Day 1 of the Gangstarr Foundation Interviews, today we sit down with DJ Premier, "one of the best yet..." http://www.thaformula.com/gangstarr_foundation_-_day_1_-_dj_premier.htm ThaFormula.com - All right let's get down to business and get into a question that the real heads have been wondering for a few years now. What exactly went down with Jeru The Damaja? DJ Premier - He wanted to go his own way with his career. So we said, "no problem" and he had basically said, "before I walk I need to take care of something of a financial matter" that I personally felt did not include his walking away, especially with no strings attached. So he argued and took it to a level where he thought I was being foul and I was like, "yo, I feel how you feel but this is how it's gonna stand, cause I don't argue over money, I don't do anybody unfairly that comes under my camp cause I'm a very, very regular dude." So when it came to arguin' over the bread and everything I said, "You know what? That little bit of money that your complaining about, I'm gonna give it to you and then that's it we done." That's why we did the track "B.I. vs. Friendship" and we spoke on it in that matter. He was offended by it and he made a record called "99.9 Percent" where he did little subliminal stuff that really only we knew about. ThaFormula.com - Yeah I always wondered what exactly went down 'cause I remember him sayin' in an interview once how you guys basically turned your back on him and that you guys weren't really keepin' it real anymore? DJ Premier - Nah, that's not true cause look at where we are, we are still doing it. I'm still working with the same artists and again he put a money situation in front of friendship and you can't do that. He put money in front of the friendship. I'd rather have the friendship, so I'm like "hey go ahead and walk." ThaFormula.com - Some people thought you guys didn't really want to be associated with the heavy conscious rhymes of Jeru cause he was real hardcore and never held anything back? DJ Premier - Nah, we're conscious to this day and he's hardcore, but so are we. It's like he was born from us so; uh he couldn't get hardcore without my help. I gave him his sound, I gave him his identity of music. I didn't give him his identity of being Jeru The Damaja, but I made the music sound like Jeru the Damaja music. So that wasn't the problem. If he wanted to walk and not ever work with me again, I'm not offended by that. It was the fact that he brought up a business issue that did not mix into the situation at hand. The day that Gangstarr is not keepin' it real is gonna show in our music. It's gonna sound funny, it's gonna sound like it's not raw like it used to be and that's not the case. We are still putting out joints. We still love Hip-Hop the same way, and again if you ask anybody about me, I'm so fair. ThaFormula.com - I don't doubt that with the amount of people that respect you as much as they do… DJ Premier - I mean do you know how many people there are that would let Jeru go and say, "okay well your next five albums, I get a big percentage of your pie." I didn't do that. I said, "yo, go on about your way." That is one of the most lucky, uh, look at Puffy. Jadakiss is on our album and when you look at the publishing it says his publishing slash Justin Combs publishing. That means Puffy is still getting paid off of Jadakiss and them when they put out releases. So that means he's like "yeah, you can go, but I am still gonna keep a pinch on your music." ThaFormula.com - Yeah I seen that… DJ Premier - We didn't do that to Jeru. We was like, "yo, bounce," and even when he wanted to bounce, I said listen, uh oh and let me tell you I used to do his songs on his albums for free so mind you when Gangstarr did the deal with Jeru, it was a 70-30 split. 30 percent goes to us and 70 goes to him. Out of that 30, I do all the beats for free. How lucky is that? It's like come on man. I mean what the fuck can he complain about. Nothing. We're cool now though. I saw him at my man Headquarters funeral back in October (R.I.P.). He came up to me and was like "yo Premo, we need to forget about all that bullshit." But it was never bullshit to begin with because I wasn't on no shit. Never was. I was always on some regular shit. I mean ask anyone around about me. The most you'll hear bad about me is that I'm late and slow. That's it! You will never hear nothing about me jerkin' nobody or nothin' like that, so he was never too conscious because again, all that stuff sprang from what Guru was already doing and Guru has been droppin' it the way he's been droppin' it since before Jeru even had his first 12". ThaFormula.com - My thing was, and many people feel this way is the two of you did such classic records together... DJ Premier - Oh hell yeah, which is why I was surprised that he, uh I'm sure at the end of the day he looked at it and said, "damn I messed up on that one." ThaFormula.com - Now let's move on to the KRS' "Boom Bap" album. Did you get paid for that album? DJ Premier - Yeah of course. ThaFormula.com - Okay, in an interview we conducted with KRS he says he can't get beats from you now because you went from $5,000 a track during the "Boom Bap" days to $30,000 a track. Is this true? DJ Premier - Yeah, but not for him. ThaFormula.com - That's what he said. He said for him too. DJ Premier - Nah, not for him and on top of that, all KRS has to do is call me and say, "Yo!" See a lot of these people man, don't uh, you know use in between people to deal with their business. KRS can call me directly and say "yo Preme, can you come down in the price?" and I'll work it out with him. It ain't like somebody else is speakin' to him and he can't talk to me. He can call me directly. ThaFormula.com - Nah, he said that he doesn't think you would do it? DJ Premier - Come on man, that's KRS-One man! And $30,000 is cheap. Do you know how much the Neptune's cost man? We're talkin' $150,000 plus! ThaFormula.com - But can KRS sell half a million records at these prices? DJ Premier - He can sell half a million records if he does better songs like he did back in the day. But again I'm an artist that still will deal with you directly. Like KRS will have one of his office people call me and it's like, you call me. Holla at me directly. It's me, and I don't like havin' to go between people callin' for me unless I'm in such a rush that I can't make the call. I want you to hear my voice and my opinions and my feelings on everything so that way you're not in the dark about shit 'cause it comes out of my mouth, so that's partially true but not to that degree so I totally disagree with that. He can holla at me directly and say "hey yo Preme, can you come down for me?" and I'll be like "hell yeah, for you." Cause we gonna make big records, and if he kicks off and goes 5 million then we up the price on that. ThaFormula.com - So you're very negotiable about your prices? DJ Premier - Yeah, I'm negotiable based on how much I like you, how much I feel your shit and what we can attain at the end of the day from doing whatever we got to do. So yeah (Laughs) KRS to one degree he's cool, but on the other degree that's fully false. ThaFormula.com - Okay what do you think of the underground scene in 2003 and the MC's that are in the underground just spittin' absolute nonsense? DJ Premier - I mean the bottom line is this man. The less groups that put out the shit that we put out, the more your gonna get corny shit like that. The more corny shit that comes out, the more you gotta force our style onto the game so we need more players that wanna play the game our way, so somebody has got to start it. Shit nobody else is doing it, fuck it, I'll do it! I'll start it off! ThaFormula.com - Word up Premo! Now on Rap City you said recently that Hip-Hop is in a coma, of course I wish Tigga would have asked you some questions and gone into all that with you… DJ Premier - Yeah, well you know when you're on TV you got a guy saying "3 more minutes, 3 more minutes," and cutting it down and pointing at you tellin' you you got 2 seconds, it's really hard to let it all out but that is what it is. But now I got y'all and I can answer the question for you instead. ThaFormula.com - So let's get into this coma thing a little more? DJ Premier - Well basically Hip-Hop being in a coma means like when you're in a coma, you're alive but you're not awake. In that regard it's to the point where either you come out of a coma or you don't, but you're still breathin'. To me Hip-Hop is still breathin', but it's not alive where it attracts the die hard fans that appreciate the art form from the way it began to the way it should be going. The stuff that we listen to know, we don't call it Hip-Hop, we call it something else. ThaFormula.com - So how's the album looking right now? DJ Premier - I got 2 more songs to do and that's why we can't finish this tour, 'cause we got to finish our album so we can get our shit out. ThaFormula.com - What are your thoughts on the MC in 2003? DJ Premier - Most MC's sound alike. Everybody sounds the same and we already have a Jay-Z, we already have a Nas, we already have a Mase and a Jadakiss, so it's like why do we need more of people sounding alike, rhymin' about the same thing? How much they can put a slug in you and make you do a back flip like Nadia Comaneci and just shit like that? It's like everybody is making you do the same thing, and that's what makes the art form weaker. Plus radio and the industry like to put you into stuff like that, of that category so that, uh, the industry always likes to have a stranglehold on anything that becomes big. Once billions of dollars are involved, you gotta figure out how to keep it mainstream and make it bigger. It's just like, I ain't into all these commercials they do. I saw a Pepsi commercial the other day where the kid is doing the uptown shake and all that stuff. They put Dirty South up there and show them doing a dance they do in the East Coast instead of showing a dance they do down south, cause I know, I know the dances that are popular down there. That's just real wack and