DAR Hip Hop Roundtable: DJ Premier vs Pete Rock

There are legends in hip hop who truly stand the test of time with their talent. In the 90's, two production legends were born: DJ Premier and Pete Rock. It was almost as if you had to have a Pete Rock or Premo beat in order to be recognized as a great rapper in the 90's. Like it was a rite of passage. Today, we decide to discuss these two and who is the superior producer.

As a music lover, I’m into details. I always want to know who’s responsible for the sound. DJ Premier and Pete Rock are two of the best producers in the game. Their careers weren’t built overnight and their longevity is justified. Comparing the two isn’t easy but I’ll do my best. Pete Rock is as one of the engineers of the 90s sound. Personally, I’m more a fan of DJ Premier. He started as one half of Gang Starr with Guru and saw much success in the 90s.

DJ Premier’s biggest selling point to me is that he doesn’t just work with mainstream artists like Jay-Z and Nas. He’s also done work with underground/indie artists and singers from various genres. As a producer in this industry, that speaks volumes.

D’Angelo’s song “Devil’s Pie” has an original Hip Hop flair to it. It’s a beat you’d expect to hear Rakim float over. You can’t help but bob your head to this track but be curious enough to want to know what D’Angelo is actually singing about.

Capone-N-Noreaga solidified how big of a deal DJ Premier was on the intro of “Invincible.” His demand was so high that apparently people asked when the group would link up with him. This song is one you’d expect an artist to sing over but we got bars instead of a ballad.

Premier did it again on the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Unbelievable.” This is a weird arrangement but it’s catchy. He samples R. Kelly’s hit “Your Body’s Callin” in the chorus on an unorthodox track.

Not everyone does samples justice, but Premier has a certain gift about spinning tracks that puts him over the top.

Pete Rock is my all-time favorite producer, without any second thought. T.R.O.Y. is the greatest hip-hop song to me and the beat is still one of the best I have ever heard, not to mention the technical side and story behind the production. DJ Premier is a true great, though, and the difficulty in choosing between him and Pete Rock lies in both their greatest attribute - their consistency. All Premo beats have that rough, NY sound, and without discrediting how great they are, many of them, especially the earlier works, sound the same. Pete Rock instrumentals, however, aren't that different either! Of course, the sound is different because the producer and influences are different, but Rock's "cleaner" jazz driven beats are all similar in their general makeup (i.e. the drum sequence and tempo). The best example I can think of to compare these two legends' styles would be to go to Nas' Illmatic and hear the Pete Rock-produced 'The World Is Yours' and then the DJ Premier-produced 'Represent'. Both excellent tracks and beats, but the difference in influence is clear. The story behind those two beats is what makes me have to go with Pete Rock in this comparison - apparently after Premo heard the 'World Is Yours' beat and found out Pete Rock had done it in under an hour, he scrapped his current work and came up with the Represent beat. The Soul Brother takes this one for me.

DJ Premier. Pete Rock. Two of the greatest producers of all time. This was a really difficult situation for me, as I love both producers, and both have produced great beats for some of my favorite rappers of all time (Nas, etc) but I am going to choose DJ Premier. He is after all my favorite producer of all time, Dr. Dre following. Premo's beats are more melody based, while Pete's are most jazz based (Founder of jazz rap btw). So this gives an edge to Premo, and that simply allows the artists he is collaborating with to match the beat with the lyrics and put out greater types of music. Premo could create many different types of beats with his melody beats than Pete could with his jazz beats. Therefore, Premo wins this one, but barely.

I love them both, but I gotta give the edge to Premo. He has a more gems IMO. The catalog from both are extensive but Premo is deeper. From all the Gang Starr material to the classics he made for Nas, Biggie, etc. Pete Rock has some gems from his CL Smooth days and his classic Petestrumentals series, but other than his work on Illmatic none as prolific. They both are beyond their primes currently, but overall I'd still say Premo.

I can't lie, I've always been partial to DJ Premier and what he does musically. I don't think there are many who can keep up the level of greatness that he managed to put out through the 90's and early 2000s. His straightforward boom bap style is one that inspired many artists in hip hop today and his legacy as one of the greatest producers of all time is solidified. On the flip side, I feel the most underrated producer of the 90's remains Pete Rock (and Large Professor, but we shall get to him another time). Pete was fluid with his drums, infused horns, as well as jazz elements in his production. Pete was without a doubt one of the top producers of the 90's and I feel he has always been neck and neck with Premier in terms of legacy.

Both men were very in demand during the 90's, with Premo seemingly getting more work than Pete by a small margin. As extensive as the production is in Pete's catalog, I have to swing this one to Premo because he's managed to showcase his ability on so many different levels over the years. His work in hip hop is truly unmatched, but he even got a little bit of that pop star money in his endeavor with Christina Aguilera and supplied her with some dopeness. As far as creatively production, neither man steps out of their comfort zone too much, but off legacy and such, I'll edge this to none other than Premo. Barely.

What about you? Post your comments and choice below.



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