It's such an interesting time in rap music because the producers are getting a lot of well-deserved credit. They're kind of like the new rock stars. And for the first time, we see producers dropping their own projects (ex. Murda Beatz's Keep God First is one of our favourite producer mixtapes of the last little while), building their own huge followings and playing their own shows. And for an artist to have a song blessed with one of those famous producer tags — such as "Mike Will Made It" or "If young Metro don't trust you Imma shoot you" — it's like a trophy.
Murda, Mike Will and Metro Boomin are just a few of the young producers killing it right now, but it got us thinking about the OG superstar producers who were dominating back in the 1990s — long before you could just make beats on your laptop. Cot damn, digital files and mp3's didn’t even exist then.
We both agreed that DJ Premier was one of the illest back when we were growing up and getting into hip hop, so we decided to take a trip down memory lane and round up our favourite Primo beats. Hopefully, some of these have you saying "Oh shit I remember that one!" or maybe you’ll even learn something new.
Biggie - Unbelievable
Freeza: I would always listen to this song in high school whenever I would need to get amped up for things like talking to girls while trying to cover up my acne. The R. Kelly sample is timeless.
Group Home - Livin' Proof
Jay: My boyfriend in high school was obsessed with this song and would always play it in his car. It's amazing how songs can trigger memories and every time I hear it, it I feel transported back to that time in my life for a few seconds. This beat is one of Primo's very best and has a spooky, haunting quality that is the perfect complement to the lyrics: "Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough…"
Jay Z - A Million And One Questions
Freeza: Obviously, he's achieved a lot in the last 20+ years but in my eyes, this era is when Jigga was at his best. He was young and hungry and you can hear it in the way he was rapping. His energy just matches Primo's beat so well.
Nas - Nas Is Like
Jay: When we were putting this list together this was the very first track I knew we had to have on here. The chorus perfectly illustrates what makes a Primo beat so sick: he incorporates DJing into his production while at the same time never taking anything away from the MC. This song is just so raw; forever a classic in my books.
D'Angelo - Devil's Pie
Freeza: I'm pretty sure Jay Z had this beat first, but the jazzy bassline—which is actually sampled from a Teddy Pendergrass song called 'And If I Had'—lends itself well to D’Angelo's soulful style.
Gang Starr - Full Clip
Jay: When I think of DJ Premier, this is the first song that pops into my head. Playing this song as a DJ is so much fun cause when people hear 'Big L Rest In Peace' at the beginning they always go off. RIP Guru too.
CNN - Invincible
Freeza: I’m actually not the biggest fan of the rapping on this, but the beat is amazing. The sample is some fairly unknown tune but when you go and listen to it and hear how Premier flipped it, it's nuts. It's crazy how producers like Primo or Kanye who are really good with samples can hear the potential in one little word or sound. I feel like Nas could have slayed this beat way harder than CNN.
Bahamadia - 3 Tha Hard Way
Jay: This is a song that I actually forgot about for a long time but I’m so glad I was reminded of it. Bahamadia flies under the radar a lot but she’s def one of the baddest emcees of this era. Primo worked with her on a number of tracks but this is my personal favourite.
Gang Starr feat. Inspecta Deck - Above The Clouds
Freeza: I grew up on kung fu movies and this song just reminds me of a gangster ass kung fu fight scene. The fact that Inspecta Deck is on this tune just makes it even more dope because Wu-Tang.
Biggie - 10 Crack Commandments
Jay: What the heck am I supposed to say about one of the most iconic rap songs of all time?! Biggie and Preemz both brought their A-game on this.