Chemistry is a word that gets thrown about loosely. Musically for instance, if a pairing comes with a couple of hit singles, then the word gets pulled out as the reason for the success. In theory it sounds good, but it may not necessarily be the case.
For a long while, especially in Black music, chemistry has been confused with formula. Flavor of the month producer plus every label’s priority artist equals hit record. A time or two a producer has managed to bond with an artist where appetites are whet to hear future collaborations. Rarer is when a producer has been able to make that connection with multiple artists.
Anyone familiar with hip-hop for the past 20-some-odd years will agree that DJ Premier is in that bracket, to the point that a Premier-produced track was looked upon as a certification that your album was authentic hip-hop.
Introduced to the world as half of the group Gangstarr, in which he served as the DJ and producer, alongside the late, great emcee Guru, Premier produce seven classic LPs. Each album established just how unique both artists were in the grand scheme music.
Guru produced the legendary “Jazzmatazz” series, and Premier embarked on a career that inspired such prestigious publications as Rolling Stone, The Source and Vibe to hail him as one of the best to ever do it. Check the resume for proof: AZ, Bahamadia, Big L, Big Daddy Kane, Bun B, Canibus, Common, D’Angelo, D.I.T.C., Fat Joe, Game, Jay-Z, Jeru the Damaja, Kanye West, KRS-One, Lord Finesse, Ludacris, M.O.P., Mos Def, Nas, Papoose, Rakim, Snoop Dogg, the LOX, the Notorious B.I.G., Sean Price, Xzibit, nu metal band Limp Bizkit, Busta Rhymes and even Christina Aguilera all have been laced with that hardcore flavor.
With that resume, fans have longed to hear Premiere team with an elite emcee for a full project. In 2012 came The Kolexxxion, for which he teamed with Bumpy Knuckles. Dope piece, but fans wanted more. Rumors of a project with Nas ran rampant, and in 2015 that may come to fruition.
The one project that fans have called for the loudest, though, was with the extremely talented and unheralded emcee, Royce Da 5’9. Although Royce didn’t boast a slew of chart/radio hits under his belt, he established himself as a staple in the hip-hop industry, having written for the likes of Diddy and Dr Dre. What he did have was that word we used in the beginning, chemistry. He and Premiere had done some amazing pieces together. But everyone asked, “When is it coming?” The answer was revealed in September, 2014, when they announced it. “I want people to appreciate the fact that we didn’t compromise in lieu of the environment,” said Royce. “In order to try to change the way that people digest music, we had to take a leap of faith.”
DJ Premier added, “The bar has to be high for this album to be another body of work and another chapter for both of our lives.”
Dec. 9, 2014, the wait was over as the duo, under the name PRhyme, finally delivered the self- titled LP. Adding to the spice were appearances by Common, Jay Electronica, Ab-Soul, Mac Miller, Schoolboy Q and Killer Mike, but the real treat came from the addition of a third component. An upstart musician-producer, DJ Adrian Younge, added the key ingredient: FUNK.
Funk in musical terms is something that can’t be imitated with technology. It has to be done live. Live instrumentation served as a key inspiration.
“Hip-hop music is based on the break, and the break came from live instrumentation,” said Younge. “I choose to record live instrumentation as they did back then, not as a live musician would record right now. It’s actually through the eyes of hip-hop. Hip-hop introduced me to the source material, whether it be a slow song by the Delfonics or a fast, funky break by James Brown. It’s funny, because I always say to producers that it’s always really good to understand instrumentation, just to understand composition and see what you can do with making music.”
To feed the support the album has received, the group is hitting the road. NYC gets blessed Feb. 22 at the Highline Ballroom.
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the night life.