Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, featured a killers row of ’90s East Coast producers: from DJ Clark Kent to Ski, Big Jaz to Knobody.
But there was one name on the album credits that got everyone’s attention – Christopher Martin, aka DJ Premier. The Texas-born producer, who made Brooklyn his home as a teenager, contributed three vital productions to Reasonable Doubt, “D’Evils”, “Friend or Foe” and “Bring It On” (which also featured Jaz and Sauce Money).
Premier was so eager to work with the upstart Brooklyn rapper that he gave Hov a big discount on each beat, charging him only $4,000 per song. “I did the same thing to Big,” Premo said in an interview with The Ringer. “I charged him 5 grand. At that time I was getting $25K, $30K a cut. That was a big deal back then.”
“And I think I told [Jay] $4,000 a pop per song. I remember I told Big the same thing. I said, ‘Yo man, blow up and go platinum I’m charging you double of what I charge.’ And he said, ‘No problem.’ And when we started working on Life After Death, he gave me what I wanted. When Jay-Z and them went to Def Jam and got them big checks, he paid me what I wanted [too]. No hesitation.”
After Reasonable Doubt, Premier would go on to produce on future Jay-Z albums, including “A Million and One Questions / Rhyme No More” and “Friend or Foe ’98” on In My Lifetime, Vol. 1; “Hand It Down” on Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life; and his last Hov placement to date, “So Ghetto” Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter.
Jay-Z had actually planned to have DJ Premier produce on his 2003 retirement album, The Black Album, along with The Neptunes, Just Blaze, Dr. Dre, Rick Rubin, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, Trackmasters, Eminem, DJ Quik, Ski and Timbaland, but the idea didn’t end up panning out.