As DJ Premier battles it out with fellow larger-than-life rap icon Dr. Dre in VIBE’s Greatest Hip-Hop Producer Of All-Time, the majestic beat visionary behind Gang Starr details the making of the entire studio album catalogue by the landmark duo—prominently fronted by venerable late lyricist Guru. Through groundbreaking musical statements, fist-fights, break-ups and unlikely commercial triumphs, the legacy of Gang Starr lives on. This is hip hop history.—Keith Murphy
No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989)
What comes to mind during that time was my amateur production skills [laughs]. I didn’t fully produce this album. Three of the songs The 45 King produced before even I joined the group. Then the ones I did produce, [including the single “Manifest”], I didn’t really have an understanding of how to make a record. So Guru and Slomo Sonnenfeld, who was the engineer at Such-A-Sound studios in Brooklyn, would help me put the SP-12 together. Guru and I would hit some snare sounds and Slomo would say, “Put the high hats like this.” And then I would throw in something and make it turn a certain way. Like Guru used to say, that was our early regiment because I wasn’t fully aware of the recording and production process. But those were some great times. Guru and I would catch the bus to the studio together.
I remember the day I walked into the studio to cut the first record with Gang Starr I tried to fist fight the engineer. I flew from Dallas to New York with my turntable coffin and I’m like, “Yeah, so where can I set up?” And Slomo said, “Oh, you’re not setting that up today.” And I’m like, “Motherfucker, this is how I make my beats!” They had to chill me out like, “Yo, this is not how we make records. You can lay it down on tape.” To this day, I only do my scratches on the last day of recording.
Step In The Arena (1991)