Friday, October 23, 2009

Beware when I be makin' hits with Premier

94. Nas - "Nas is Like" (Columbia, 1999)
95. Gang Starr - "Suckas Need Bodyguards" (Chrysalis, 1994)
96. Gang Starr - "Ex Girl to Next Girl" (Chrysalis, 1992)
97. Jeru the Damaja - "Ya Playin' Yaself" (Payday/ffrf, 1996)

He might not have had the impact on global pop of Timbaland or be a pop-cult figure like the RZA, but I'd say DJ Premier is easily one of the top 10, if not top 5, musicians from the 90s. His inimitable (many sad producers have tried/still are trying) boom bap has powered so many of my favorite rap tracks that I'm kind of shocked only one of his masterpiece beats has made the countdown so far.

While the legend that Guru couldn't rap is an odd and false one, it's hard to argue that Gang Starr would've been anywhere near as classic with anyone else behind the boards and decks. The horn sample on "Ex Girl to Next Girl" is so indelible that I often forget it doesn't run throughout the whole song and that's 0% an indictment of the rest of the beat or Guru's rhymes and 100% praise. "Suckas Need Bodyguards" is a much harder track the cherry on top of which is Primo making the "I'm not a sucka so I don't need a bodyguard" line from hip house masterpiece "It Takes Two" and actually making a Rob Base line sound threatening.

Jeru the Damaja was, at the age of 11 or so, my first real favorite rapper, and I would imagine the non-stop kung-fu imagery in the "Ya Playin' Yaself" had a lot to do with that. The non-stop self righteousness seems a little less attractive in retrospect, but I think I actively liked that about Jeru back then, though I'm not sure why I ever thought dude telling girls how to wear their jeans was dope. Anyways, a lot of Primo's best beats are found on Jeru's first two albums, and this one indulges the Damaja by making the beat sound like he actually might be kicking someone in the chest.

Finally, "Nas Is Like," easily Nasir's dopest song not found on Illmatic (maybe even including Illmatic. Actually, let's say the dopest beat he ever rapped on period). I don't know how a CD that has both something as untouchable as this and something as shit as "Hate Me Now" on it doesn't implode or something. Primo does chorus scratches as well as anyone, as far as making them as hooky as anything that could've been in their place as an actual chorus. And the beat brings out the best in Nas, as incredible beats tend to do in once great rappers.

Here come a bunch of videos at your face:

1 comment:

Certified Matt said...

Agreed, but ahem...

This shit is like arguing over your favorite ice cream flavor. Everybody wins!