Two of the Most Important Beatmaking Pioneers Trade Stories About Some of their Most Acclaimed Production
|By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)|
In this gem of an interview (1-hr long), Pete Rock and DJ Premier drop a number of jewels. Using a format whereby each pioneer is handed a physical copy of a single or album that they produced and/or worked on, the interview (reportedly taped in Japan), makes for a very open, impromptu-like conversation, in which little-known and unknown details inevitably spill out from both beat icons.
For instance, Premier discusses the last minute magic that resulted in Biggie’s “Unbelievable,” revealing a small detail about is beatmaking process. He also stresses how limited sampling time forces the mind to be more creative. A point which I strongly agree. Having used the E-Mu SP 1200 and the Akai S950 (still a major piece in my current setup), I can attest that limited sampling time does indeed compel you to think more about the different ways in which you can rework a sample as well as how to sketch out unique drum patterns.
Of course, Pete Rock also chimes in with a number of great stories and details of his own. He's especially animated when discussing his days as a beatmaker in his parents' basement, offering a window into how he managed his production output. Along with Premier, PR makes a strong plea for Nas to do a an Illmatic sequel. He even goes so far as to warn Nas to “do it before it’s too late.” A warning I agree with.
Finally, both Premier and Pete Rock indirectly raise up a very important factor that's often overlooked these days: the proximity connection (chemistry). As both share stories of rappers routinely coming over to their homes in the prime of their careers, it becomes clear that the proximity connection—the chemistry that can only develop when beatmakers and rappers are in the same studio environment together—was a major contributing factor to their success.
Although some beatmakers still maintain that “come-over-to-the-crib/studio” tradition today (here, Marco Polo and Statik Selektah immediately come to mind), for the most part, that in-studio, proximity connection created chemistry is mostly gone. Considering this fact, one would have to say that the resulting disconnection caused by a decline of beatmakers and rappers working more closely together has, at least in some ways, contributed to a "different"—not entirely lower—grade of hip hop/rap music. Still, I see a revival of this factor. And hopefully, this Premier and Pete Rock sitdown will go a long way in helping to speed up this revival.
The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Sitdown With DJ Premier & Pete Rock