DJ Premier on having a humble respect for the game and going back to using the old slang
DJ Premier is one of the greatest producers of all time. Ask anyone. He's a trailblazing pioneer that has influenced pretty much every hip-hop producer and beat maker doing it. Maintaining longevity unlike any producer or DJ in his lane, Premier has worked with every huge name imaginable. Most notably the instrumental half of Gang Starr, Premier crafted the perfect beats for Guru's buttery tones. In town to rock the seventh installment of Shoe Shine at City Hall this Saturday, Preemo is at the top of his game and is even more humble than ever. We recently chopped it up with the living legend about his humble respect for the game and going back to using the old slang.
Westword: What does it mean to you to still be such a sought after performer and also a legend in the game?
DJ Premier: Anything that's positive. I accept it with a humble attitude because I've lived and I've been in this business since I was 21 years old. We weren't platinum or had millions of dollars, but to me, having people that I respect and admire, who believe in me tell me that, people like Big Daddy Kane and Marley Marl, that's what makes the most difference for me. Having Marley Marl, who I idolized so much, give me props, that's the most respect I could receive.
How does it make you feel to know you've influenced (even indirectly) almost every hip-hop producer that's doing it right now?
I just think I'm dope. I'm confident with who I am. The people I look up to told me that I was dope so, that's what it is. I've idolized James Brown, people like Prince and others. Once, in the early part of D'Angelo's career, he was working with Prince. We went to a private back room after a show and Prince told me he loves, Daily Operation. That's fucking Prince! Sade, I had never met her but reading in Essence Magazine talking about the list of albums that she takes on tour, she listed Gang Starr. Sade!
That's incredible. How do you continue to reinvent yourself?
Just by studying, if you've been a musician, artist, producer, DJ, lover and fan of music, real music, then you know what mold you best fit into. I continually study music and listen to things that inspire me. All of that study goes into my approach and what I do. If I want to use the same snare, same hi-hat, I'll do it. I don't give a fuck.
I know how to make hip-hop records. You see people all the time in football say that they would run a different play or whatever, but they don't play football! I know how to make records, and that's the approach I take and the perspective I come from. Some of us are good at it, and some of us comment on what they think is good. Everything I do, I do from a fan's perspective.
And your longevity in the game?
I've ridden the wave with a humble respect for the culture. I love music to the core. Sometimes you'll find me listening to The Smiths, playing air guitar on my steering wheel; other times I'll bump Tyler, The Creator, or Scarface, or the Police, or even the Clark Sisters, when I feel like listening to gospel and praising God.
That's just how versatile of a world I was brought up in. I was brought up in the world of music before there was any rap, needles and Serrato. I've lived that era of music that most generations haven't. A lot of these guys were born into rap and hip-hop, unless their parents showed them otherwise.
That's why Jay-Z can still last. He knows about Chevys and Afros and Parliament Funkadelic. We're from that cloth. To be from that cloth, there's no way we could ever diminish as artists or musicians because we have all of that to add into the culture of hip-hop. I remember when we were telling our friends about rap and using the slang that is still used today and everywhere.
You know, I was watching ESPN and Sage Steele, and she's black, but she just kept saying, "I'm sayin'," over and over again. I wanted to say, you're using it too much! You're using it the wrong way! It's like how 'swag' got run down really fast. I've decided, we're gonna start using the slang we used to use. I'm going back to slang that works, like "def." My father is 82 years old, and he and his buddies still call each other "buddy roe." They don't change their slang because they got older.
The seventh installment of Shoe Shine is a sneaker exhibit and competition. Any idea what you're planning to play on Saturday?
I have different routines that I use, and I always have another one ready just in case. I just wing it. I go by the vibe of the crowd. If it's sneaker oriented, I'm sure they'll like what I play. If they don't, I don't care! I will program them to get down with what I play! I'll be rocking hip-hop, rock, breaks, samples, all of that. No matter what, it will be good music.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.