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DJ Premier

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  • Born: Houston, TX
  • Years Active: 1990s, 2000s


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All Music Guide:

No more than three producers (Dr. Dre, RZA, and Prince Paul) can test DJ Premier's status as the most important trackmaster of the '90s, and no style is more distinctive. Aggressive and raw, a Premier track was an instantly recognizable soundclash of battling loops and heavy scratching -- all of them perfectly timed -- that evoked the sound of Brooklyn better than anyone. Besides helming tracks for his main concern, Gang Starr, since their 1989 debut, Premier's productions appeared on many of the East Coast's most important records: Nas' Illmatic, the Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, Jeru the Damaja's The Sun Rises in the East, and Mos Def's Black on Both Sides.

Premier, born Chris Martin, spent time in Brooklyn and Houston while growing up, and studied computer science at Prairie View A&M outside Houston. Known as Waxmaster C, he'd already learned to play a variety of instruments and also managed a record store. After moving back to Brooklyn, around 1987-1988 he came into contact with Guru, a Boston native. Guru had already formed a group named Gang Starr two years earlier (and recorded with the 45 King), but his former partner, Mike Dee, had returned to Boston. DJ Premier and Guru signed to Wild Pitch and released a debut single ("Manifest") and album (No More Mr. Nice Guy). Gang Starr's interest in melding hip-hop with jazz informed the record, and they were invited to add to the soundtrack for Spike Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. Their subsequent work was much more mature and unified, with a pair of instant East Coast classics (1991's Step in the Arena and 1992's Daily Operation) arriving in short order.

DJ Premier had been working with other vocalists for years, and his productions for the 1990 landmark Funky Technician by Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth cemented his status as one of the best producers around. He soon began recording exclusively at D&D Studios, a spot soon to become a shrine for hip-hop fans (thanks in large part to his own work). The year 1994 was a huge one for Premier, probably the best year for any rap producer ever; in addition to dropping another Gang Starr classic, Hard to Earn, his productions appeared on five-star, all-time classics by Nas (Illmatic), the Notorious B.I.G. (Ready to Die), and Jeru the Damaja (The Sun Rises in the East), as well as Big Daddy Kane and Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LeFonque project. Though his workload dropped off considerably during the late '90s, he still managed to place tracks on three of the first four Jay-Z albums, and returned in force with the new millennium, including shots with Common, D.I.T.C., D'Angelo, Jadakiss, and Snoop Dogg.


Christopher Edward Martin (born March 21, 1966), better known by his stage name DJ Premier (also known as Preem, Premo, or Primo for short), is an American record producer and DJ, and was the instrumental half of the hip hop duo Gang Starr, together with emcee Guru. Born in Houston and raised in Prairie View, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York during his teen years, he has lived in Brooklyn for much of his professional career. Rolling Stone identified Premier as arguably hip hop's greatest producer of all time.

The Source placed DJ Premier on its list of the 20 greatest producers in the magazine's twenty-year history, while the editors of About.com ranked him #1 on their Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers list. He also made the finals in Vibe magazine's search for the greatest hip-hop producer of all time. He attended Prairie View A&M University where he honed his DJ and musical skills as the campus DJ and occasional performance with the famous Marching Storm band.

^ allmusic Biography^ Chris Ryan. "The Beatnuts Biography". Rolling Stone. ^ The Rap Beat Creator: Make Your Own Beats!!!: The Source Magazine Picks 20 Greatest Producers^ Henry Adaso; Ivan Rott, Renato P., Bhaskar S., Henry A. "Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers". About.com. p. 8.  Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)^ Dr. Dre Is VIBE's Greatest Producer of All Time, Speaks on Win | Vibe^ Ambrose, Patrick (September 2009). "DJ Premier: Hope to the Underground". The Morning News. Retrieved February 12, 2012. 


Premier is known for producing all of Gang Starr's songs as well as many of the Gang Starr Foundation's songs. His work also includes production for rappers and soul artists such as (alphabetic order) AZ, Big L, Big Daddy Kane, Bun B, Canibus, Common, D'Angelo, D.I.T.C., Fat Joe, Game, Jay-Z , Kanye West, KRS-One, Lord Finesse, Ludacris, M.O.P., Mos Def, Nas, Papoose, Rakim, Royce da 5'9", Snoop Dogg, The LOX, The Notorious B.I.G., Xzibit, Nu Metal band Limp Bizkit and Busta Rhymes. In 2006, pop/R&B singer Christina Aguilera recruited Premier to produce her album Back to Basics.

Premier collaborated with MC Jeru the Damaja on the album The Sun Rises in the East, released in 1994, as well as the 1996 follow-up, Wrath of the Math. Also from the Gang Starr Foundation, Premier produced and supervised Group Home's Livin' Proof; although overlooked at the time of its 1995 release, the album has since come to find similar acclaim. Among others in that are closely tied to the Gang Starr Foundation who have worked with DJ Premier include Afu Ra, Bahamadia, Krumbsnatcha, Big Shug, Smiley the Ghetto Child, and NYGz. He recently produced the majority of Blaq Poet's Tha Blaqprint in 2009 and will produce the entirety of NYGz sophomore album.

