Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'll Be Your Black Panther All In Your Dreams, or, Blogging About Premo While Drunk From The Night Before

Remember how good Famlay's 'Skrung Owt' was? Where is Fam-Lay now? I just thought of that as the phrase "come on, space cadet" drifted through my mind. He also had this one other really great song the beat of which Noz once likened to the sound of a shipyard. I wish I remember what that was called. There's this amazing write-up on The Smoking Section comparing a song by A-Rab to a song by Lil B, flawed only slightly by its authors' apparent view that Lil B is some kind of bad rapper, that you should really read. Perhaps it's because I'm drunk but I actually laughed out loud when I read that in the Arab song, Arab actually says "you hard nigga? Faggot on the low/my money, my time." If I were not white and not surrounded by little gay law students (literally, little gay law students) I would so go around just saying that to everyone. Constantly. It's like, what in the world was he thinking linking these two concepts together.

Anyway, I saw this Premo mix from Sach on Passion of the Weiss and the whole shit was post-98 Premo except for two songs. All stuff from the era when getting a beat from Premo was like the capstone of a rapper's career and he'd scratch the rapper saying something into a hook and the rapper would ruminate on his long and illustrious career. Sorry I repeated a word there. Like 'Invincible.' (Seriously, you have to love rappers and their outsized sense of importance and self-worth. I mean, the invincible untouchable CNN? They made one album.... it was good.... kind of sounded just like certain other albums made by way more talented artists that were much better... and then that was that. And then they come back and they're the invincible, untouchable CNN? That's why I love rap.) So over there I wrote, fairly coherently (it's weird, I get more drunk as the day progresses):

The symphonic, sheeny, ‘Nas Is Like,’ ‘Sixth Sense,’ Moment of Truth Premo to me is just an infinitely less interesting producer than the Premo who made ‘Who’s Gonna Take The Weight,’ ‘Rappaz R N Danja,’ ‘Brownsville,’ ‘Black Cowboys,’ ‘ALONGWAYTOGO,’ ‘Supa Star,’ etc. Somewhere between Hard To Earn and Moment of Truth, his beats get a lot more predictable and to me basically become the aural equivalent of really good comfort food. Whereas listening to Hard To Earn or Livin Proof is a pretty challenging experience.

Which I think is very true. (I should think so, I said it.) And raises the always fun "what are Premo's Greatest Hits" question. In that regard, I'll tell you an absurd story about myself. When I failed out of Duke, I really wasn't that badly off, just depressed as shit (and not even that depressed by the end of the semester but enough damage had been done). Naturally, however, I wasn't too happy about being kicked out, and told no one I knew from high school, though people did eventually find out in a rather traumatic and upsetting way, but that's a different story. Anyway, on top of lying about still being at Duke, I started lying to people at Duke about what a great time I was having back home, and eventually lost touch with reality to a great extent, although I don't really think I was ever full-on delusional. One of the odd stories I made up, no idea why, is that I met a gorgeous girl who said she'd fuck me if I made her what she considered to be a perfect Premo mixtape. This never happened, but for some strange reason I actually started making the tape, and at this point it's hard for me to entirely remember that the girl never existed. Mental illness sucks. Fortunately no longer a problem (much). Anyway, to come up with a serious list I'd have to actually go back and listen to the Gang Starr/Jeru albums, but here is a very preliminary sketch of what I think are Premo's best tracks.

Too Short - In The Trunk (Premo Remix)
Jeru - Come Clean, Me Or The Papes
Nas - N.Y. State of Mind, 2nd Childhood
Bone Thugs - 1st Of The Month (Premo Remix)
Fat Joe - Shit Is Real (Premo Remix)
Group Home - Supa Star, Up Against The Wall (Getaway Car Mix)
KRS One - Rappaz R N Dainja
Crooklyn Dodgers - Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers
Jay-Z - Bring It On, Intro/Hand It Down
M.O.P. - Brownsville, Follow Instructions
Craig David - 7 Days (Premo Remix)
Jaz O & The Immobilarie - Love Is Gone
Teriyaki Boys - You Know What Time Is It
Gang Starr - Manifest (Remix), Who's Gonna Take The Weight, The Place Where We Dwell, ALONGWAYTOGO, Mass Appeal, The ? Remains, Words From The Ghetto Child, Rite Where U Stand.


rschil20 said...

Honestly, I've never been a fan of that 1st of the Month remix. The original has such a carefully considered relationship between the breezy synth lines and the sing-song flow of the lyrics, and more importantly, utilized selective pauses that helped emphasize key moments of the song. Even for a remix, the Premier version feels particularly retro-fitted to me, like one of those early fake Napster mp3s where someone downloaded acapella and instrumentals, pasted them together, and shared them with everyone on the planet. And really, I'd be willing to forgive the awkwardness if Premier had brought some interesting take on subject; even if he had dropped in cash register sounds or some other cliche, I have a feeling that the result would have been more interesting than what he ended up with.

I don't mean to be such a hater, though. I think this is a pretty nice list. You definitely get high school cool points from me for including that Craig David song.

tray said...

