During the 1980s and 1990s, East Coast hip-hop produced some of its best artists. From Nas to Mobb Deep and Lost Boyz, the list is long. However, behind every good artist is a great producer, and there have been a wealth of quality beatmakers, but some are legends. DJ Premier is one of those.
While producers such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye are front and centre, some legends happily operate in the background and, as quiet as they may seem, have significantly impacted the culture. DJ Premier is most definitely one of hip-hop’s secret weapons.
Despite his Texas roots, Premier (real name Christopher Martin) contributed significantly to the wholesome jazz-hop movement that emerged from New York in the late 1980s. Often referred to as ‘Preemo’, the musician is highly respected among the greats of the 1990s and has worked with everyone from Jay-Z to Eminem and even The Notorious B.I.G.
Premier operated out of the iconic D&D Studios, a hip-hop treasure on the fourth floor of a West 37th Street Manhattan building that hosted the likes of Rakim, KRS-One, Jay-Z, Nas and Gang Starr. Here, he made instrumentals daily and collaborated with all the artists passing through the studio.
However, before becoming a prolific musician, Martin studied other beatmakers and instrumentalists. In an interview with DJ Vlad for Vlad TV, the DJ and producer unveiled who inspired him to enter music.
Listing his biggest influences, Martin declared, “Definitely [gotta name] James Brown. Just the way he commanded his band, and when I was a kid, it was called soul music. When James Brown came around, it was called funk. To create funk, not everybody could do funky stuff.”
Concerning hip-hop, Preemo stated, “Marley Marl is the ultimate hip-hop producer to me. He’s the James Brown of hip-hop to me. No one did it like him. Mantronix. He always had the newest drum machines first, and he always mastered how to work it.”
He continued, “Rick Rubin, definitely! [He’s there] just starting Def Jam to begin with. Number two, [he’s] a white dude, Jewish dude, loving ghetto culture and making it bang…I gotta say Dr. Dre — Dre reminds me of what I do. He does albums and albums and albums. And I know he has a bigger team now, but — Dr. Dre, he can do it, still, on his own.”
You can see DJ Premier’s top 5 producers below.
DJ Premier’s Top 5 producers of all time:
- James Brown
- Marley Marl
- Rick Rubin
- Dr Dre