“The Ruler’s Back”


The quote titled is originally from Slick Rick, even though many younger hip-hop fans (myself included) associate it with Track #1 from Jay-Z’s magnum opus, The Blueprint. But for this entry, I’m applying it to arguably the best producer in hip-hop history: DJ Premier.

Before today’s production heavyweights like Just Blaze, Kanye West and Mannie Fresh were manning the boards, Premo was crafting beats that helped define East Coast hip-hop. As one half of Gang Starr, he provided the captivating backdrops for Guru to spit over perennial LPs like Moment of Truth and Daily Operation. As a freelance beatmaker, he’s contributed soundscapes to some of the most important albums in hip-hop history: Nas’ Illmatic, Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die, and Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides, to name a few. And just in case you need help pinpointing his tracks out of the bunch, his formula of flawlessly-timed super scratching and clashing loops makes his beats stick out like an MJ amongst mere mortals – all without yelling his name at the beginning of his tracks.

Although he’s really never left (Cee-Lo’s “Evening News,” AZ’s “The Come Up,” and a few other tracks were occassional treats over the last few years), Premo is re-emerging in a big way. On his MySpace blog, he says he’s back in the lab with proven collaborators such as Nas and AZ. But it’s his new clients that have impressed me the most.

For one, he’s not only working with legends like the aforementioned MCs, but he’s also working with artists who aren’t as established. While his D-Block cohorts Jadakiss, Styles P and Sheek are hip-hop staples, J. Hood is little more than a mixtape rapper as of late. Canibus has displayed talent, but with several disappointing albums still fresh in hip-hop heads’ minds, his name isn’t mentioned outside of his small group of die-hard fans. Once Premo’s name is attached to any artist, it means instant credibility in the hip-hop world. And just to be sure, he isn’t handing these young’ns leftovers: his soundbed for recent The Source Unsigned Hype alumni Termanology’s “Watch How It Go Down” stands right by his vintage 90s material, and is an early candidate for hip-hop song of the year.

He’s also produced the bulk of the first disc of Christina Aguilera’s upcoming double LP, Back To Basics (“Ain’t No Other Man” is the first track released). Some hip-hop purists may blast the move, but I praise it. Christina Aguilera has an incredible voice, and she’s one of the most genuinely-talented pop stars on the market. (Also, the fact that Christina had the instinct—and the balls—to call on Premo speaks on her hip-hop knowledge.) DJ Premier deserves the mainstream exposure that this will give him; he’s put in enough dues to do whatever he wants. Like my mentor/friend Matt Barone, associate editor at KING magazine, said, “He could do an entire album with Aaron Carter and still be a god.”

But, instead, he’s producing the entire new album by Royce Da 5’9”. And if the recently-leaked “Ding Ding” is any indication, King of Detroit-meets-DJ Premier classics “Boom” and “Hip Hop” will have plenty of capable company. And, this just in, rumor also has it that Premo is producing a Royce and Canibus group album. **EDIT: Upon talking to Premier himself (picture of us above), he’s only working on one song with Canibus. Additionally, he’s producing five tracks on Royce’s album, and serving as executive producer for the rest of the disc, picking the rest of the album’s producers.**

“So, here we go, let the trumpets blow/And hold on, because the driver of the mission is a pro…”

  • Anonymous

    Yo son! Aaron Carter and Premier are dropping an album together??!! Consider that album instantly copped! Seriously, Premo has got to be one of the few (maybe only) producers that can make ANYONE sound dope. Think about it, would cats REALLY be bumping Guru or Jeru the Damaja back in the day if they didn’t have Premo’s beats backing them up??? I think not. Even lyrical heavyweights like Nas, Royce and Jigga seem to rhyme with a slightly larger chip on their shoulders when they are backed with that distinctive DJ Premier sound. And I really hope this Christina Aguilera blows up, cuz this could finally give Premo the mainstream exposure he should have gotten years ago. Look out Pharrell, Lil Jon, Kanye, the ruler’s coming to reclaim his throne!

    MJG

  • Mr. Clark

    Preemo is nice. Since him and Mumblemouth Guru decided to wrap it up, I would think that this would allow DJ Premier the opportunity to break out of the underground/backpacker/indie box that they try to put him in. Maybe Aguilera is the key to that. Personally, I’d like to hear him and Rakim get down on something vicious. But here’s to dreams coming true.

  • Graham

    have you heard Primo’s God vs. Tha Devil mixtape? Shit is straight up classic Preem.

    His breaks mix that BBE released last year was also really good.

  • Andrea

    Hi. New to your blog. I like your writing style and looking to meet other writers of like minds. Check me out. That and I need help on my latest post.

  • Chainsaw Smack (Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart)

    Ay yo, Premo and Korn hooking up. You heard it here first. You know it’ll be hot too.

    But yeah, Premo coming back. That’s what’s really good. I want to hear how that album with Royce with sound like. If that first song is any foreshadowing of the entire album then they have my money well earned (by taking from someone’s wallet) down for a copy.

    ~!unO!~

  • Q

    Primo is definitely one of the sickest of all time… his track with AZ.. WHOOOO! Here’s a link http://www.hiphopgame.com/audios/aztheformat.rm

  • Word Son FRESH

    I have nothin’ else to say except Premo is the King and good article…

    …AND I ALSO WANNA GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO EVERYONE IN NYC…BIG UP THE BRONX…KINGSBRIDGE…BLUP! BLUP! BLUP! BLUP!…

  • Claudio

    Great Article Will….It’s about time someone gives Premo the well deserved press he should get. He’s my favorite producer of all time and the reason for the east-coast sound and to think the dude is from a small town in texas. He’s the best period. Look at what he’s done outside of the genre with Limp Bizkit and most notably, Christina Aguilera. Dude has no limits. Good job Will