Long before Nas made it popular for rappers to feature a line-up of A-list producers their albums, Lord Finesse was reaching out to the likes of DJ Premier, Diamond D and Showbiz to produce on his debut project, Funky Technician.
Released on February 6, 1990 via legendary hip hop label Wild Pitch Records, Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth’s Funky Technician was arguably the first classic rap album of the ’90s. The 13-track LP featured Lord Finesse’s masterful punchlines and cool, laid-back flow combined with DJ Mike Smooth’s wizardry on the turntables. It was the ultimate showcase of pure beats and rhymes.
On the production tip, there was also a young, up-and-coming DJ Premier who was fresh off releasing Gang Starr’s debut album, No More Mr. Nice Guy. Premo, who had never worked with a rapper outside his group before, produced on 5 of the 13 tracks: “Lord Finesse’s Theme Song Intro”, “Baby, You Nasty [New Version]”, “Slave to My Soundwave”, “Lesson to Be Taught”, “Strictly for the Ladies”, and “Track the Movement”
“That was my first production outside of Gang Starr,” Premo told Brian Coleman for the book Check the Technique: Volume 2 More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies. “I was excited about it. I’m into voices, and once I hear a good voice – like Finesse’s or Guru’s – that’s all I need.”
Of course, it was only a matter of years before DJ Premier became the go-to producer on the East Coast for rappers who wanted to gritty boom-bap vibe. In between working on Gang Starr’s Step in the Arena (1991), Daily Operation (1992), and Hard to Earn (1994), Premo also produced a number of classics for artists like:
- Heavy D & the Boyz – “Here Comes the Heavster”, “Yes Y’all”
- Mobb Deep – “Peer Pressure”
- KRS-One – “KRS-One Attacks”, “Outta Here”, “Mortal Thought”, “I Can’t Wake Up”, “‘P’ Is Still Free”, “Higher Level”, “Rappaz R. N. Dainja”, “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”, “Wannabemceez”
- Nas – “N.Y. State of Mind”, “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)”, “Represent”
- Big Daddy Kane – “Show & Prove”
- The Notorious B.I.G. – Unbelievable”
- Jay-Z – “D’Evils”, “Friend or Foe”, “Bring It On”
DJ Premier: Hard To Earn, 1993. That’s when I really was like, “Bring on any artist, I’ll take any artist and I’ll turn them into a hot record.” I hadn’t met KRS-One, who was one of the people I idolized in the game. If he had asked me to produce him when those first three Gang Starr albums had come out from ’89 to ’92 and Daily Operation and “Take It Personal” and “DWYCK” was out, I wouldn’t have been confident to work with any artist outside of Guru.DJ Premier | Red Bull Music Academy