If you were to ask me what the first thing is that comes to mind when I think of Hip Hop, without the slightest hesitation, I would say DJ Premier. If James Brown is the Godfather of Hip Hop, then Primo has to be the father. Certainly there were ambassadors before him like Marley Marl, Grandmaster Flash, and DJ Kool Herc, but no one has represented the culture like Primo. To me, Hip Hop music is three things: 1) Dope Beats, 2) Cuttin' & Scratchin', and 3) MCing. DJ Premier is 2/3rds of that (beats and cuttin'), and I'm sure if he wanted to he could probably lay down a nice 16 bar verse... the man is that talented.
1) NaS- N.Y. State of Mind
Every time I listen to Illmatic, I try and figure out what my favorite song is. While it's a near impossible task, "N.Y. State of Mind" is always in the debate. Primo provides NaS with a backdrop that sounds exactly how you would imagine the Queensbridge Projects to sound, and NaS... well... let's just say, he rips it to shreds...
2) Gang Starr- Rite Where U Stand
"Rite Where U Stand" was one of my favorite songs in Hip Hop for a real long time. To this day, it's one of my most played songs on iTunes. Armed with a classic battle-rap type beat, Guru and Jadakiss went in over this track. "Just mad you'll never be as nice as I am, J to the 'muah' and I'll leave you right where you stand."
3) Gang Starr- Ex Girl to Next Girl
"Ex Girl to Next Girl" is one of the most memorable beats in Hip Hop history. But you can't give all the credit to Primo here, Guru paints the picture to complement the superior production. This is definitely a benchmark for not only New York Hip Hop, but the entire genre.
4) The Notorious B.I.G.- Ten Crack Commandments
There is no Biggie song that I play more than "Ten Crack Commandments." I have few words to describe such a timeless song. The beat is absolutely incredible, and is perfect for B.I.G.'s cadence and flow. All that's left is for Biggie to tell you his rules to the game, and he does it with a menace and certainty that truly makes you believe in what he's telling you... the mark of a great storyteller.
5) The Notorious B.I.G.- Kick In the Door
Another crazy sample flip by Primo, this time revisiting Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You." I can't really imagine any other producer sampling this song, but Primo made this into an absolute banger. Supposedly, this was a diss track aimed at Ghostface and Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, but it's a great song nonetheless.
6) Gang Starr- You Know My Steez
Gang Starr has a deep catalogue, but "You Know My Steez" is one of the dopest intro songs ever. Primo chops up Joe Simon's "Drowning in the Sea of Love," and Lydia Pense's "I Love You More Than You'll Ever You" to create this classic head-nodder. Not to be outdone, Guru has some solid lines as well, including "the wackness is spreadin' like the plague," which could easily relate to mainstream music nowadays.
7) Jay-Z- D'Evils
I was conflicted upon choosing this song because "Bring It On," and "Friend Or Foe" are also great songs (both are also produced by Primo), in their own right. "D'Evils" won out though simply because the song title is amazing. Seriously... "Bring It On," and "Friend Or Foe" are classics, but "D'Evils" tops 'em. I got nothin left to say about this one, just check it out.
8) Mos Def- Mathematics
"Mathematics" is the perfect example of why Primo is the king of cuttin' and scratchin'. His ability to create hooks by cuttin' lines from old records is incredible... "the mighty mos def... it's simple mathematics, check it out!" Black On Both Sides is a fantastic album and "Mathematics" is a big reason why.
9) NaS- NaS Is Like
"NaS is Like" is probably one of my top 5 favorite NaS songs, and that's something considering the fact that Illmatic is arguably the greatest Hip Hop album ever. From time to time, I'll listen to I Am, and the only thing I wonder is how dope this album could have been if Primo had done the majority of the production. The drums on this track are typical Premier... hard, boom bap NY style.
10) Common- The 6th Sense
Common is one of my favorite MC's of all time, and "The 6th Sense" is definitely one of his illest songs. DJ Premier serves up his standard boom bap over a sample that's tailor-made for a 'conscious' MC like Com Sense.