DJ Premier has worked with almost every great rapper in the game since beginning his career with Gang Starr in the late 1980s. To this day, he stays incredibly busy. Even a short conversation with Preem will find him mentioning an upcoming single with Casanova and two different, secret full-length projects on the way (“Once I’m done, you will find out what they are,” he laughed when we spoke on the phone.) But with everything he’s accomplished, the legendary producer has not teamed up with Drake—until now.
“Sandra’s Rose,” produced by Premier (with Maneesh Bidaye), is a standout track on Drizzy’s new album Scorpion. We called Preem to find out how it all went down.
How did “Sandra’s Rose” happen?
For at least the last 10 years, me and Drake always say, “We gotta do something, we gotta do something.” This time, my manager Ian Schwartzman brought it up to me that he was working on the Scorpion album. He’s like, "You should see if you can get a slot on there."
From JAY-Z to Nas to Kanye to whoever, I’m just not the type to say, "Hey, let me get on your album." If they want me, they’re going to reach out and say, "I need a joint from you." So I told my manager I don’t do that. He knows I don’t do that. But I said, "You know what? I’m gonna catch 40 [Drake’s longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib] and just let him know if there’s a slot, I’m here." So I did it.
40’s like, "We got a slot—let me holler at Drake and I’ll get back to you." Maybe a week or two passed, and 40 hit me up and said, “Drake wants you to flip this sample from one of my guys. His name is Maneesh.” He’s signed to 40 as a writer and a producer. 40 said, “I know you dig and do your own samples and your own programming. You’re a beast. But Drake really thinks you could flip this one.” I’m like, "Alright, send it to me."
When he sent me the sample, it said “Sandra’s Rose,” but I thought that was just the name of the sample. I didn’t know that was going to be the name of the song. I figured it’d be called something else once the song came about, because there were no lyrics yet. There was just the sample—no drums, no nothing. When he sent it to me, I put my drums, my bassline, all my percussion, programmed the beat. I sent it back to him at like 4 in the morning, and then I went home. I slept for like two and a half hours so I could get up and make sure my son was ready for school.
I'm like, "Don't tell me he already got verses. I just gave it to him two hours ago."
As soon as I wake up, I always say “Thank you.” It’s a thing I do, spiritually. [That morning] I said, “Thank you” and then my iPhone did an alert and I see it’s from 40. It’s a video. Before I hit play, I’m already like, “Don’t tell me he already got verses down. I just gave it to him two hours ago at 4 in the morning.” And boom, as soon as I hit play, I heard that first “Niggas see the crib and ask who did I steal from.” I was like, "Whoa." It wasn’t a whole verse, just a snippet.
I did scratches to it as well, even though it’s not on the album version. Drake really wanted to leave that breakdown with the “Baby, baby, baby” voice naked, so I let it breathe. But I did do a version with scratches, and I look forward to letting that out just for DJs later if they approve it. I took a Nicki Minaj line and a Lil Wayne line to keep it in house, within their Young Money family. I kept it really subtle—I didn’t go crazy on it. So that version does exist. I’ll follow up and see if we can let that out later on, next week or something like that, just for DJs to rock out to.
Do you remember when you made the beat?
My father passed on June 8, and so I came down to Texas to make arrangements for his funeral and all that stuff. We were still messing around with it. They gave me two samples. One was called “Sail.” That was the first one I got. Rick Ross did a verse on it. Before I even knew Rick Ross was on it, that’s the first beat I gave them back. And then I went on the PRhyme tour, and my father got sick. I had to postpone the tour, come home, and deal with the hospital. I brought my drum machine with me.
Right before I left to come home, I had already sent them “Sail.” I said, well, let me work on the “Sandra’s Rose” one—again, not knowing that’s the name of the song. I did that one second. That was the one they sent me back immediately. “Sail” never got finished. He never cut a vocal. The Rick Ross vocal’s on it, but  never sent me a vocal of Drake on it. And obviously it’s not on the album.
"Sail" was the first one I got. The rick ross vocal's on it, but 40 never sent me a vocal of drake on it. and obviously it's not on the album.
So you made “Sandra’s Rose” in late May or early June?
It may have been the last day or two of May. But as far as updating it and putting the scratches and putting the finishing touches on it, that was just four days ago. And they were still mixing and still recording.  said, “Man, you got time. Even if you turn it in on June 27, we will still be recording and mixing songs all the way up to the 29th.” And that’s what they did.
When did you receive the final word that “Sandra’s Rose” was going to be on the album?
They told me that immediately.  was like, “This is a go regardless.” He said it’s one of his favorites. But as far as getting the final mix of it, it was yesterday, the day before they released it. They just finished getting everything done. He says Drake does that every time. He’s recording and mixing literally before they upload.
How did you feel when you heard your name shouted out in the lyrics?
Oh man, I was open. And actually, on the one where I put the scratches, I put a quick little cut right there. After he says “Preemo,” I do a little half-a-bar stab.
Did you ever find out what Maneesh’s sample was?
Maneesh actually constructs it from scratch. It’s not like he got a sample and had to clear it and just got me to flip it. He made that.
Can we look forward to more collaborations with Drake in the future?
I’d love to work with him anytime. We’ve been talking about it for years, every time I see him in the club.
My manager Ian was definitely pressing me over and over again to hit him up. Ian’s young, but he’s a hustler. That was my first time reaching out, saying "Hey, if there’s a slot, I want in." And I guess I was in.