Complex | Combat Jack

DJ Premier on The Combat Jack Show Ep. 3

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Combat Jack:

The music industry is changed, the artistry has changed. You came up in the period of time where MCs really cared about the craftsmanship of the lyrics. We live in a period of time right now where that's not necessarily the case. What do you think the difference of the time, man; difference [inaudible: 00:48]?

DJ Premier:

Our time, the late-'80s, early-'90s era, everybody just had to be that lyrical just to be accepted into the clubs we went to. All that stuff. [inaudible: 01:03] the bouncers even saying, "Yo, [inaudible: 01:05] deal"; to where if the people throwing the function didn't know who you was, the bouncers will be like, "Yo . . ."

Combat Jack:

That dude is [inaudible: 01:14].

DJ Premier:

They're whispering to the . . . even the parties that's hard to get into where they don't want hip-hopers in there; the bouncers are telling them, "Yo, that's so-and-so, he official. How many you got, 5? All right, in." That's what level they had to be at. Plus, everybody that we looked up, from Rakim to KRS1, to Melly-Mel and the Furious 5, Flash, and EPMD . . .

Combat Jack:

Shock all of them.

DJ Premier:

They all saw us, even in the club or the street and say, "Yo, y'all that deal. I love that record." We're sitting there, "Y'all like us?" We weren't saying, "Like our music. Listen to my music." You just had to be recognizing in every club. We were all in the same club. You'll see Q-Tip; it was like, "Yo, there go Tip. It's not like, "There go Q-Tip," because we were all just in the same spots, chilling. They right byt the bar, everybody's got girls popping. It was just a normal thing to be around all those people all the time.

Combat Jack:

What do you think about today's school of artist?

DJ Premier:

Today's school, there's some that's lyrical; there's some that could step it up, lyrically. Some of the them, even Waka Flocka said, "I'm not a lyrical dude so don't put me in that box. I do this." At least he's saying, "I am what I am, and this is how I rock," so you can't knock it. There's certain things some artists say that makes you go, "Damn," but not to the degree of where . . . there's 2 ways to handle it: Me, I'm more of the person that will just ask you about something when I see you and not when I am trying to play you, like, "Yo, what's up?" It's so more like if it really bothers me that much to ask somebody something, I'm going to ask them. I think there's a correct way to ask and a wrong way to ask.

Combat Jack:

What's bothered you in the past?

DJ Premier:

I just like dope rhymes. I want to recite your rhymes. Don't get me wrong; when I'm in the club and certain records come on that's more just about partying and tearing the club up, and getting . . . trap music and all that; love it. People will be looking at me sometimes and be like, "Damn." For me it's . . .

Combat Jack:

[inaudible: 03:13]

Just Blaze:

It's a time and a place for everything.

DJ Premier:

I just love music.

Just Blaze:

It tripped me out. One I night, I was DJ'ing somewhere and Cool Hurt comes up to me and asking me to Waka Flocka. He asked me to play that and he asked me to play Eminem 'White Trash Party'.

DJ Premier:

That's dope.

Combat Jack:

This is Cool Hurt . . .

Just Blaze:

Yeah, this is Cool Hurt . . .

Combat Jack:

. . . the father of hip-hop.

Just Blaze:

. . . .who's the reason why any of us are sitting here having this conversation.

Combat Jack:

That's crazy.

DJ Premier:

Word up.

Just Blaze:

At first it struck me, 'Do you even know what those records are?' Then I'm like, "You know what; he's a music dude." When you're a music dude . . .

Combat Jack:

He's a DJ, first and foremost.

Just Blaze:

Right. Even your heart . . . or if you're associated with one thing, it doesn't mean you don't appreciate other things. Understand there's a time and a place for everything.

DJ Premier:

100%.

Combat Jack:

Coming from your era, I think what's ironic, though, is you took a group that really weren't known their lyrical skills and as a group [inaudible: 04:00] . . .

DJ Premier:

Right.

Combat Jack:

. . . and you made a classic album. Looking at the landscape today, in terms of artists that are out, who do you want to work with?

DJ Premier:

Artists that are out now, of this new generation?

Combat Jack:

Yeah.

DJ Premier:

Definitely Drake, which I say all the time and I get comments like, "I can't believe . . ."

Combat Jack:

I can't believe that you want to work with Drake, primo.

DJ Premier:

Yo, he's dope.

Combat Jack:

He's dope.

DJ Premier:

He can rhyme, he makes good records. Rhianna makes good records. She not the best singer; she makes records that go with what she . . .

