Interview: Outtakes From DJ Premier's Stories Behind His Hits

Primo talks working with Mobb Deep, Rakim, and how he got back into doing mix shows.

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Complex Original

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Last week, when we dropped our epic post DJ Premier Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records, a few things got left on the cutting room floor. After all, Primo is one of the greatest producers ever and he’s just got so many damn classics there wasn’t enough time for us to properly discuss them all. However, Premier did tell us a few interesting tidbits about working with greats like Mobb Deep, Rakim, and others. So we figured we’d scrap them together and post some of the outtakes. It may not be the 38-slide odyssey our previous post was, but Primo did tell us about the time he got caught riding dirty, what he considers one of his best produced albums, and how Statik Selektah brought him back to doing mix shows.


As told to Jaeki Cho (@jaekicho).


On working with Mobb Deep


“Large Professor was working with them, then he trickled them down to me. They were little guys, 16 years old [at the time]. I went out to Long Island to link up with them. I remember we got pulled over by the cops on the highway and we were dirty, we had stuff in the car. And we thought we were going to go to jail, but they just let us go. Ironically, we just did a record called ‘Cop Hell’ which didn’t come out because that’s around when Ice-T’s ‘Cop Killer’ kicked in. The label wasn’t trying to hear it, so we had to dead that. We didn’t work together after that, but it was more so a timing thing. I actually broke ‘Shook Ones (Part II)’ because I used to be on WBLS. Mobb Deep brought it to me personally. I heard that record and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going into this.’ I broke it right after commercials. Hav was making beats back then and they were ghetto. They were very elementary, but you could tell Havoc was on his way. They were very hardcore and his music was designed for Mobb Deep to spit on it. That’s what I like about Havoc: He made beats that just sounded like Mobb Deep. He just had so much color in his beats. I’m a big fan of him.”


On working with Rakim


“He’s very picky. It’s hard to get Rakim to jump on anything. He doesn’t like anything. You have to go all out to please him. And that’s cool, he can do that, he’s got the leverage. He takes a while [to write]. That’s the only thing. You have to be like, ‘Come on, Ra, when am I going to see you again?’ Several months later he’ll just be like, [Imitates Rakim’s voice], ‘Yo, G. Yo, I’m about to lay that, you nah’m sayin’? Yeah, G. Word, G. Right, right, G.’ [Laughs.] That’s Ra.”


On Group Home’s Livin' Proof album


“It’s one of my best and well-produced albums ever. Lyrically, it wasn’t all that. But beat wise, it was. That’s what Dap wanted the album to be called, so I said, ‘Let’s make that the next single.’ When it’s time to make them, I make my singles, literally. I don’t make all the songs and go, ‘Oh, that should be a single.’ I go in like, ‘We’re making a single today.’ ‘Supa Star’ did well for us. We sold 200,000 copies as a single. That’s major. It did well for my reputation on the production side. It made a lot of people in the industry go, ‘Man, they ain’t saying nothing, but you gave them all the nice beats.’ But you know what? That’s their stuff and it belongs to them, I’ll make more and more. The production had to be well done to compensate for their lyrical ability not being all the way 100% on par. That helped to camouflage it. They had the look and the image in them. And you know Dap was a little stickup kid. Now he’s rapping, he had to learn the ropes. It’s a whole different world but he learned it.”


On working with Bahamadia


“Guru met Bahamadia down in Philly, they clicked, and he signed her to Ill Kid Records. After they put out ‘Total Wreck,’ she got a deal with EMI, and she wanted to work with me. Guru executive produced it and he also produced some of the album. He told me, ‘Yo, I need three joints from you.’ Bahamadia, she’s a beast. She just turns all the lights out and goes in the booth and does her thing. She’s real quick. I just saw her recently and we talked about working together. There are many people from that era that are ready to roll again. And if I can help them, I’m going to try and help them.”


On working with O.C.


“O.C. and me, we’re just cool, man. We went to Japan together. He had just gotten back from going to Japan with Big L. One of my boys who went to the hospital to see Guru—Big Eon—went out there as road manager for Big L. When they came back, another promoter wanted to bring O.C. back out. And Eon couldn’t go, so I was like, ‘Look, I’ll road manage and DJ for O.C.’ So we got really close on that tour. We had fucking super fun on that tour. It was one of the most fun tours ever. And from then it was just like, ‘I got you whenever you need me on some tracks.’”


On his relationship with Statik Selektah


“Statik Selektah actually has a lot to do with me getting back into mix show radio. He sent me a lot of stuff I needed in order to be back. Through the pipeline I wasn’t really savvy with the net at the time. So Statik would send me all this stuff. He gave me more than two hours worth of stuff I didn’t have on vinyl yet. I started reaching out to people and people found out I was on, and they started to send me shit. And then it just went cycling how we took it from there.”

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