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Style and influences[edit]

DJ Premier's style of production epitomizes the New York sound of his earlier peers. He is known for sampling jazz, funk, and soul artists, as well as sampling an artist's past work when creating a new track for that same artist. For example, on Jay-Z's "So Ghetto", from the 1999 album Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, Premier samples an older Jay-Z song, 1997's "Who You Wit II". In addition, his encyclopedic memory of hip-hop lyrics allows him to distinctively speak with his hands by scratching in lyrics from several different songs to construct new phrases. Premier's beats are known for his oft-imitated combinations of short vocal samples, often from multiple artists, to create a chorus. Premier has also experimented with atonal samples that are not confined to soul, jazz, and funk. For example, he sampled and chopped up seminal electro-acoustic music from the 1960s on the track “Physical Stamina” by Jeru the Damaja.

In an interview with XXL Magazine, DJ Premier was asked how his sound evolved, to which he replied, "Marley Marl is my number-one inspiration. Jam Master Jay, Mix Master Ice, and UTFO. Grandmaster D, and Whodini. DJ Cheese, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa. Jazzy Jay—even Cut Creator. Seeing them do what they do. It’s black music, it’s black culture, it comes from the ghetto. How can you not relate to ghetto people when that’s the rawest form of blackness? Even though it’s not a good place in regards to the economy and how bad people have it in the neighborhood, the realism’s there, and that’s what we were born out of. So I very much pay respect by doing the same type of music in return." DJ Premier attended Prairie View A&M University and may have been influenced by the musical atmosphere at the university while serving as the campus DJ and occasional performer with the world-famous Marching Storm band.

^ Jay Z's So Ghetto sample of Jay-Z's Who You Wit II^ Exclaim! Canada's Music Authority^ "FEATURES. DJ Premier: Remedy". XXL. 21 November 2006. ^ Cite error: The named reference Morning_news was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

Relationships with artists[edit]

The early line-up of the Gang Starr Foundation in the mid-1990s included Jeru The Damaja, Group Home, Big Shug, and Gang Starr. DJ Premier was fully responsible for the production of Jeru the Damaja's first two albums, The Sun Rises in the East and Wrath of the Math. Jeru released three albums since then, with Premier having nothing to do with any of them.

As far as Group Home was concerned, Premier commented, "They don't respect what fed them," in a 2003 interview, going on to say that the only reason he produced a track (The Legacy) on their second album (A Tear for the Ghetto) was because Guru said he would rhyme on it.

Besides the Gang Starr Foundation, Premier is closely affiliated with M.O.P., which he names as one of his all-time favorite groups. The relationship started with the remix of “Rugged, Neva Smoove” in 1994, a single from the group's first album, which also included the exclusive B-side “Downtown Swinga.” From then, Premier produced about one-third of the songs on each subsequent album and overseeing and mixing the projects. On M.O.P.'s 2009 Foundation album, however, DJ Premier provided only one track, which was called "What I Wanna B."

^ Cite error: The named reference ALLMUSIC was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ DJ Premier Interview - TRIBE - tribe.ca

Recent and future projects[edit]

As a businessman, DJ Premier has his own record company named Year Round Records. Among its artists are New York group NYGz, New Jersey rapper Nick Javas, and Houston rapper Khaleel. Tha Blaqprint by Blaq Poet, which has thirteen Premier productions, was released by Year Round Records through Fat Beats Records. On December 7, Premier's label Year Round Records released a digital compilation album titled Get Used to Us. At the moment Year Round plans to release a debut album fully produced by DJ Premier with the NYGz tenatively called Hustla's Union: Local NYG along with a Nick Javas debut album named Destination Unknown. Khaleel, another label-mate of Year Round Records, is planned to release a debut album titled Already!.

DJ Premier hosts a weekly 2 hour show Live From HeadQCourterz on SIRIUS Satellite Radio's Hip-Hop Nation on Fridays.

DJ Premier was one of the artists followed in the 2012 documentary Re:GENERATION music project. The film followed his production of the song Regeneration using live performance of his work by the Berklee Symphony Orchestra [1]

In a recent interview, DJ Premier said he will produce a beat for Immortal Technique's upcoming album, titled The Middle Passage. He contributed a song on Game's last album The R.E.D. Album called "Born in the Trap." and a song on Bushido's last album Jenseits von Gut und Böse.

DJ Premier also revealed that he would release a collaboration album with New York rapper Nas, following his upcoming final album with Def Jam.

^ Cite error: The named reference Morning_news was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2013/10/dj-premier-will-produce-a-nas-lp/
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Tour Dates All Dates Dates In My Area

Date Venue Location Tickets
09.26.14 B.B. King Blues Club & Grill New York, NY US
09.27.14 Howard Theatre Washington, DC US
09.28.14 Middle East - Downstairs Cambridge, MA US
09.28.14 Middle East Cambridge, MA US