DJ Premier: A Pillar Of Hip-Hop History

Maybe it's leaving behind our twenties and embracing our thirties, but we've been so concerned with the past lately... history, that is. We've been talking to our grandmother in the last few months about her life as a young child growing up on the Texas border.

You truly don't know someone by how you know him or her today. That's what we've learned, at least. You know them, really, by how you didn't know them yesteryear, if that makes sense.

Take our grandmother: an elderly Hispanic woman who doesn't fit the mold for what she's "supposed to be." She's an American citizen, born here, raised here, as fluent and articulate in English as she is in Spanish. She's Pro-Choice. And, she swam the border ... legally?

Yes, as oxymoronic as the notion sounds, she did. In fact, she did it several times when she didn't even have to with her mother who, unlike her daughter, was undocumented. "Mama's gonna swim and so you are too"-type thing.

Here we thought the highlight of our grandmother's life was being one of the top U.S. sellers in Tupperware winning cars and trips to Hawaii. You think you know someone, but you don't.

Our point is that history is important and vital to perspective on the current times. Without it how do you really know what part of the story you're helping write? That was reinforced when we left Mexican-American studies for Hip-Hop 101 and got on the phone with none other than DJ Premier last week, arguably one of the most important hip-hop producers of our time and someone who could very well have a chapter in music's history book, that's if hip-hop ever makes it there.

When we talked to Premier, he wasn't obsessed with the future as much as he was educating masses about the past. Google his name and hit "news" and you'll find so many upcoming projects that he didn't talk about. He chose to talk about history.

In this week's Houston Press, you get a small glimpse into the mind and life of DJ Premier and his surprisingly unknown ties to Texas, as well as his upbringing in Houston.

We found it surprising how many New Yorkers and Texans thought DJ Premier was born and raised in Brooklyn. After a few decades living there, we guess we can't blame them, but we felt the readers needed a friendly history lesson on a Houstonian who is so vital to the evolution of hip-hop.

It was fascinating hearing about Premier's experiences with the Geto Boyz at Harlem's Apollo Theater, "when everybody was just singing along with them," he recalls.

"I went from seeing the Geto Boyz getting booed in New York to getting love in New York," he boasts.

But did he see himself becoming a pillar of hip-hop?

"Hell yeah," he says. "You got to see it first. Before you pack your bags and move, you better believe that shit and see it in your head. I saw it first, absolutely. I took my life with me."

The day we talked to Premier, political history was being written as Republicans were taking back control of the U.S. House of Representatives. So the first question we hit him with was obviously, "Did you vote?"

"I didn't get around to it," he admits. "Sometimes personal life takes over. I'm still going to do my thing the other way by putting out a message that is wise and music that is wise and good for the happiness of people.

"I don't like to be political. I'm not Jesse Jackson. I'm not Al Sharpton. I have my own methods. I make the streets hear my word by getting good MCs over my beats."

In fact, that's how he made ... history.

Premier takes the turntables Sunday, November 14, at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. Doors open at 8 p.m. Get your tickets here.

Note: A shout-out to Ike Bradley, Jerry Patterson and Sergio Garcia of True Head Clothing for bringing acts like Premier to H-Town, keeping the four elements of hip-hop culture alive in the H.

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