Interview: DJ Premier Weighs In On The Current State of Hip-Hop

Hip-hop is an ever-evolving vehicle of musical creativity. From the old school bars of Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Big Daddy Kane, to the new school flows of Drake, A$AP Rocky, and J. Cole, the rap game has definitely come a long way.

Along that journey however, a disconnection between the two generations has created a barrier that separates the young from the old. During the SummerStage concert at Central Park—celebrating hip-hop culture’s metaphorical 40TH birthday—we sat down with legendary figures in the game DJ Premier, and Rakim to discuss two things: their individual opinions on the current state of hip-hop and what each of them can do as veterans to positively influence the new school of rappers.

Check out what DJ Premier had to say here in Part 1 and then peep Part 2 to hear rap titan Rakim weigh in.

DJ PREMIER:

[My feelings on the new generation of rap] are positive, as long as they’re keeping hip-hop alive. The only downside is that a lot of the younger artists don’t show appreciation to the people that opened the door for them. They’re like, “Oh, you’re too old” and “You’re too old to be rapping.” How you gon’ put a limit on something that’s a culture? A culture doesn’t have a limit. Culture lives forever. Hip-hop, as a culture, cannot lose the original elements—that pure form of dope beats, dope rhymes, and taking the skill level to another level like Cold Crush Brothers, Fantastic Five, or Kool Herc just throwing the first party for his sister to make this whole thing turn into what it is. When the younger generation don’t show appreciation—and when they throw that “old” line—I just say, “Alright. When you get old, I can’t wait to see what you’re doing. You’ll still see me getting money off of hip-hop.”

I met Nelson Mandela at his house because of hip-hip. Hip-hop took me to Africa. Who gets to even go to his house? His grandson said, “Yo, I want to meet Premier. In exchange, he can meet my grandfather.” We thought it was a joke. Next thing you know, he tells us where to meet him and we pulled up to [Mandela’s] compound [surrounded] by guys with guns and x-ray machines. [Mandela’s grandson] starts talking in African [dialect], and they put the guns down. We walk in, and [Nelson Mandela] is there reading a USA Today paper. I thought he was gonna come down with horns on a ceremonial thing [Laughs]. It was beautiful.

It’s up to [newer MCs] to do what they do, and it’s up to us [veteran MCs] to do what we do. The one thing I’m not gonna do is stop putting out hot joints. I also know my market, so my market still supports me. I’m able to pay my bills because of that. I make sure I don’t let them down. The younger generation wants to get down with it, but we ain’t hard to find. We’re here. Jay Z’s around my age. I’m older than him, and he’s still rocking. It’s all about making sure you put it down for the culture. That’s one thing I’ll never stop doing.