Hip-hop has many different aspects to its being as culture. From graffiti to breakdancing and more, the scene has always been more significant than just rap music. However, behind every good artist is a great producer, and now more than ever, beatmakers are becoming a crucial part of the business. Super-producers like Kanye and Timbaland are often hyper-visible and (in the case of artists such as DJ Khaled) annoyingly fame hungry. However, some legends happily operate in the background and, as quiet as they may seem, have significantly impacted the culture more than many of the new generation, hyped-up individuals we see currently. DJ Premier is most definitely one of hip-hop’s secret weapons.
From DJ Premier to J Dilla and Q-Tip, the soul-fused, simple and wholesome jazz-hop movement that emerged from New York in the late-’80s was a big part of the culture. However, it wouldn’t cross over into the mainstream until the mid-1990s. The three producers mentioned above are the most renowned names from the genre. Although, even musicians outside the US have been praised for their contributions to the subgenre. One of which is Nujabes. Born and raised in the Minato neighbourhood of Tokyo, the late Japanese record producer and arranger is up there with the best of the best when it comes to the pioneers of this jazz-inspired hip-hip offshoot.
Although there has been a vast wealth of talent, DJ Premier, often referred to as ‘Preemo’, is the best and most respected. The producer and DJ has worked with everyone from Jay-Z to Eminem and even The Notorious B.I.G. That being said, last year, music magazine NME sat down with the legend to discuss his career and childhood musical influences. Taking it back to his early formative years, NME journalist Sam Moore asked him about the first song he remembered ever hearing.
Following a brief ponder, the icon unveiled that the first track he ever heard was ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5. Elaborating about his interaction with the record, Preemo detailed, “I probably first heard it when I was five years old. My mother always played records in the house, and I remember seeing the cover of ‘Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5’. I’d never seen a kid dance and move like that. And then the records were really incredible! It made me really get into music at that very point.”
After an exchange about The Jackson 5, his memories of Isaac Hayes and his awe of James Brown’s electrifying performances, the Texas-born beatmaker was asked if there is one song that he wishes he had produced and arranged to which he responded, “Eric B & Rakim’s ‘Eric B Is President.’ The original 12″ version, not the album remix – though shout-out to the great Marley Marl, who’s one of my mentors in this game. The 12” version is so dope: it’s a big difference in the way that it’s arranged and edited. The way Rakim wrote that rhyme: ‘Thought I was a donut, you tried to glaze me.’ Who writes like that?! He brought a new style and sound to hip-hop that we just never experienced before.”
DJ Premier is a legend. However, the Juice Crew’s Marley Marl clinched the best track, according to him. You can hear ‘Eric B Is President’ in the video below.