INTERVIEW: Pete Rock Battles DJ Premier in DC
by Mercy Chikowore
Well after midnight on July 19, 2013, the Howard Theatre was packed with hip-hop heads (backpacks and all) waiting on the battle to ensue between icons Pete Rock and DJ Premier. It was 1AM when the show finally started and the two legends went head to head in a continuous exchange of hip-hop hits and classics, including 70s and 80s RnB that took the crowd back in time. They started the battle by educating the masses with an original classic followed by the well-known song that sampled it. If you didn’t know hip-hop before this set, you left a connoisseur. Here’s an easy one- Dave McCallum’s The Edge was the sample to Dr. Dre’s The Next Episode. Need another one? Barry White’s Playing Your Game, Baby (Volume 2) made Black Moon’s I Got Cha Opin an instant hit. Their energetic entrance made attendees forget they had a wait before the show’s start.
So what was I doing before the battle? Chatting with Pete Rock of course. While others waited for drinks at the bar and endured the lackluster opening act they called a b-boy battle, I learned more about Pete Rock’s relationship with DJ Premier, what he thinks about the state of hip-hop, and his upcoming projects:
Tell us about the DJ battle that’s going on tonight, what can people expect?
Basically just us having fun, playing our classic music and other classic things we grew up listening to and things that were important to us, which made us excel in hip-hop music.
Can you talk to me about your relationship with DJ Premier- how long have you known each other?
For years, I met him back in the 80s, in the late 80s when I was DJing up at a radio station in New York City and we’ve been friends ever since.
Do you guys battle often, like do you have a playful banter?
Yeah, we have a playful banter. Ever since we’ve been doing this battle thing it’s just been all fun.
Who is your favorite artist to play, I’m sure there are a lot of artists but can you pick some?
James Brown, Michael Jackson, Isaac Hayes, if you want to talk about 80s RnB, I mean Luther Vandross, I mean Jesus, 80s rap. You know, I like it all.
So it looks like you have a new project coming up with Camp Lo and Mac Miller, it’s called Megan Good…
Actually it’s a project coming out called 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s and there’s a song called Megan Good featuring Camp Lo on 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s. That’s coming out July 30th and I want everybody to know it’s gonna be free so downloads will be going crazy everywhere.
And this is your second time working with Camp Lo on an album?
No, actually they used– the first 80 Blocks was just beats of mine that they took and used. But this one I decided to get involved and produce music. Because I’m a fan of Camp Lo, I’ve been a fan since their first album.
So tell me about Megan Good.
What you wanna know about it? She’s fine as wine. [laughs] No no, Megan Good, this is something they came up with, I just came up with the beat and I think it’s just a celebration of someone who’s beautiful.
Oh, so you’re going to make a song about me later?
[laughs] Exactly. [laughs] You’re so silly.
So is there anyone else in the industry you’d like to collaborate with, maybe someone you haven’t worked with before from a different genre?
Yeah, yeah of course, you know anyone who wants to work with me but there’s people out there I’d love to work with now. New, old, doesn’t even matter [shrugs shoulders], I like Action Bronson, I like Slaughterhouse.
So what other projects do you have coming up?
Just the 80 Blocks thing and a re-recording of Mecca and the Soul Brother with CL Smooth with a live band, my solo album and other little different surprise projects I’m working on.
I know you get asked this question often but hip-hop has really evolved since you first started, how would you describe it from when you first started to now?
When I first started it was realer. The subject matter, lyrically it was realer. The music was realer. And that’s the difference.
So the subject matter these days is what?
Not too [pauses] nothing that you want to teach your kids. When groups like Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Pete Rock, Nice and Smooth, you know those kind of groups, Gang Starr, we all told the truth about real life situations in our music so there was a message.
Pete Rock and DJ Premier continue the battle later in August in New York City. In the mean time be sure to download Pete Rock’s new project with Camp Lo, 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s Pt. II, dropping today!