DJ Premier Credits Nas With Helping Choose 2 Very Illmatic Samples (Video)

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Production is more than just making beats and shopping them to artists. By 1994, DJ Premier had produced three Gang Starr albums, in addition to important records for KRS-One, Heavy D & The Boyz, and Lord Finesse. Nas and his team would seek out the Works Of Mart for three cuts on Illmatic. One of the album’s focal points is track 2, “N.Y. State Of Mind.”

Preemo tells Mass Appeal‘s “Off The Record” that when Nasty Nas hit D&D Studios in Midtown Manhattan, there was still work to be done to the beat. The two creatives sat in the wood-veneered walls of the ’80s recording studio (and emerging Hip-Hop enclave) to dig through Premier’s stash of wax. As Preem’ recalls, he and Nas together stumbled upon Joe Chambers’ 1977 “Mind Rain” cut.

“We started goin’ through stuff. The Joe Chambers record happened to be the next one to go through out of the stack. As soon as I heard the piano, he was like, ‘Yo! Can you hook that up?’ I’m like yeah, and took the parts I like, chopped it—and like Rakim said—I converted it to Hip-Hop form.” Whereas DJ Premier already had the percussion track, this moment allowed more melody in the song that captured the underbelly of a street existence in the five boroughs.

Preemo says Nas pointing out the cover of Ruben Wilson’s Set Us Free led to a “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In da Park)” sample choice, “We’re In Love.” As the producer was reluctant, Nas said the selection would play against the “hard, mean” stuff elsewhere on Illmatic. “He said, ‘this one sounds like you’re sitting in the park. Let’s call it [that].” Preemo heard the finished vocal and suggested “Memory Lane” as a title. Nas agreed, keeping both names.

Earlier this year, Premier released MC Eiht’s Which Way Iz West and Torii Wolf’s Flow Riot on his two labels, respectively.

#BonusBeat: This week’s LAST 7 looks at highlights from the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards cyphers, among other recent events in the culture. DJ Premier was behind the wheels, as he has been for years, as Mysonne, CyHi The Prynce, and Rapsody (among others) spit:

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