DJ Premier Details Why He Chose J. Cole For Gang Starr’s New Song (Audio)
On Friday (September 20), Gang Starr released its first single in more than 16 years. “Family And Loyalty” features two verses from Guru (who passed away in 2010), a DJ Premier-produced track, and a guest appearance from J. Cole.
Calling into Sway In The Morning, Premier explained some background on the “Family And Loyalty,” including the choice of guest for such a historic moment. “I was like, ‘Who do we get that’s from that generation of spitters, that age-range, that also has the younger fans? It’s either Drake, Kendrick, or Cole.” After discussing matters with his manager, Ian Schwartzman, Preemo decided to contact J. Cole, whose song he remixed in 2018. Premier says the conversation with management highlighted Cole’s “stance as a Black man in this day and age, with these youngsters.” That aspect of identity was paramount to Gang Starr’s music between the 1980s and today. “I texted [the song to J. Cole], and just said, ‘Hey man, I just wanted to see what you think about hoppin’ on this, on the second verse; Guru did the first and third verse.’ I swear to you, it wasn’t even five minutes. He hit me back and said, ‘Bro, I’m shivering right now.’ I saved the text, and sometimes show people. He said, ‘This is so emotional. Guru sounds like he just wrote this.'”
According to DJ Premier, J. Cole penned his verse while on vacation. Notably, the MC/producer asked if it was okay if his rap was longer than the traditional 16 bars. With his words, he acknowledges Guru and his passing, which happened during the same time that Cole’s career was breaking into the mainstream.
This a honor to be on this song. NEW Gang Starr 🤯🤯🤯🤯 💎💎💎💎
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) September 20, 2019
Shortly after the release of the song, J. Cole revealed it would be his final guest verse. The Dreamville founder has avoided using guests on his own album. However, he’s provided incredible guest work in recent years for many artists, including two Preemo collaborators: Royce 5’9 and Rapsody.
While speaking with Sway In The Morning, Preemo opened up about making the song. “It was very emotional for several reasons. For one, I know our formula when [Guru and I] record, from the seven albums that we did do, physically, together. For this one, I was just coming off of my Badder Band Tour. His family gave me some of his ashes brought to the show in L.A, and said, ‘Hey, here’s a portion of his ashes for you.’ That’s what sparked me.”
The Grammy Award-winner describes reacting to the reunion with his late partner, roommate, and dear friend. Guru died in 2010 from complications related to cancer. After some time apart, the pair reunited in the hospital at Guru’s bedside. In making the song, the legendary producer says, “I cried. I just stared at the ashes. I took ’em out the pack, just to see what the ashes looked like, from the funeral home, [in a box]. The next thing you know I was like, I have a spare vocal that I can work with. I said, ‘Let me see if I can it work.’ So I carried the ashes to the [Headqcourterz] studio, and sat [the box] down. I found a rare picture that no one’s really seen, and I put it in a frame, and then I prayed over it with some sage and incense since that wards off evil. So I did that. Then I just started constructing [the song]. I had tears in my eyes every day ’cause it was so emotional to do it.” Preemo adds that the Gospel artist he sampled, cleared it for $1,000 because they liked the track and respected its significance.
Of Gang Starr in 2019, Preemo says, “I think [Guru is] guiding his part from up above and making sure everything’s going good. Down here, I’ve always been a front-lines person, and I remain that. And I know that together, we got it going again.”
As Sway asks Premier if more music or an album is on the way, the caller says, “Just a single,” with a laugh. Last week, a cryptic video clip featuring Nas’ voice posted to Premier and Gang Starr’s social accounts hinted at a possible full-length. Premier did confirm that Fab 5 Freddy is directing an upcoming music video to “Family And Royalty.” “It’s an ill concept, it’s very heavy what we did with this video,” he says.