DJ Premier Explains Why He Broke Two Of His Cardinal Rules To Work With Drake
A standout song on Drake’s just-released Scorpion album is “Sandra’s Rose.” The Disc 1 entry, partially a dedication to Drake’s mother, Sandi Graham, only came together because its co-producer, DJ Premier, was willing to break two of his rules. Well, “rules” might be too strong a word but Preemo does not reach out to artists to produce for their albums; they come to him. Secondly, being a living legend (voted the Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All Time by Ambrosia For Heads readers last year), he is not the one to ask to flip your sample. As he states in a recent interview with Complex‘s Shawn Setaro: “From JAY-Z to Nas to Kanye [West] to whoever, I’m just not the type to say, ‘Hey, let me get on your album.’ If they want me, they’re going to reach out and say, ‘I need a joint from you.’ So I told my manager [Ian Schwartzman] I don’t do that. He knows I don’t do that. But I said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna catch [Drake’s producer and right-hand man Noah “40” Shebib] and just let him know if there’s a slot, I’m here.’ So I did it.”
Preemo then speaks on the second sacrifice he made to be on Scorpion: “Maybe a week or two passed, and 40 hit me up and said, ‘Drake wants you to flip this sample from one of my guys. His name is Maneesh.’ He’s signed to 40 as a writer and a producer. 40 said, ‘I know you dig and do your own samples and your own programming. You’re a beast. But Drake really thinks you could flip this one.’ I’m like, ‘Alright, send it to me.’” Preemo worked on the resulting track while mourning his father. Last month, Premier postponed the PRhyme 2 Tour to be with his father ahead of his passing. Back in his home state of Texas, the producer brought some equipment to keep his heavy heart and mind occupied, according to a conversation with Pitchfork‘s Marc Hogan.
The song is currently on AFH‘s official playlist:
It turns out that the Gang Starr member also produced another cut titled “Sail” for Scorpion that featured a Rick Ross verse. However, as Preemo puts it, “‘Sail’ never got finished. [Drake] never cut the vocal.” There is also apparently a second version of “Sandra’s Rose” with Premier’s trademark scratches in the verse gaps that the DJ/producer hopes will be serviced to mix show DJs next week.
To Pitchfork, Preemo explained the history of his relationship with Drake. “I had heard of his music a long time ago because I have a lot of friends in Canada; one of the first Drake demos I heard, he was rhyming to a Run-D.M.C. ‘Sucker MC’s’-style beat. And we would see each other [at] various times. About six years ago, I remember Guru’s son, who was probably 12 at the time, asked if he could meet Drake when he was on tour. They were like, ‘Absolutely, Guru’s son can come hang with us.’ Even then, we’d always say the same thing: ‘We gotta do something one day.'” In 2018, that has happened.
Now, considering how well “Sandra’s Rose” turned out and the fact that Scorpion obliterated single-day streaming records, it seems like Preem made the right choice in bending his rules. The album was streamed 132 million times on Spotify, and 170 million times on Apple Music. The latter figure smashes the previous Apple Music record of 89.9 million streams in a single-day, which is held by none other than, Drake’s 2017 effort, More Life.
#BonusBeat: In March, DJ Premier spoke at length to Ambrosia For Heads in his studio about the 20th anniversary of Gang Starr’s Moment Of Truth: