravy. I’m totally working with them. I’m going to be dropping DVD’S of our behind the scenes legacy of our history. I have footage from the time that we got together in ’89 all the way to now. No one has that footage but me. No one has all the music but me. I have people that are contributing by sending tracks of Guru’s vocals that I didn’t have. I also have stuff that I had on lock. We’re going to definitely do a Gang Starr Foundation album and a couple of other things. The DVD’s are going to definitely be popping. I have so much footage. I mean hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage that no one else has, so you will be seeing that.

TRHH: On December 7th DJ Premier presents Year Round Records: Get Used To Us drops and you’re dropping several albums in 2011. What are your overall goals and plans for Year Round Records?

DJ Premier: Just to elevate music the way it’s supposed to be elevated. Everybody is so wack these days and then there’s not enough stuff for adults. I’m an adult, I don’t wanna hear kiddie rap. In order for me to get some stuff that I can relate to I definitely need to hear some stuff that’s on my level. The only way to do it without being the person that wishes it can happen, since I’m a producer that can make it happen, is to get it all out there. I’m like a car that pulls up to another nice car at the light. As soon as you see me at the light you gotta be like, “Nice! Nice car!” Even if yours is nice you gotta give me thumbs up on mine.

Stream: DJ Premier Presents Year Round Records – Get Used to Us

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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