DJ Premier

Last updated
DJ Premier
DJ Preemo - Gods of Rap Tour 2019 - Berlin (1 von 6) (cropped).jpg
DJ Premier in 2019
Background information
Birth nameChristopher Edward Martin
Also known as
  • Preem
  • Preemo
Born (1966-03-21) March 21, 1966 (age 54)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Origin New York City, U.S.
Genres Hip hop
Years active1987–present
Labels Wild Pitch (1989–1991)
Chrysalis (1991–1998)
Virgin (1998–2003)
Year Round (2003–present)
Associated acts

Christopher Edward Martin (born March 21, 1966), [1] known professionally as DJ Premier (also known as Preemo), is an American record producer and DJ. He is considered one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time. He was half of the hip hop duo Gang Starr—alongside the rapper Guru—and presently forms half of the hip hop duo PRhyme, together with Royce da 5'9".


Early life

Christopher Edward Martin was born in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas on March 21, 1966. He was then raised in Prairie View, Texas, before moving to Brooklyn, New York, during his teenage years. [2] He attended Prairie View A&M University, where he honed his musical skills as the campus DJ, and he also occasionally performed with the Marching Storm band. [3]

Musical career

DJ Premier in 1999 DJ Premier-06-mika.jpg
DJ Premier in 1999

Premier is known for producing all of Gang Starr's songs as well as many of those composed by the Gang Starr Foundation. Notable artists he has worked with include Anderson .Paak, AZ, Big Daddy Kane, Big L, Blaq Poet, Bun B, Canibus, Christina Aguilera, Common, D'Angelo, Dilated Peoples, D.I.T.C., Dr. Dre, Fat Joe, The Game, Ill Bill, Janet Jackson, Jay-Z, Joey Bada$$, Kanye West, KRS-One, The Lady of Rage, Limp Bizkit, Lord Finesse, The LOX, Ludacris, Mac Miller, Mobb Deep, M.O.P., Mos Def, Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., O.C., Papoose, Rakim, Royce da 5'9", Snoop Dogg, Xzibit and more. [1]

Premier collaborated with MC Jeru the Damaja on the album The Sun Rises in the East , released in 1994, as well as the 1996 follow-up, Wrath of the Math . Premier produced and supervised Livin' Proof by Group Home, also from the Gang Starr Foundation; although overlooked at the time of its 1995 release, the album eventually received acclaim. [1]

In 2006, pop/R&B singer Christina Aguilera recruited Premier to produce her album Back to Basics . [4] Premier explained the reservations he heard from people regarding the collaboration: [5]

When Christina [Aguilera] had me work with her, people were like, "Oh no. Please don’t." Then when they heard "Ain’t No Other Man," "Back In The Day," and all the other records were still constructed like Premier tracks they were like, "Yo, I really love this album. I was really impressed. I was worried, but you totally sound like what we love about you." Until you hear it, don’t say a word. I never want to be just attached to hip hop. I want to be attached to music—country, rap, soul, jazz, blues, it doesn’t matter, gospel music—I come from all of that.

In 2008, Premier appeared in Grand Theft Auto IV as himself - the host for radio station The Classics 104.1.

Premier produced the majority of Blaq Poet's Tha Blaqprint , which was released in mid-2009. [3] Premier contributed a song on Game's 2011 album, The R.E.D. Album . [6] Also in 2011, Premier appeared on the song "Gangster", on Bushido's album Jenseits von Gut und Böse . [7]

Performing in Germany, 2001 Dj premier-04.jpg
Performing in Germany, 2001

Premier was one of the artists followed in the 2012 documentary, Re:GENERATION. The film followed his production of the song "Regeneration," for which he used a live performance of his work by the Berklee Symphony Orchestra. [8]

In September 2012, Immortal Technique said that a song called "Born in the Trap," on his upcoming album, titled The Middle Passage, would feature production by Premier. [9]

In early 2014, Premier revealed that he is working with Aguilera again in an interview with New Zealand's Rip It Up magazine. [10] Premier produced Y'all Ready Know by Slaughterhouse, from the Shady Records album, Shady XV , and the music video was published in November 2014. [11]

In mid-2014, Premier collaborated with Korean hip-hop group Dynamic Duo on two singles "AEAO" and "Animal", which were both warmly received. [12]

A mid-January 2015 announcement from Premier stated that the producer's studio, D&D, also known as "The HeadQcouterz," will cease to be operational. As part of the announcement, Premier confirmed that he is working on the album, Last Session @320, after he relocates to a recording space in Astoria, New York City, U.S. [13]

DJ Premier hosts a weekly two-hour show, Live From HeadQCourterz, on Sirius Satellite Radio's Hip-Hop Nation.

DJ Premier served as one of the three curators for the soundtrack to the video game NBA 2K16 , alongside DJ Khaled and DJ Mustard. [14]


The early line-up of the Gang Starr Foundation in the mid-1990s included Jeru the Damaja, Group Home, Big Shug, and Gang Starr. Premier was fully responsible for the production of Jeru the Damaja's first two albums, The Sun Rises in the East and Wrath of the Math. Jeru released three subsequent albums that did not include Premier's involvement. [1] In terms of his Group Home collaboration, Premier commented in a 2003 interview: "They [Group Home] don't respect what fed them." He further explained that he only agreed to produce the track "The Legacy" because of Guru's involvement. [15]

Other artists closely tied to the Gang Starr Foundation who Premier collaborated with include: Afu Ra, Bahamadia, [16] Krumbsnatcha, [17] Big Shug, [18] Smiley the Ghetto Child, [19] and NYGz. [20]

Afu Ra explained Premier's influence in a September 2014 interview with the "Lyrically Fit" website: [21]

Premier definitely coached me when I was in the booth. "harder..stronger..more this..more that"—I was an untamed artist and rapping next to recording your vocals are different. He gave me this knowledge through the work we did.

Besides the Gang Starr Foundation, Premier is closely affiliated with M.O.P., which he names as one of his all-time favorite groups. The relationship started with the remix of “Rugged, Neva Smoove” in 1994, a single from the group's first album, which also included the exclusive B-side “Downtown Swinga.” From then, Premier produced about one-third of the songs on each subsequent album and overseeing and mixing the projects. On M.O.P.'s 2009 Foundation album, Premier provided only one track, which was called "What I Wanna B."

On May 16, 2019, DJ Premier released a collaboration with Buffalo (New York) rappers Conway The Machine, Westside Gunn, and Benny the Butcher, called "Headlines."

In June 2020, DJ Premier produced a track for Public Enemy called "State of the Union (STFU)". [22]

Style and influences

DJ Premier in 2019 DJ Preemo - Gods of Rap Tour 2019 - Berlin (5 von 6).jpg
DJ Premier in 2019

DJ Premier's style of production epitomizes the New York sound of his earlier peers. He is known for sampling jazz, funk, and soul artists, as well as sampling an artist's past work when creating a new track for that same artist. For example, on Jay-Z's "So Ghetto", from the 1999 album Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter , Premier samples an older Jay-Z song, 1997's "Who You Wit II". [23] In addition, his encyclopedic memory of hip-hop lyrics allows him to distinctively speak with his hands by scratching in lyrics from several different songs to construct new phrases. [24] Premier's beats are known for his oft-imitated combinations of short vocal samples, often from multiple artists, to create a chorus. Premier has also experimented with atonal samples that are not confined to soul, jazz, and funk. For example, he sampled and chopped up seminal electro-acoustic music from the 1960s on the track “Physical Stamina” by Jeru the Damaja.