I just don't like how they do all that type of stuff with Hip-Hop in those commercials so I don't support it at all. Coca-Cola is sponsoring this tour for Common and I don't like that. ThaFormula.com - Now a lot of people know that Hip-Hop is fucked up right now and that we're in the middle of a battle. Other then you guys and guys like Foxxx and a couple of other cats, everybody is just staying quiet and accepting this, why? DJ Premier - Because a lot of people don't have the balls to continue fighting for keeping your integrity alive. Most people, once you made it and the money kicks in, your whole mentality changes, 'cause you look at it like "hey I made it!" I don't have to worry about strugglin' anymore. When you start making millions, you start spending in your lifestyle like a millionaire. Like when I started making over 100,000 dollars, I started spending like I make over 100,000 dollars so instead of me tippin a guy 5 dollars, I give him a 20 and be like it's nothing. I make good paper to where if you keep doing that, you gotta now keep up that level of maintaining yourself which can take you out of your music or whatever job it is you do. Because now your like, "I gotta maintain my money in order to keep on spending like this and live like the big guys, I gotta start doing music that will make that big audience buy my music and continue making me that millions of dollars." If you keep doing hood shit the around the way shit that only the ghetto can really understand, only the ghetto is gonna support it and that's not a lot. That's a small percentage of people that's buying your record. Most people in the hood don't buy records. But that's what causes the downfall of the work. Most of the artists that start to make 3 or 4 million sales and eatin' with that kind of paper, being able to buy a Bentley just because they feel like it or just for the sake of it, start doin' that type of music. So if you're making millions and millions of dollars and don't have somethin' or your crew to keep your head level, you're gonna start just doing all this extra pop shit that's gonna make you not look like the same hood hero that you were. You're not focusing on the original way of doing it 'cause you're so comfortable that the art form doesn't mean that much to you anymore. So you end up doing that pop bullshit. ThaFormula.com - Did you ever reach a point where you almost got caught up in that? DJ Premier - Never! I will not allow myself. That's the reason why I'm able to still do what I do in this industry, 'cause I know I don't wanna be caught up with that and I've watched too many artists that I love fall victim to that. Nas told me the same thing. Nas said, "Preme I fell victim to that." When he did "Nastraudamus" and all that, he was sittin' on Bentley's 'cause everybody else was and he got caught up and he said, "Preme I snapped back." He snapped back. What did he do? He dropped "Made You Look," a straight gutter record. ThaFormula.com - How come we didn't get a Premo track on the "God Son" album? DJ Premier - Schedule man. We had to finish our album. Nas kept callin' me and callin' me. "Premo I need you, I need you." I was like, "yo try and come tomorrow," and he would try to come tomorrow and I'll be like "I ain't ready." It's really on me. I was never ready to sit down you know. ThaFormula.com - Now you have done real Hip-Hop since day one Premo, you've managed to earn respect, make money, and always stay workin'. You proved that you can make it in this industry doin' the real shit. Why don't more people follow in your footsteps instead of selling their soul? DJ Premier - Because most people like I said, wanna maintain their careers. It's like the stuff they play in New York now is wack. Only thing I like is 50 Cent and a lot of the underground stuff that's coming out these days, but what it is, is you have artists that cater. Uh, like look, most New York artists are making bounce records now. That's from Down South, so we ain't gotta make bounce records. We are supposed to make East Coast music and let the bounce records come out from the south that way I'll love 'em when the south plays it and I'll pump it and then we make what we make. It's like I'm from Texas so all we had was Run DMC and all that stuff. The only Texas stuff you really had was the Geto Boys and even they were trying to sound like New York 'cause that was your reference. Now that it's regional and everybody is starting to make their own records, now you got, uh New York had a sound man! Now New York doesn't have a sound. Now New York sounds like everybody else. We accepted it. We wanna bring that back cause New York accepted us even though me and Guru come from different cities and we were able to get the respect of New York City which at that time when we came up, if you didn't get New York it's like playin' the Apollo. That's really what it is. Hip-Hop is like the Apollo. If you get accepted in the Apollo you did it. If you get accepted in Hip-Hop in New York, you did it. So we don't wanna be looked at as another