Nas & DJ Premier: A Countdown of Their Collaborations


In the winter of 2006, Nas and DJ Premier appeared on the cover of Scratch, a journal dedicated to DJing.  One of the things discussed in the magazine’s pages was a future Nas album produced entirely by DJ Premier.  Hip-Hop purists rejoiced, but the project never materialized.

Years passed.  And while it was brought up from time to time, nothing definitive was ever stated.  However, when Preemo discussed it recently in Atlanta and said, “It’s coming,” it became clear that enthusiasm for the LP hadn’t diminished.

One of the reasons for this is that Nas and DJ Premier have made incredible music together.  Therefore, in recognition of their work and in celebration of the anticipated album, has ranked their collaborations to date.

In other words, these are the nine biggest reasons to be excited for the Nas and DJ Premier album.  It is proof for many as to why this album can’t come soon enough.

9). “Re:Generation”: Nasir Jones and Chris Martin are not only legends in Hip-Hop, but they also have an undeniable respect for culture.  It is fitting then that the two of them were part of the Re:Generation music project wherein five traditional styles of music were recreated with contemporary sounds.  The project had DJ Premier creating a track with classical music and the 58-piece Berklee Symphony Orchestra.  Preemo conducted it himself and then had Nas rap over it.  The resulting piece of music is nothing short of a great display of artistic diversity and talent.

8). “N.Y. State of Mind Pt. II”: By the song’s end, it’s clear that this sequel doesn’t top part one.  However, it does impressively describe the breakdown of a crew all in the first verse.  Nas’ lyrics are rich with detail throughout, and DJ Premier’s beat bumps like a respectable remake of the original.  At the end of the day, it’s the two of them playing to their strengths.  Ultimately, the record turns out to be a song sequel that surpasses many others.

7). “Come Get Me”: Because of the reputation that Nastradamus has as one of Nas’ weaker albums, this song gets overlooked by more people than it should.  Put simply though, Nas’ delivery is great here.  Plus, with Preemo scratching in Nas’ vocals from Mobb Deep’s “It’s Mine,” this record is a solid example of dope New York Hip-Hop all the way around.  It still holds up almost a decade and a half since its release too.

6). “Represent”: While the chorus to this record is just a glorified chant courtesy of Nas’ cronies, the real significance of it is what it symbolizes.  Nas is making a statement that he is here to hold it down for QB and not only make a better way for himself and his generation of emcees, but also honor those who came before him such as Marley Marl and MC Shan.  The rhythm of Premier’s beat here is unforgettable and the verses are outstanding.

5). “2nd Childhood”: The commentary that this song provides about not wanting to grow up is very potent.  It is as if Tyrese’s opening words in Baby Boy take the form of a song.  DJ Premier’s instrumental fit Nas’ lyrical content perfectly and so the combination of the two make for a great record.  It’s no surprise that Chris Rock mentioned this song specifically while praising Stillmatic in Rolling Stone back in 2005.

4). “I Gave You Power”: Outlawz member Young Noble told the press in 2003 that 2Pac got the concept for his “Me and My Girlfriend” record from this song.  And that’s saying a lot, especially considering that Nas gets dissed more than once on Makaveli (the same album that contains “Me and My Girlfriend”).  But who could fault Pac for liking this It Was Written joint?  Nas’ rapping from the perspective of a Desert Eagle was very powerful and it gave him a place to vent his frustrations about the ongoing cycle of gun violence.

3). “Nas is Like”: This song found Nas returning to his comfort zone.  However, he was still far from complacent here.  Over a beat that Premier made using a record he almost threw out, Nasir Jones stepped away from the commercial sounds that he had recently been dabbling in.  He instead crafted a song that proved he was still capable of making music like he did at the beginning of his career.

2). “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park)”: Placed between the singles “Halftime” and “One Love” on Illmatic, this record masterfully utilizes a Reuben Wilson sample in order to juxtapose a melody with the bleak inner-city environment that is described in vivid detail.  “My window faces shootouts, drug overdoses/Live amongst no roses, only the drama…”  Nas and DJ Premier make for one of Hip-Hop’s most memorable pairings, and this song is one of the reasons why.

1). “N.Y. State of Mind”: When Nas first made his introduction on the rap scene, he was referred to by many as the successor to Rakim.  And so it was only right, that the original God MC be sampled on the first song from Nas’ debut album.  The combination of Ra’s “Mahogany” vocal scratch, Preemo’s drums, and those memorable piano keys made for the perfect soundscape for Nasir Jones to deliver flawless rhymes.  “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death,” is one of the best rap lyrics ever.

[Writer’s Note: I Am…’s “Album Intro,” is not part of this list because it is not a song.  “Turn up the Mic (DJ Premier Remix),” “Classic,” and “Hip Hop” aren’t included either because there are more people attached to those songs than just Nas and DJ Premier.]

What do you think of the list?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below!