In an interview with XXL Magazine , DJ Premier was asked how his sound evolved, to which he replied, "Marley Marl is my number-one inspiration. Jam Master Jay, Mix Master Ice, and UTFO. Grandmaster D, and Whodini. DJ Cheese, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa. Jazzy Jay—even Cut Creator. Seeing them do what they do. It’s black music, it’s black culture, it comes from the ghetto. How can you not relate to ghetto people when that’s the rawest form of blackness? Even though it’s not a good place in regards to the economy and how bad people have it in the neighborhood, the realism’s there, and that’s what we were born out of. So I very much pay respect by doing the same type of music in return." [25] DJ Premier attended Prairie View A&M University and may have been influenced by the musical atmosphere at the university while serving as the campus DJ and occasional performer with the world-famous Marching Storm band. [3]

Business career

DJ Premier's studio at D&D in 2000 D+d-01.jpg
DJ Premier's studio at D&D in 2000

As a businessman, DJ Premier has his own record company named Year Round Records. Among its artists are New York group NYGz, New Jersey rapper Nick Javas, and Houston rapper Khaleel. Tha Blaqprint by Blaq Poet, which features 13 Premier productions, was released by Year Round Records through Fat Beats Records in June 2009. [3]


For its 20th-anniversary issue in 2008, The Source selected DJ Premier for its list of the 20 greatest producers in the magazine's history. [26] He also made the finals in Vibe magazine's 2010 search for the greatest hip hop producer of all time—he finished second after Dr. Dre received 62 percent of the votes. [27]


Related Research Articles

<i>Life After Death</i> 1997 studio album by The Notorious B.I.G.

Life After Death is the second and final studio album by American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., released on March 25, 1997, on Bad Boy Records and Arista Records. A double album, it was released sixteen days after his death. It features collaborations with guest artists such as 112, Jay-Z, Lil' Kim, Mase, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Too $hort, Angela Winbush, D.M.C. of Run-D.M.C., R. Kelly, The Lox, and Puff Daddy. Life After Death exhibits The Notorious B.I.G. further delving into the mafioso rap subgenre. The album is a sequel to his first album, Ready to Die, and picks up where the last song, "Suicidal Thoughts", ends.

Gang Starr American East Coast hip hop duo

Gang Starr was an American hip hop group, consisting of DJ/producer DJ Premier and MC Guru, who died in 2010. Some of their top hits include "Mass Appeal", "Take It Personal", "Moment of Truth" and "Above The Clouds". Gang Starr was at its height from 1989 to 2003, and are considered one of the best MC-and-producer duos in hip hop history. They are also recognized for being one of the pioneers of jazz rap.

<i>Daily Operation</i> 1992 studio album by Gang Starr

Daily Operation is the third studio album by American hip hop duo Gang Starr. It was released by Chrysalis Records on May 5, 1992. It peaked at number 65 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Royce da 59" American rapper and songwriter from Michigan

Ryan Daniel Montgomery, known professionally as Royce da 5'9", is an American rapper and songwriter. He is best known for his longtime association with Eminem as well as his solo career, recording primarily with producers Carlos "6 July" Broady and DJ Premier, as well as ghostwriting for the likes of Diddy and Dr. Dre. Royce is currently one half of the rap duo Bad Meets Evil with Eminem and one half of the hip hop duo PRhyme with DJ Premier. He was also one quarter of the hip hop group Slaughterhouse with Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Kxng Crooked. The editors of ranked him No. 31 on their list of the "Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007)".

Jeru the Damaja American hip hop artist

Kendrick Jeru Davis, known as Jeru the Damaja, is an American rapper and record producer best known for his 1994 debut album, The Sun Rises in the East, ranked as one of the 100 greatest hip-hop albums of all time by the editors of He has worked extensively with Guru and DJ Premier of Gang Starr, whom he has known since he was in high school.

<i>The Sun Rises in the East</i> 1994 studio album by Jeru the Damaja

The Sun Rises in the East is the debut album by American hip hop rapper Jeru the Damaja, released May 24, 1994 on Payday Records. Production on the album was handled by DJ Premier. The album features fellow Gang Starr Foundation member Afu-Ra. The album cover depicts the World Trade Center on fire only one year after the 1993 bombing of the North Tower.

D&D Studios

D&D Studios was a recording studio located in New York City on the west side of 37th street. Artists that recorded there include Jay-Z, Foxy Brown, The Notorious B.I.G., Jaz-O, Nas, Gang Starr, Jeru the Damaja, KRS-One, Violadores del Verso, Big L and Black Moon, among others.

