DJ Premier: Grand Theft Audio

The soundtrack of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV video game reads like a Who’s Who in music. Everyone from punk icon Iggy Pop to Hot 97’s own DJ Mister Cee is featured on this game’s diverse soundtrack. Thus, it would only be fitting to include one of Hip-Hop’s grand architects and production icon DJ […]

The soundtrack of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV video game reads like a Who’s Who in music. Everyone from punk icon Iggy Pop to Hot 97’s own DJ Mister Cee is featured on this game’s diverse soundtrack. Thus, it would only be fitting to include one of Hip-Hop’s grand architects and production icon DJ Premier. GTA IV soundtrack supervisor, Ivan Pavlovich admits Rockstar Games’ staff unanimously voted to include Premier on this project, citing DJ Premier’s track record and musical talent as “amazing.” Currently on Sirius Satellite Radio Friday nights from 12-2am, DJ Premier takes us on a trip down memory lane regarding the songs that made his GTA IV radio station’s [“The Classics”] final cut. Listen up youngsters, class is now in session.Group Home “Supa Star” (Payday, 1995)”Anytime I work with an artist out of our camp (The Gang Starr Foundation) it’s very important to make sure you have a good single to start with. Being that I’m such a fan of Hip-Hop and I’ve studied all the great ones before me, I studied the singles that artists dropped, and saw what how they made sure to stand out. Once I was given the opportunity to do the same thing I made sure Group Home stood out. The more original that I can be to make an artist stand out, the better. The main thing that was important to me was to make an original, rich sounding record that didn’t sound like anything else at the time. That record did exactly what we wanted it to do.”Brand Nubian “All for One”  (Elektra, 1990)”That’s my era, the early 90s. When it came to groups in that era, Brand Nubian got a lot of mention. They were household names and their music was undeniable, with Puba already being a veteran through Masters of Ceremony (Puba’s former group) plus Sadat X (formerly Derek X) and Lord Jamar. That’s a James Brown record they used for “All for One” and how they used it was so dope. It was undeniable. Then when you hear the lyrics after that, there’s no way you can deny that record. Not all records that are hits are unforgettable. It may not have been a platinum hit but it was a hit in the ‘hood and a hit within Hip-Hop culture and that’s all that matters.”Special Ed “I Got It Made” (Profile, 1989)”I had a job then working as a day camp counselor in Brooklyn and Staten Island. These kids from Flatbush were so bad and had mouths fouler than an NWA record. At that time, me and my MC were trying to get a deal as a group and we worked together as counselors. I actually ran into one of the kids this summer at KRS-One’s show in Prospect Park. At that time I was just trying to get my demos sharper and working on getting a deal. We studied Special Ed ‘cause he’s from Flatbush and I got a lot of Jamaican friends from Flatbush. He just came with a different style plus I always been a fan of Howie Tee, so I was impressed immediately. Howie Tee is no joke as a producer.”Jeru the Damaja “D. Original” (Payday, 1994) “At that time, that’s when our egos were really on fire because everybody had somethin’ poppin’. All of us: me, Gang Starr, Shug, Group Home. We had it poppin’ with Hard to Earn, “Mass Appeal.” In those days it was all about hard drums and rhymes. “D. Original” was pure; it wasn’t about being too musical. “Come Clean” had already done what it had to do, so I wanted to follow it up with another hard banger. I just like hard music, when it comes to Hip-Hop; I like hardcore music. Jeru reads a lot and, plus he used to do all the wild stuff in Brooklyn when he was younger. So bringing all that in lyrically was important. Hot 97 was ill at that time, playing Mobb Deep, King Just, “Warrior’s Drum,” Black Moon, so the main objective was to keep it as hardcore as possible.”Marley Marl feat. Craig G “Droppin’ Science” (Cold Chillin’, 1988)”Anything that was Juice Crew during the 80’s and anything that had Marley’s name on it I didn’t have to question. Not only that, but this was during the era when you had the real mix-shows. You ran home to listen to the mix-shows, even hustlers who worked on the block left to go tape the mix-shows ‘cause everyone wanted to have the freshest stuff. You could always depend on Red Alert, Marley Marl, Awesome Two, Chuck Chillout…all of those stations were rocking and you knew that whatever they played was heat so it was a no-brainer. This was one of those records.”Droppin Science – Marley Marl featuring Craig GMC Lyte “Cha Cha Cha” (First Priority, 1989)”For one, I always been a fan of King of Chill. He also went to high school with my label manager so I knew his talents. The way he chopped up “Rockin It” by Fearless Four and combined it with the other the samples was dope. Sample combining wasn’t common back then so for him to do that was big. Plus the lyrics were raw and I always liked Lyte’s voice. “Cram to Understand U” has always been one of my favorite songs. When I saw Lyte was on the list that Rockstar Games gave me, there was no way that I could leave Lyte off my playlist.”Audio 2 “Top Billin'” (First Priority, 1988)”Cats used to have to run and hide when that came on in Union Square and the Latin Quarters because that’s when all the stick-up kids used to start yappin’ cats. The song wasn’t meant to cause violence but when it came on the stick-up kids knew that was their cue. That was a huge Brooklyn record. Nothing but a drum beat had that much of an impact on the