DJ Premier Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records

Jay-Z “Intro: A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More” (1997)

DJ Premier: “Jay once again called me, and said, ‘I want to do this track called ‘A Million and One Questions.’’ So he did his rhyme over the phone, and he said, ‘Then I want it to break down in the middle and go into ‘Rhyme No More.’’ He brought Too Short up here that day. They were doing ‘A Week Ago.’ Too Short was in the other room, Corner Studio D, dealing with that track, while I was in this room making the beat. I always make my own style of what I think works for the artist, but if they idealize it and tell me I work on their vision. There were some tempo issues, but I just made it sound like they go together, and they did. And I added that Aaliyah sample. I loved ‘One in a Million.’ I loved the video, the way she was moving her body, and I was really into the way she looked in that video, and the song was dope, Timbaland was a new guy to us, and he was just so ahead with this new sound. But, yeah, as soon as [Jay] said, ‘A Million and One,’ I thought, ‘One in a million.’ So I just sampled it, and pitched it up to the right key, and threw it in on the pad. Jay laid the first part, and walked back out to work with Too Short, and said, ‘Call me when you’re ready.’ I made the second part, and he said, ‘Yo, that’s it. Let me go right in the booth.’ He laid it, and I attached it. Back then to edit it we had to splice the tape, and put it together. Kids these days don’t know how to cut notebook paper with a pair of scissors. [Laughs.] You mess up on a punch, and you have to re-cut it. On Protools, you just press undo. But Jay-Z trusts me. He’ll just lay his vocals, and says, ‘Do the Premier thing.’”

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