<i>Wrath of the Math</i> 1996 studio album by Jeru the Damaja

Wrath of the Math is the second album by the hip hop artist Jeru the Damaja.

The following list contains songs produced, co-produced or remixed by hip-hop producer DJ Premier.

<i>Hip Hop Connection</i>

Hip Hop Connection (HHC) was the longest running monthly periodical devoted entirely to hip hop culture. It was described by rapper Chuck D as "the best magazine in the world".

<i>Hard to Earn</i> 1994 studio album by Gang Starr

Hard to Earn is the fourth studio album by American hip hop duo Gang Starr. It was released on March 8, 1994, by Chrysalis and EMI Records in North America. The album featured the singles "Mass Appeal",, "DWYCK", and "Code of the Streets". Guest appearances on the album include Group Home, Jeru the Damaja, and Big Shug. At the time, all were part of the Gang Starr Foundation, which made the album a stepping-stone for future DJ Premier-helmed projects by Group Home and Jeru. Hard to Earn received acclaim and commercial success upon release.


Aaron Phillip, better known by his stage name Afu-Ra, is an American underground rapper. Afu-Ra is a member of the Gang Starr Foundation, and has worked closely with its members, Gang Starr, Jeru the Damaja, Big Shug, Group Home, and others.

Gang Starr Foundation is a collective of east coast rappers led by the hip hop group Gang Starr. It was co-founded by Boston legend Big Shug. It was established in 1993.

<i>Heroz4Hire</i> 1999 studio album by Jeru the Damaja

Heroz4Hire is the third studio album by hip hop artist Jeru the Damaja. It is entirely produced by Jeru the Damaja himself unlike his first two albums which were produced by DJ Premier.

Big Shug is a hip hop artist and actor from Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of the Gang Starr Foundation collective.

<i>PRhyme</i> (album) 2014 studio album by PRhyme

PRhyme is the debut studio album by American hip hop duo PRhyme, consisting of Royce da 5'9" and DJ Premier. The album was released on December 9, 2014, through their own record label PRhyme Records. The album features guest appearances from rappers Killer Mike, Jay Electronica, Common, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Slaughterhouse, Mac Miller and soul singer Dwele. PRhyme features production by DJ Premier, as well as samples from psychedelic soul composer and producer Adrian Younge. The album was supported by the single "Courtesy". A sequel, PRhyme 2, was released on March 16, 2018.

D. Original

"D. Original" is a song co-written and performed by American hip hop musician Jeru the Damaja, issued as the second single from his debut studio album The Sun Rises in the East. In 1994, the song peaked at #22 on the Billboard rap chart but it fared better on the dance chart, where it peaked at #6.

Payday Records

Payday Records is a New York-based hiphop label that was launched in 1992 by Patrick Moxey. The label began in association with FFRR/London Records, and released in the UK and Europe via London/Polygram Records. Artists launched via Payday Records include Jeru the Damaja, Jay Z, Mos Def, Showbiz & A.G., WC and the Madd Circle. Other associated productions include the works of DJ Premier and Guru of Gang Starr.

PRhyme is an American hip hop duo composed of Detroit-based rapper Royce da 5'9" and New York-based record producer DJ Premier. They created their own record label PRhyme Records and released their first album, PRhyme, on December 9, 2014, and its follow-up, PRhyme 2, on March 16, 2018. The production of each album is based on sampling a single artist's compositions: Adrian Younge for PRhyme and AntMan Wonder for PRhyme 2. When the concept was originally pitched to Premier, he viewed it as a challenge since he recognized that he was previously known for his beats from obscure samples from many different sources, and this project forced him to find what he needed from a single catalogue of work. For PRhyme 2, Royce described the process of receiving compositions to work off of directly from AntMan Wonder as being "like sampling from Mozart but Mozart is actually giving you the music". The duo also appeared on the Southpaw soundtrack.

