The TENS: 10 Overlooked DJ Premier Beats

blame it on Meka March 21, 2016

The only Chris Martin That Matters (All due respect to Coldplay, but some of y’all didn’t even start liking their music until JAY Z said it was cool to do so, keep it real) is celebrating yet another milestone in his illustrious life: he turned 50 today. And having spent the last 37 years perfecting his craft, the man known as DJ Premier has a discography the size of The Great Red Spot on Jupiter; naturally, some songs are more prevalent than others, while others may have been missed. Totally understandable when the guy has literally produced thousands of songs throughout his career.

With this new installment of The TENS, we spotlight some of those understated heatrocks. Have your own list? Feel free to slap them into the c-section below.

Mos Def — “Mathematics” [1999]

We all know that the artists formally known as Mos Def can rhyme. Well, actually, I think people forget how dope Yasiin Bey is. DJ Premier makes The Fatback Band’s “Baby I’m-a Want You” damn near unrecognizable with this chop and flip. Add a little Erykah Badu “On & On,” a taste of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” Wu Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.,” Raekwon’s “Criminology” and Cutty Ranks “A Who Seh Me Dun” to layout that hook and you have a production that Mighty Mos just obliterates with the science of numbers. Don’t we all wish these two could have worked more together? – Andreas Hale

Royce Da 5’9″ — “Something 2 Ride 2” f. Phonte [2009]

Yes, everybody knows “Boom” is one of Premier’s greatest songs of all time, and yes he and Nickel’s works as PRhyme are pure and unfiltered exceptional hip hop. However, it’s this obscure track from his 2009 album Street Hop that can definitely be in conversation again. With Phontigallo putting the raps to the left for some soulful crooning, “Something 2 Ride 2” is the perfect theme music from the “reignin’ King of the boom bap.” — Meka Udoh

Nas — “2nd Childhood” [2001]

DJ Premier slightly sped up Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack’s “Born To Love” for this often overlooked track from the critically acclaimed Stillmatic that finds Nas lamenting about grown folks who refuse to grow up. It starts out as a standard loop until Preemo works his magic and carves up the beat midway through the first verse and on the hook. And that hook, oh that hook. DJ Premier always finds a new way to flip Nas’ name and make it so damn dope. – Andreas Hale

Jay-Z — “So Ghetto” [1999]

The last time Jigga and Primo worked together is arguably one of their finest moments together. Combining the opening guitar plucks of Steve Cropper’s “Crop Dustin’” over some traditional boom bap, one of the last vestiges of Jay’s aural street sensibilities was on full bombastic display: “Thug n*gga til the end, tell a friend b*tch/Won’t change for no paper plus I been rich.” Vowing to bring guns to the GRAMMYs and pop bottles on the White House lawn, this would all but be the last we’d see of the “same ol’ Shawn.” — Meka Udoh

Pitch Black — “It’s All Real” [2004]

Pitch Black was such a mediocre group with a phenomenally produced album. Oh well, you can’t win them all. But this Premo flip of The Moments’ “When Morning Comes” finds the producer hijacking the strings that you hear midway through the song and proceeds to layout a vicious soundscape that is lost on the new jacks who have no idea who the hell Pitch Black are. Go find the album and you’ll find a treasure chest of beats that you probably wish somebody else would have rapped to. — Andreas Hale

The Notorious B.I.G. — “Ten Crack Commandments” [1997]

This song is by no means “overlooked” in any sense of the term. But after “Unbelievable” (with it’s now-legendary tale of how it was concocted) and the Nas diss “Kick In The Door,” “Crack” is usually left on the back burner when discussing the three Primo/Biggie collaborations made while he was alive. Thank Jeru the Damaja, for starters: before it became what we now recognize as the backdrop for B.I.G’s instant vintage rules of the drug game, DJ Premier laced Jeru with the instrumental for Angie Martinez’ countdown on Hot 97. — Meka Udoh

RELATED: Jeru the Damaja’s OG Version

Gang Starr — “Above The Clouds” f. Inspectah Deck [1998]

Often lost in the shuffle of DJ Premier’s brilliant production as the other half of Gang Starr is “Above the Clouds” from the Moment of Truth album. Before I get into how dope the production was, can we talk about Inspectah Deck? The Rebel I.N.S. had a vicious run in the late 90s that led me to believe that he was going to explode as a solo act. But, nah. During that run, which included an obliteration of Big Pun’s “Tres Leches,” was “Above the Clouds.” First of all, the flip of John Dankworth’s “Two-Piece Flower” from 1967 gave this song a true Wu Tang feel that could have been in the soundtrack of an urban kung fu flick. Guru did his thing and Deck waltzed in to blitz the production with the first few bars where he left scientists mentally scarred and was wild like rock stars who smashed guitars. Oof. — Andreas Hale

Christina Aguilera — “Thank You” [2006]

Yes, it took us aback when it was announced that Christina Aguilera would work with Premier on her fifth album, Back To Basics. On the surface it screamed “blatantly obvious mainstream ploy;” he was working with one of the planet’s top pop princesses of her era, one who had helped recreate “Lady Marmalade” and had songs like “What a Girl Wants.” But leave it to Chris to bring out some of the best music of her career. While “Ain’t No Other Man” would lead him to his first GRAMMY Award, it was the closer of the first disc’s “Thank You” which is one of its true stars. Don’t believe me? Listen to how he flipped Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle” with the Notorious B.I.G. and tell me that isn’t the work of a mad genius. — Meka Udoh

Crooklyn Dodgers — “Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers” [1995]

Once upon a time, movie soundtracks were the rage. They were essentially compilation albums with some very dope moments. The soundtrack for Spike Lee’s “Clockers” often gets lost in the shuffle because it wasn’t heavy on the Hip Hop with one glaring exception. Chubb Rock, O.C. and Jeru The Damaja were the second incarnation of the Crooklyn Dodgers (the original was Masta Ace, Buckshot and Special Ed) and went ham on DJ Premier’s spin of Young-Holt Trio’s “Strangers in the Night” from 1966. Go check out the original and see if you can find where Preemo clipped from. Oh, and Chubb Rock annihilated this joint. I still call Barbara Walters a bitch because of this song. — Andreas Hale

Nas — “NY State Of Mind 2” [1999]

It’s almost always impossible to duplicate the success of the original. Ask Nas, who’d been stuck with the stigma of critics wanting another Illmatic. Here’s the thing, though: April 19th, 1994 was five years removed from April 6th, 1999, when Nas’ third studio album was released. In between that there was It Was Written, the beef with Cormega, 2Pac ripping him to shreds on Makavelli, The Firm, being crucified on “Hate Me Now,” an alleged incident involving Puff Daddy, Steve Stoute and a bottle… you get the point. So when I Am finally arrived, fans were understandably ambivalent about everything… until they heard it’s opening salvo. The sequel to his debut album starter was on par with its perfected original, and for a moment we were truly convinced the “OG” Nas was back.

Then Nastradamus dropped. But that’s beyond the point.


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