Happy Birthday, DJ Premier!

It’s DJ Premier’s birthday.

The legend’s a year away from 50 today, so let’s celebrate one of the greatest producers in hip hop history. He’s been around for 49 years now, and he’s been making hits for 25 of those years. A lot of classic sounds from the golden age of hip hop and beyond have been put together by DJ Premier, and he’s worked with a lot of the dopest rappers out there. Let’s talk about a few of my favorite tracks he did.


Nas – NY State of Mind, Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park), Represent

DJ Premier and Nas

Photo: premierwuzhere.com

The second track (and the first real track) on Illmatic is NY State of Mind, which is one of the best tracks on the album, one of the best tracks by Nas, and really just one of the greatest of all time. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, with a pretty simple beat holding it down for Nas to spit long verses with the hooks pretty much just being the track titles repeated. Premier is one of the best of all time because of his ability to keep it simple and hold it down without overshadowing the rapper.

He proves this a few more times on Illmatic with Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park) and Represent. Whether it’s a light playground sound or one with a harder edge, Premier laid it down for Nas to kill it. Premier pretty much exemplifies minimalist hip hop with his contributions to the album, and these 3 tracks help define Illmatic’s sound, yet they’re all unique.

Biggie – Ten Crack Commandments
Mos Def – Mathematics

These 2 tracks came out a few years after Illmatic, but show Premier was better than ever almost 10 years into his career. I group them together because they’re the best number-based rap tracks of all time, and Premier did as much as Biggie and Mos did to make them classics. These are both grittier beats than anything he did on Illmatic, but again he did just enough to set the tone for the rappers to kill it.

Talib Kweli, Mos Def, DJ Premier

Photo: blackvibes.com

This is the mark of a great hip hop producer, when their beats are as big a part of a dope track as the rap is but they’re okay laying low from the spotlight. Premier is one of the biggest names in hip hop production, and a lot of that has to do with how many rappers have made classic tracks working with him. I’m telling you, he knows how to set a rapper up with a dope, simple beat. In fact, let’s see some of the rappers that DJ Premier has worked with more than once (because a list of everyone he’s worked with would take way too long):

  • KRS-One
  • Nas
  • Biggie
  • Jay-Z
  • Rakim
  • Big L

Solid list, right?

These are just a few of the rappers he’s done more than one track with, remember. That’s about a decade of hip hop sounds right there, and you can see pretty clearly that DJ Premier helped shape the golden age of hip hop. He’s still going strong too, and he’s more recently done a few tracks with Joey Bada$$. Dude just doesn’t get tired of making classics.


Anyways, happy birthday, Premier.

I just thought we should give one of the legends his due on his birthday. Remember, he ain’t even 50 and he’s been making classics for 25 years already. Hip hop is a better place because of Premier.


Spit Talking

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