one of those copy cats whose just trying to keep up with the trends, 'cause then we sound like were trying to be any old type of way just so we can sell records and still be popular. I won't do that. I know there is an audience that still likes what I do and I make it for them. I'll struggle more and I'll just produce more and now I just started a label so now on my label, all my artists are dope. ThaFormula.com - Yo, how come you don't do a Beat Generation album? DJ Premier - Well, right now I got to get my label off the ground. ThaFormula.com - But why not do one with your leftovers. I'm sure it would be better then 90 percent of the garbage out there now? DJ Premier - Nah, my leftovers aren't that hot though. I got leftovers that are ok, they're not incredible. ThaFormula.com - I just can't see them being that bad? DJ Premier - Ahh, they are man. I got garbage. Yo Shug! I was tellin' them that I got beats that are just ok. 'Cause he was askin' why I don't do one of those Beat Generation compilation albums. He was sayin' why don't you just give them some of your throwaways just to put a Beat Generation album out. But I told him I just don't wanna give something that's just okay. Big Shug - Yeah, because you set you're own bar or level on what's good. DJ Premier - I want the people who buy my records and love me to not ever be disappointed or let down where they are like "yo this nigga is turnin' in some bullshit!" I want them to be like, "yo, he turned in some heat!" ThaFormula.com - How much longer can we expect you to be doing this for? DJ Premier - Oh, forever man! I love Hip-Hop!! And I saw Hip-Hop pay me. I saw Hip-Hop pay me regularly by being like I am. I never had to change. I still play vinyl. I don't have a DAT machine, I don't have an Instant Replay. See this (holding up a piece of vinyl), this is the same "Bridge is Over" that I bought when it dropped. Look at it. This is the original record. The same record here for "Mass Appeal" that I scratch. Look at this Da Youngsta's record, the sticker is still on it. The same cover, it's all torn up. ThaFormula.com - Do you think there will be anyone after you Primo? DJ Premier - There will be more. That's why I am giving birth right now to a new slew of artists that deserve to be with us that know how to do it too. ThaFormula.com - Explain to the people why has there never been any other producer on a Gangstarr album other then the first? DJ Premier - 'Cause when I was coming up, I saw EPMD produced by EPMD. When I saw Super Lover Cee and Casanova produced by Super Lover Cee and Casanova, I said shit I'm doing it too. If they can do it, I can do it. ThaFormula.com - Do you see any producers comin' up that you're feelin? DJ Premier - There is a whole bunch of producers that are comin' up trying to break the game. That's the good thing. There is still a lot of producers that are hungry trying to get into this thing and make it pop and their beats are sounding like what we like, so all they got to be given next is a chance. But trust me, it's gonna change because the industry doesn't know what's next. They don't know 'cause they don't pay attention to the culture anymore. They pay attention to the numbers and how much it costs to sell records and how many units it sold. So when you're thinkin' like that, your mind is not in the right frame anyway cause you're not puttin' the music first. You must put the music first in order to win. We do that. Since we do that, we know we're never gonna lose. Gangstarr will always be around and like Guru said, we are usually ahead of our time, but with this new album we're on time and look, we worked with the younger ones and the old G'z. We worked with Jadakiss on this album, he's a youngin'. ThaFormula.com - My thing is little by little everyone has stopped doing hardcore Hip-Hop and started either doing that ice shit, the space ship/nerd shit, or this fruity so called afro-centric coffee shop trendy shit? DJ Premier - The thing is, the more of us that do it, the more people are gonna start following what we do. But more of us have to put it out. If there is only 2 of us, how we gonna win against 25 other groups that are doing that bullshit and the labels are pushin' it. Now the labels are scared and they're starting to worry about what's the next thing and if they don't know, we'll catch them with their pants down. ThaFormula.com - A lot of people have been wondering why there are so many special guests on this new album. Why not put just more of the Foundation on it? DJ Premier - Well we got our foundation members on it. We got Big Shug, NYG'z, Krumbsnatcha, Foxxx. The question is not why, but why not? It's all about how the songs sound. Me, if it's a phat song, I don't give a fuck if a billion people is on it. It's just gotta be dope. We did this one called "We Got Guns." It's with MOP and Fat Joe and plus we never done that. We was like "yo, let's do something a little different, let's get some guests on our album and bug out," 'cause we don't plan on stopping after this. We got another album