Well Me Or The Papes is the last word on using cash register sounds in a rap beat. But yeah, I take your point; I just (a) enjoy the departure to a more country sound (although perhaps better instances of that are 'Evening News' or 'Doobie Ashtray') and (b) I really love the way he worked in the birds and crickets (as well as these random and rather creepy samples of laughter) in the beginning of the original into the track. What I think you get is something a little less insistently feel-good and much more meditative and dozy small-town, and maybe even a little haunting and sad. Though yes, fairly retrofitted and at odds with the tenor of the original, but appropriately so. What you think of the original probably determines what you think of the remix; for instance I love and really buy into the corniness of 'Together Again' so I can't stand Premo's turning it into a funereal dirge, but a song about welfare...

MF said...

Dude, damning CNN with the faintest of praise and then including that Craig David remix and that Teriyaki Boys track? As far as Primo remixes go, I also love that Bone remix (always find myself humming it for hours afterwards) and a Freaky Flow remix by Special Ed is probably in my top 5 Primo beats ever.

Nas Is Like is the archetypal post-You Know My Steez clunker to me. Favourite Primo productions since Moment Of Truth which transcend the comfort-food tag that I'd put up there with his masterpieces :

Bumpy Knux - A Part Of My Life
Gang Starr - All 4 Tha Cash
Screwball - F.A.Y.B.A.N
Big L ft. BDK - Platinum Plus
M.O.P - Face Off Y2K
M.O.P - Follow Instruction
M.O.P - Roll Call
Big Shug - The Jig Is Up
Kool G. Rap - First N*gga remix
Devin - Doobie Ashtray
Non Phixion - Rock Stars (it just pains me these guys got this beat)
The NYGz - Giantz Ta This
The NYGz - Strength
Gang Starr - The Natural
Gang Starr ft. Jada - Rite Where U Stand
Gang Starr - Sabotage
Gang Starr ft. M.O.P & Fat Joe - Who Got Gunz?
Blaq Poet - Poet Is Comin'
Blaq Poet - Bang This
Blaq Poet - Don't Give A Fucc
Termanology - Watch How It Go Down (Termanology is intolerable, obv, but the beat is sublime)
Termanology ft. Bun B - How We Rock (if someone could edit Termanology out of this entirely i could just about pretend that this is a part 2 of the Banned EP intro or something).

tray said...

I love the Craig David remix! The Teriyaki Boyz thing, while not great, is a case of modern-day Premo I can be content with, it's a little more abstract and by necessity (working with Japanese non-rappers), it's not one of these reiterations of the verities of real hip-hop complete with scratched hook of Fat Joe saying stuff. How We Rock was terrific. First Nigga's a favorite. Rock Stars... to me is yet another one of his 'Above The Clouds' remakes. He's used the same sample like twenty times. Of course I love the War Report and the first disc of their greatest hits compilation has an argument for being the best greatest hits disc in rap's shoddy history of greatest hits discs. But Invincible, not so much, and again, just one somewhat flawed great album.

rschil20 said...

The Craig David Remix is awesome. No explanation necessary (mostly because it's impossible to make one that's articulate and convincing in some kind of a historical context). You either find it fun to bump with the windows rolled down in the summertime or totally asinine.

A few Premier-related notes:

- My favorite Jeru the Damaja track is "Ain't the Devil Happy." The way that Premier scratches RZA's laugh to make it even creepier than a RZA laugh could possibly be is just amazing.

- Funny that you mention "Evening News": It's one of my favorite Premier productions of the 2000's. What a weird goddamn song. It's like Premier woke Cee-Lo up from the strange dream that is "...Is the Soul Machine" and forced him to record this spooky masterpiece in the middle of the night. I don't think that that makes much sense, but whatever. Song bumps.

- I just bought O.C.'s Jewelz, and I'm kind of unsettled by how badly Premier phoned in his songs on that album (this was made in 1996, mind you). The only remotely interesting Premier song is "M.U.G.," and even then I'd rather skip to Big L destroying a terrible Beatminerz beat. All in all, a pretty disappointing listen.

tray said...

I actually find the Craig David remix pretty poignant, I never saw it as either asinine or the sort of thing that's that fun to bump with the windows rolled down. The latter perhaps.

I used to think 'My World' was a masterpiece, but I have come to realize my error. And yeah, 'War Games'/'Win the G' are pitiful.

MF said...

I think i genuinely despise everything by O.C other than the DITC songs he appears on and a couple of songs off the first LP like Constables and Creative Control.

I've been at parties/clubs full of annoying hip hop purists in hooded sweatshirts and Jansports and the outpouring of worthiness which greets Time's Up is just sickening.

Should also add that I've never got that Too $hort remix either. Too $hort over a dry-run for Take It Personal is just wrong. The only good Too $hort song where he raps over something other than bassy Cali funk is Burn Rubber.

tray said...

Worthiness? I have nothing against 'Time's Up.' It would seem to be a pretty great record that flags a little after the justly famous opening. In Da Trunk... bears little to no resemblance to Take It Personal in my view, it's just a simple bass-heavy beat with nothing in the way of melody that properly showcases Too Short. I love when it drops out when he says "you call me weak when I don't sell records in the EAST!"