DJ Premier: Where Rap Went Wrong and How to Fix It

The Villiage Voice recently did a Q&A session with DJ Premier where he gives his views on the current state of the rap game compared to where it was when he first hit the scene. Primo happens to be my favorite producer of all time. He has a giant body of work with the recently deceased Guru in the legendary duo GangStarr. He worked with New York’s elite artists like Jay-Z, NaS and Biggie in their primes on some of their best projects. And he was able to counter his work with established artists with some very impressive underground work as well. The guy has been on the scene for so long and has made so many of the classics I put on to bring me back to a better time in hip hop, so I take notice when he has something to say. In this article Primo adds to the anti label sentiment that a lot of industry insiders are feeling in the aftermath of some questionable decisions by L.A. Reid at Def Jam and labels getting in the way of artists like NaS and Lupe Fiasco making the art that they want to make.

Primo: “I’m 44-years-old so I remember when the majors had passion and cared about music. That’s gone now, which is why they crumbled so tremendously. They want to blame the internet but that’s not the main culprit–it’s the lack of passion for what you’re signing.”

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Full Article on Villiage Voice

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Key Takeaways:

A few years back Papoose and Saigon were tipped as future superstars capable of re-asserting New York’s rap credentials, but their careers quickly faded. Why do you think that was?

Papoose had a million dollar deal at Jive but I knew Jive wasn’t going to let him drop all the street shit he was doing. You can’t all of a sudden convert him into a commercial artist. They’re going to force him to make those commercial songs and when they don’t work they’re gonna drop him.

And Saigon?

Same thing — they’re not going to let the grimey, ‘hood, chase-you-with-a-knife music out. They’re not releasing that shit. Sai has more of a commercial appeal, but a street artist has to be broken in the streets first and then developed in the mainstream.The street is where you want to get broken at first if you want to be a hip-hop or rap artist.

Do you think that’s something the major labels will ever understand?

They did in the beginning, just cause they were allowing people to take chances. Then when it came down to the money piling in, and it was so cheap to make, the love and passion went away. Then they see the slips in the sales and they panic, like, “Don’t do that street shit, we need more commercial stuff!” No, you don’t.

So is there a healthy underground New York rap scene at the moment?

It’s so much stuff that just doesn’t get regular radio play. Thank god you have me and DJ Eclipse, who does a similar show to me on Sundays. We don’t have a playlist — we make our own choices. If everyone was like that, hip-hop would still be a billion dollar business. Now, it’s just a million dollar business.

What has changed most about the record industry since you first came out?

I’m 44-years-old so I remember when the majors had passion and cared about music. That’s gone now, which is why they crumbled so tremendously. They want to blame the internet but that’s not the main culprit–it’s the lack of passion for what you’re signing. And there’s things like putting an age limit on rappers, like you can’t be 44-years-old and sign to a major label. Come on! When you’ve got an upcoming 18-year-old, the difference is they haven’t experienced the lifestyle of hip-hop when it was fresh and new. The kids today that are born into hip-hop don’t appreciate the history: “Those artists are old so I don’t listen to them!” But if you’re not gonna care about the history of something that’s a culture, then you’re gonna lose down the line. I see that every day. I see when they’ve gotta tour just to pay bills–I’ve been through it. I’ve had money and lost money. My experience is 23 years in the business and there’s nothing I can really be schooled on unless it’s something higher than I’ve experienced.

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