to do and then we got more albums to do. We don't plan on quitting. This is how we eat. We have other hustles on the side too though. As long as the song is bangin', that's all that matters. ThaFormula.com - Why isn't Group Home and Afu on the album? DJ Premier - Afu is family but we don't mess with Group Home anymore. ThaFormula.com - What exactly went down with that? DJ Premier - They don't respect what fed them. We fed these kids and I had other talented kids too. I mean Group Home wasn't the best group now. My beats made them sound good and Dap had a dope little voice, but Dap's rhymes ain't that ill. They are okay and he got a little look to him. He got an ill little street look. But look who's still going? Me and Guru are still going because we ain't got no time for this. Now Nutcracker was locked up so he just came home so he's in a program right now to straighten out his situation with going to jail, but doesn't wanna rhyme. He didn't even wanna make that album. He did that cause the judge forced him. He wants to be a boxer. ThaFormula.com - Which album are you talkin' about the first or second Group Home? DJ Premier - The first one, "Livin' Proof." I don't count the last one at all cause I only did one song and I did that because Guru asked me to do a song and said, "I'll be on it and you do it." I mean if you bite the hand that feeds you, I don't fuck with you. Dap did that you know what I'm sayin? He bit my hand and you know we're cool, but he bit my hand and I didn't even know him like that, so you know if you bite my hand I ain't fuckin' with you. Why should I? You don't have to be with us forever, but show appreciation. See, now we have a new crew comin' out. Like I said, Krumbsnatcha and Forbidden who have been down with us from day one, and they waited. They said put Jeru and them out first and we'll wait. Now it's their turn and they got hot shit and they're gonna be on our album too. ThaFormula.com - What's been the delay with Shug's album? DJ Premier - We're almost done with his album. Finally. It's called "Who's Hard?" He's been through some things that are personal and he had to get out of it. Now it's cool and his album is crazy too. I'm doing the whole thing. So we're being real careful with it, plus were trying to strike a deal. Guru is going through label problems with our own label (Virgin) so that's also causing a big friction. So we were going through a problem with Virgin majorly. We been fighting with them and we had to get ourselves solidified to even be able to put them out and we just straightened out all our bullshit. 'Cause all of our bosses got fired so we had to deal with all these new cats who have no knowledge of us. They didn't even know we had that many videos or albums out and they were actin' like it was no big deal, so we stepped to them and let them know it's all real with Gangstarr. This is how we work and you all got to respect us or we don't wanna give you an album. So we been fighting. We even were fighting a week ago when we were in Seattle with the label about doing the Jadakiss video and the one with this kid named Boi Big who's down with us. They were like, "for the price, nah." We're talkin' about $200,000 dollars! That's peanuts in the industry world you know what I'm sayin'? And these muthafuckas is trying to be tight with 200 grand? You should have that easy if you're a multimillion-dollar company. 200 grand is peanuts. So now that we're on our feet and got shit straight with the label, we will continue pushing forward with Shug, Forbidden, my label and Guru's label. Now you're gonna hear a lot of shit this year. ThaFormula.com - Do you plan on being on a major forever? DJ Premier - I mean shit, we would like to get out of our deal now, but contracts are hard to break. We're gonna make sure that we get the proper respect on how we are dealt with if we're gonna work with them, 'cause if I put in a certain amount of years and I'm still hot, you gonna give me some of my demands. Otherwise I will not cooperate and be the biggest asshole you've ever met. ThaFormula.com - Are you able to do in 2003 on a major whatever you want with the album as far as creative control goes? DJ Premier - Yeah, that's the thing. We been doing it our way which we love. I mean like I said, we switched it up on this album. We got mad guests on our album. We're doing shit we never done before, but again every song sounds like a Gangstarr track. "Sabotage" sounds like a Gangstarr track. "We Got Guns" sounds like a Gangstarr track. Everything on our album is dope. I'm excited about droppin' this album. I can't wait. I'm a fan of Gangstarr cause Gangstarr was out before I got down. So I'm a fan of Guru's anyway. So he got me in the group, now I'm a fan and I get to make records with them. It's on and poppin!! ThaFormula.com - Be sure to check back with us for Day 2 of our 4 Day 4 Part Journey with the legendary Gangstarr Foundation. We get deeper then anyone has ever gotten with Gangstarr in what many will remember as one of the greatest Gangstarr pieces ever!!!