<i>PRhyme 2</i> 2018 studio album by PRhyme

PRhyme 2 is the second studio album by American hip hop duo PRhyme, consisting of Royce da 5'9" and DJ Premier. Produced entirely by DJ Premier, the album features samples composed by producer AntMan Wonder. It was released on March 16, 2018 via their own record label PRhyme Records and INgrooves Music Group, and is a sequel to the eponymous album PRhyme. The album features guest appearances from rappers 2 Chainz, Big K.R.I.T., Dave East, Rapsody, Roc Marciano, Yelawolf, Chavis Chandler, bassist Brady Watt and singers Novel, CeeLo Green and Denaun Porter.


  1. 1 2 3 4 John Bush. "DJ Premier Biography". Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  2. "DJ Premier". Red Bull Music Academy Daily. Retrieved 2016-08-12.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Ambrose, Patrick (September 2009). "DJ Premier: Hope to the Underground". The Morning News. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  4. "DJ Premier Reuniting With Christina Aguilera On Her New Album". The Urban Daily. Interactive One. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  5. Gabrielle Nicole Pharms (12 May 2014). "DJ Premier Talks Legacy, Production, and Nas Collabo Album". Life + Times. Life + Times. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  6. "Game* – The R.E.D. Album". Game on Discogs. Discogs. 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  7. "Bushido (2) – Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse". Bushido (2) on Discogs. Discogs. 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  8. Hunter Daniels (2011). "DJ Premier Talks RE:GENERATION MUSIC PROJECT". Collider. Complex Media. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  9. "Immortal Technique Gives Middle Passage Update — Paid Dues 2013" (Video upload). Fuse on YouTube. Google Inc. 2 April 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  10. gimantalon (8 May 2014). "DJ PREMIER WORKING WITH CHRISTINA AGUILERA AGAIN". DJ Premier Blog. DJ Premier Blog. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  11. "Slaughterhouse — Y'all Ready Know" (Video upload). slaughterhouseVEVO on YouTube. Google Inc. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  12. Oak, Jessica. "Dynamic Duo Team With DJ Premier for 'A Giant Step' Album, Korean Showcase". Billboard.
  13. Patrick Lyons (13 January 2015). "DJ Premier Shutters Studio, Announces New Album "Last Session @320"". Hot New Hip Hop. Hot New Hip Hop. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  14. Makuch, Eddie (July 9, 2015). "NBA 2K16 Has 50+ Song Soundtrack Curated By DJ Khaled, DJ Premier, DJ Mustard". GameSpot . Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  15. (posted by organik) (6 April 2003). "DJ Premier Interview" (Message board). Tribe. Tribe Communications, Inc. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  16. Steven J. Horowitz (2 June 2011). "Bahamadia Announces Fourth Album "HERE," Features Foreign Exchange". Hip Hop DX. Cheri Media Group. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  17. "Hip-Hop, Rap Interviews : Krumbsnatcha". Riotsound. 2002–2009. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  18. Slava Kuperstein (26 April 2010). "DJ Premier, Big Shug Speak On Guru". Hip Hop DX. Cheri Media Group. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  19. Justin Ivey (24 February 2010). "Smiley The Ghetto Child: I'm Legend [prod by DJ Premier]". Kevin Nottingham. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  20. "Hip-Hop, Rap Interviews : NYG'z". Riotsound. 2002–2009. Archived from the original on 26 May 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  21. Dread Solo (29 September 2014). "Afu-Ra Recalls Early Days w/ Dj Premier, Martial Arts & His Classic 'Body of The Life Force' Album". Lyrically Fit. Lyrically Fit. Archived from the original on 14 October 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  23. Jay Z's So Ghetto sample of Jay-Z's Who You Wit II
  24. Exclaim! Canada's Music Authority Archived 2006-05-13 at the Wayback Machine
  25. "FEATURES. DJ Premier: Remedy". XXL. 21 November 2006.
  26. JLBarrow (19 August 2008). "Source Mag Picks Twenty Greatest Producers". Archived from the original on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  27. "Dr. Dre Is VIBE's Greatest Producer Of All Time, Speaks On Win". Vibe. 1 June 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2014.