Combat Jack:

She makes great records.

DJ Premier:

She makes great records and she knows the range of what her voice can do so those records always . . . she hits them.

Combat Jack:

What do you think of 2 Chainz?

DJ Premier:

2 Chainz is my man on 2 different reasons: I knew 2 Chainz when he was Tity Boi, when Luda just got his deal with Def Jam; when Scarface got him signed over there. I met him with Luda, shout to Luda. We hooked up, and Tity Boi, I think he just gotten shot once prior, but we were talking about that. Shout to Dolla' Boy, because he had just come home and they were going to be called Playaz Circle. We hung out so much and was cool every time he came to New York, that whenever I'd see Luda . . . Luda would see me, I be like, "Luda, what up, man?" Right before we hug and dap each other up, he go, "I know what you going to ask me, 'Where's Tity Boi?'" I was like, "Yeah, I was going to ask you. Where is he?" That's how cool we've been for years. I know some people like, "His lyrics ain't on the level of what's out," or whatever. The dude actually can rhyme. If you listen to his Playaz's Circle stuff, the way before he was pinning songs back then, even before the one they did with Wayne with 'Duffel Bag Boy'; they got hot pins. With 2 Chaniz, I remember the day that we did the BET Cipher, when he came with Luda to that with Busta and Reek the Villain. He said, "Yo Prim, I'm going by a new name called 2Chainz. I'm doing a new style of rapping. I'm doing this." He's letting me know before I heard one record. Then all of a sudden, all of my records starting dropping, 'boom, boom, boom, boom', and he just started sprouting up like 'Jack and the Beanstalk".

Dallas Penn:

Speaking on the BET Cipher, who ate who's lunch: Black Thought, Eminem, Mos Def/Yasiin Bey?

DJ Premier:

Everybody loved . . . I loved, and I'm not being politically correct. I loved everybody's verses, but Black Thought bodied that; bodied it, hands down. Eminem and them got busy on the Shady Cipher when they just did that to themselves, with Slaughterhouse, Yellow Wolf, and him. That was a fun shoot. All the shoots are always pretty much fun for the most part. A lot of people think I pick the artist and I don't. Sometimes I look at the list and go, "Who?" Just be . . .

Just Blaze:

What was the issue with . . . was it Beiber that was [inaudible: 06:53]?

Combat Jack:

Justin Beiber. I heard you kicked Justin Beiber off the Cipher, man.

DJ Premier:

You know what's so crazy? I remember the day that I got the call from the higher-ups of the . . .

Combat Jack:

Viacom.

DJ Premier:

Just the higher-ups telling me about, 'Yo . . .' I'm sitting there like, "I just said something real basic."

Combat Jack:

What was the list?

DJ Premier:

No. There was something sent to me saying, "What do you think . . ." They'll ask me, "What do you think of BOB?" I was like, "Yeah, put him on." "What do you think of Tech N9ne doing it?" I'm like, "Hell yeah. He's different. He knows . . . he's from my cloth. His music may not sound like the stuff that we make but . . ."

Combat Jack:

He's official?

DJ Premier:

". . . he's from cloth, he's official." In the Cipher, hell yeah. I got an email saying, "What do you think of Justin Beiber?"

Combat Jack:

Justin Beiber?

DJ Premier:

Yeah. I was like, "As long as he spits a dope verse, I don't care."

Combat Jack:

Okay.

DJ Premier:

I said, "If . . ." They said, "He might not write it, but if it's dope, would you still be with it?" I said, "If he don't write it, then he shouldn't be on there." It's not my call, but I said again, "Write your own verse and we good"; that was all I said. I talked about it on . . . I was filling in for DJ Eclipse on Sirus XM Sunday night, where we do an underground show. I got to remember my voice carries when I say stuff; that's why I got to learn to be more thought . . . I got to think before I speak because I'm a very talkative person.

Combat Jack:

You've been very thoughtful on this show.

DJ Premier:

I like to conversate and chop it up. Some things are better off-record. When it came to that, all of the sudden, everybody's like, "Yo, they said you I banned him." I'm like, "Banned who, Justin Beiber? Come on." Then all of the sudden, I'm seeing him popping up on everything, spitting rhymes on every station, I guess to show he got . . .

Combat Jack:

You put the battery in his back, though.

DJ Premier:

. . . he got bars. I'd do a record with Beiber and kill it.


In the final installment of our three part interview with DJ Premier on The Combat Jack Show, Premier reflects on the standards of the rap game during the golden era.

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