grimiest cats. It was so original and different compared to what was out at the time. It’s a record that has to be known and memorized if you wanna be part of this culture.”Top Billin – Audio TwoStetsasonic “Go Stetsa” (Tommy Boy, 1986)”Every time that drum-roll came on in the club, no one was standing around. This was when I was a young kid sneaking into the clubs, “Go Stetsa” is another Brooklyn anthem. Stet, aside from them being the first band in Hip-Hop before other groups of that nature, had a unique style. They took it to another level in so many ways, from Prince Paul to come from that and create De La Soul to Fruitkwan to go on and become one of the GraveDiggaz with RZA and Poetic (RIP). Daddy-O became an executive and started signing groups. And they were part of the Stop the Violence movement. You had Dee-Lite doing the beatboxing and Bobby Simmons on the drums… and Bobby Simmons became a household name in NY with the “Bobby Simmons Show”. Their history must be respected in a major way.”Go Stetsa – StetsasonicT. La Rock & Jazzy Jay “It’s Yours” (Def Jam/Party Time, 1984)”That record changed my whole life. That song is really what started Def Jam the label, aside from that it was beyond what anybody was doing production-wise. T La Rock’s rhyme style was so unorthodox compared to what was out at that time. That song was just way ahead of it’s time; he brought a new sound to the game. For the first Def Jam record to be sounding like that, that was major. Wasn’t no other label doing it like that at the time. There wasn’t even a hook, just ‘Do you like it/Do you want it/It’s yours.'”Its Yours – T La Rock & Jazzy Jay (with Rick Rubin)Gang Starr “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight” (Chrysalis/EMI, 1991)”During that time we were just touching on how the world was at that time, with the troops being in Iraq.  The world was kinda nervous that it might be a third World War back then so we were just touching on the way we saw life. The whole “Black Power” movement was really heavy and we were in that same mind-state without copying anyone else. Plus we had our own issues to talk about. That was a very important record. When we made the track, me and Guru had a little studio apartment in the Bronx. I used to get up every morning in my underwear and literally loop that James Brown record nonstop on both turntables. I would cut and break down the horn riff and every time I did that I was like, ‘Yo, we gonna make a record out of this.’ “Finally we got our major deal, ‘cause you know our first album was on an independent label and we fought to get out of our contract. But this song was already an idea, just with two copies of that record, so that’s where that came from.”At that time I practiced everyday. I don’t practice anymore, but at that time I’d practice everyday when I woke up. At the time when we finally dropped it in ’91 and shot a video, we were able to shoot two videos for the price of one. We were able to shoot “Just to Get a Rep” and “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight” the following day. We were able to have two videos in rotation at the same time on BET’s Rap City and on Yo! MTV Raps.” Listening to you explain that story I can tell how dedicated you were and still are at creating something long-lasting. Is that dedication missing from new music today?“Yeah, without a doubt. If nobody else is doing it I’m definitely gonna still do it. I’m not gonna let the artform die and for those that want to mess up the artform, let ‘em fall when it’s time for them to fall. I’m gon’ keep putting it down the way it’s supposed to be put down. I refuse to switch.”Main Source “Live at the Barbeque” (Wild Pitch, 1991)”At that time I used to hang out with Large Professor at lot, trading ideas and he was schooling me on the drum machine. He used to tell me about Nas all the time when we were in the studio. I was there when Large was working with Kool G. Rap on his Dead or Alive album. G Rap used to do like two or three reels. Eric B. used to come through, Freddie Foxx was there, Eric B’s brother was there. I just remember seeing Nas come through when he was younger; I didn’t even know he could spit like that. Large told me they were gonna do a “Symphony” type record ‘cause that was the big thing at the time. The same day Large was like “I want you to check out this song ‘Live at the BBQ’ we just did, here’s a cassette tape of it.” I heard it and was just like, “This kid is gonna be large” when I heard Nas’ voice. I knew he rhymed but I never heard his actual voice ‘cause he was real quiet. Nas became a household name and went on to do Illmatic.” When you look back at the growth and progress of the artists you mentioned, how does that make you feel?“It makes me feel good, as far as the ones that’s doing it. It’s disappointing to see the ones that complain about the new artists that are out. You gotta stay in tune and study the young ones, even if they are not on the level of what you miss and what you want…Then go in the studio and bang. There’s no age limit to Hip-Hop because you don’t outgrow a culture. You’re supposed to get sharper and sharper as you get older. Most of these cats can’t rhyme nice no more, they pick corny beats and then they try to keep up with the young ones and do their style. You have to keep yourself sharp, the same thing applies no matter how old you get. You have to remember what made you love music and what made you do it back then.  I don’t worry about it or feel I’m too old to be doing this rap stuff. Study the new generation and be aware but do what you do. That’s why I don’t like to let my fans down, I keep coming with that boom and that bap.”Live at the Barbeque – Main Source