Christopher E. Martin (born March 21, 1966), better known as DJ Premier (and Premo or Primo as his fans, fellow musicians and critics call him sometimes), is a prominent American hip hop producer and DJ, and the instrumental half of the duo Gang Starr, together with MC Guru on the lyrical side.
DJ Premier has been a driving force in hiphop since his arrival. He is a creator, an innovator, a musician, and a technical genious, and that goes without question. His spot on the producing hall of fame is already etched in at the plateau of that list, if not at the pinacle of that plateau. He has also received the title of Greatest DJ of All Time from Source Magazine.
DJ Premier is honored within the industry as one of the greatest producers and respected by both artists, fans, as well as fellow producers. Many M.C.'s, including Biggie Smalls, Nas, Jeru, and Jay Z, have all worked with Premier during the formative stages of there career and have benefited from his production skills greatly.
Contrary to popular belief, DJ Premier is not a founding member of Gang Starr. Following an invitation by Guru, he joined the 1987 founded group in 1989. He was introduced to DJ-ing while attending school at Prairie View A&M in Prairie View, Texas. DJ Premier's original stage name was Waxmaster C, the "C" taken from his first name, Chris, although he had already changed it to DJ Premier at the time he joined Gang Starr.
Considered by many fans to be one of the greatest hip hop producers, DJ Premier has produced countless tracks, for many groups and solo artists since the early 1990s. These include notable tracks for artists such as Jay-Z ("D'Evils", "So Ghetto"), Common ("6th Sense"), Big L ("The Enemy"), The Notorious B.I.G. ("Unbelievable", "Kick In The Door", "Ten Crack Commandments"), Nas ("N.Y. State of Mind", "Nas Is Like"), Pitch Black ("It's All Real"), M.O.P. ("Downtown Swinga"), Jeru the Damaja ("Come Clean", "My Mind Spray"), KRS-One ("MC's Act Like They Don't Know"), Mos Def ("Mathematics"), Non Phixion ("Rockstars") and Royce da 5'9" ("Boom", "Hip-Hop").
Some of Premier's most lauded work is his collaborations with Jeru the Damaja and Group Home. With the former, Premier crafted one of the East Coast's landmark albums in the form of The Sun Rises in the East, released in 1994. Their follow up to this, 1996's Wrath of the Math, was regarded as a solid effort but not on par with its predecessor, although it did contain Jeru's biggest hit to date, "Ya Playin' Yaself". Group Home's Livin' Proof (1995), although greatly overlooked at the time of its release, has eventually come to be critically acclaimed.
In 1994, DJ Premier collaborated extensively with jazz musician Branford Marsalis's experimental group, Buckshot Lefonque, for their debut album.
DJ Premier's style of production epitomises the New York sound from his earlier peers. He is known for sampling jazz, funk, and soul artists, as well as sampling an artist's past work, when he is creating a new track for that same artist. In addition, his encyclopedic memory of rap lyrics allows him to distinctively "speak with his hands" by scratching in lyrics from several different songs to construct new phrases . Premier's non-Gang Starr collaborations are well-known for his often-imitated signature of combining short vocal samples, often from multiple artists, to create a chorus.
Premier usually creates a two-bar melody that repeats itself throughout the song. The aim of this is to showcase the MC's skills by bringing focus away from the beat, while creating the song's usaully melancoly mood and a solid backdrop. Premier often changes speeds, filters and chops his breaks and adds scope to the melody with chimes and strings.
He has also shown innovation by playing rarely-used elements into a rap song (such as the xylophones on Notorious B.I.G.'s "Kick In The Door" or the ambient nature sounds on Nas' "Nas Is Like"), and his wide range of instruments (the piano loop on Jay-Z's "D'Evils" versus the strings on Rakim's "New York (Ya Out There?") and production techniques (he played the melody backwards during the second half of Jay-Z's "A Million And One Questions (Rhyme No More)"). When Primo sampled an obscure funk electronic song from the 80's to construct Gang Starr's 1991 hit "Just To Get A Rep" he became an object of fasatiation to many would be producers & DJs. The effect amounted to a water like, liquid feel to the track.
DJ Premier's drums have been known for complementing his melodies. For example, during Nas' "NY State of Mind", two bars have a simple round of kicks and snares; in the following two, a complementing second set of drums plays out. This is repeated throughout.