DJ Premier: My Life in 15 Songs

Gang Starr co-founder and producer behind Nas, Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G. classics recalls early days, lawsuits and working with Limp Bizkit

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The Notorious B.I.G, "Ten Crack Commandments" (1997)

B.I.G. was a fuckin' sweetheart and jokester. The song was originally a promo for [New York radio station] Hot 97's Top 5 at 9. Everyone from Onyx to Wu-Tang Clan was doing promos for [DJ] Angie Martinez, so we did one [with that beat] with Jeru the Damaja. [The beat] never goes past "9" because it was 9 o'clock. Puff [Daddy] was doing promo one day and heard it and was like, "What the hell. ..." My homie hit me up on my beeper "911" like, "Puffy is on the radio telling you to call." Puff said, "That beat is serious. B.I.G. has one record left on the album. We need that." Puffy and Jeru were beefin', but I asked Jeru and his answer was, "Yeah, that's hip-hop. Let him get it."

[In 1998, Chuck D sued Bad Boy Records, Arista Records, Premier and the estate of Notorious B.I.G., among others, for copyright infringement and defamation, alleging his voice was sampled without permission. The suit was settled later that year for an undisclosed sum.]

Biggie said, "Keep the Chuck parts in," but I warned him, "Chuck ain't with using his voice with alcohol, drugs or sex." He goes, "Just do it and I'll deal with Chuck later." Then B.I.G. died and it was never brought to Chuck's attention, but I knew Chuck wasn't into that. 

[The lawsuit] didn't surprise me. I went on tour with Public Enemy less than a month later. We were cool, but it was awkward to talk about it on both of our sides. He explained his reasoning, which I respected. Even when I got the royalty check – and it was huge – and it had a big, red HOLD stamp on it, I was like, "Damn, that much?!" I was a little upset after [the lawsuit happened], but Puff said, "I'll pay off half of it." At Jam Master Jay's wake, Chuck said, "Can we holla for a second?" I said, "We ain't got to holla" and I just opened my arms and we hugged. It felt so good to hug him.

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