DJ Premier was recently chosen by Mass Appeal to craft a five-track tape called Hip Hop 50 Vol. 1 to celebrate Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary in 2023, and in a sit-down with The Fader, the iconic producer discussed his legendary impact on the genre.
“I remember when I came outside [in New York] — I was about 11 — they had some B-boys breaking for money with a guitar case open,” Premier recalled. “They were poppin’ and lockin’, had the matching outfits and the big boombox with the stickers all over it, and I was amazed. One guy had a turntable. It wasn’t a 1200 yet, just a belt-drive, the Technics. And I’m like, ‘Yo, how is he making the record do that and it’s not scratching the record up?’ I didn’t know it was called scratching yet. I was like, ‘Man, this is where I’m coming.’”
The tape Preeme put together was done as the first in what will be a series of 10 producer-helmed projects Mass Appeal has planned to celebrate rap. So the DJ used his tape to lace together some of Hip Hop’s biggest heavyweights, including a unique pairing of Slick Rick and Lil Wayne on the closer “The Root Of All.”
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“It was originally a Logic record,” Premier said of the track. “I made that beat and he was like, ‘Yo, this reminds me of a friend of mine who died over a bad drug deal, and the emotion of the track makes me wanna write about that.’ He laid down his verse and [we called it] ‘Money’ because the thing that went bad with his homie was money related. We left it at that.”
He continued, “Time passed, and he was like, ‘Man, it’s been a while. Can I hear it again?’ Now, right before I sent him the track again, I said, ‘Man… Lil Wayne would body this, because he can talk about money.’ I sent [Wayne’s verse] to Logic, and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, Wayne killed it. There’s only one problem: I used my verse for another song. But I’ll write you a new rhyme.’ I’m like, ‘Damn, but that was the one, because your shit about the money set the whole tone for Wayne.’
“Logic sends me another banging verse, but it’s just about how nice he could rap… Now it doesn’t match what Wayne said. It was to where I was even gonna change the name and call it ‘Bars And Money’ and have a Twilight Zone thing… I figured that was the only way it would make sense.”
Premier said that he ultimately decided to speak with Slick Rick to see if he could thematically link to Lil Wayne’s verse about cash.
“I hit Rick up, and he’s like, ‘Well, I’m really picky about who I rhyme with. Is the rhyme dope?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, Wayne got busy.’ As soon as I gave it to him, he’s like, ‘Man, I love Wayne’s verse. I’m gonna do a hook and a verse.’So I was like, ‘Perfect.’”
Listen to Hip Hop 50 Vol.1 below.