GANG STARR with CHOCLAIR and BLESS at Kool Haus (1 Jarvis), Friday (July 25). $34.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
DJ Premier is hiphop royalty, the producer who defined East Coast hiphop throughout the 90s. His scratchy, soul-baked beats appeared on every album that mattered, including those by his Gang Starr crew. Hiphop, though, has a short memory, and while Primo's beats for Nas's Illmatic debut and Biggie Smalls's Life After Death disc might be classics, the five years since they were released might as well be an eternity.
Gang Starr's new The Ownerz disc is a classic DJ Premier production, with dusty beats and his trademark cut-ups that could have come out a decade ago.
Maybe that explains the silence from the streets. But the pointed shout-out in the album's liner notes to DJs ("There's not many of us left") suggests that despite the bravado, Primo thinks he's on the wrong side of hiphop history.
"There's this belief that you have to keep up with the new trends and the new sounds," he insists on the phone from New York. "I've never operated like that. We could have done that little ticky-tock computer bullshit sound that everyone's got on their records and probably sell more, but nah. Keep it raw and the word will get around. We're purists of the art form.
"We do it with respect to the masters, from DJ Hollywood all the way down to Kool Herc, Grand Wizard Theodore, Flash and the Funky Four. The kids now don't know that. They don't know who Biz Markie or Theodore is. I don't call them hiphop. I call them Something Else."
Premier insists there's a place for the music he makes, giving the nod to fellow record diggers like JayDee and Madlib as people with a respect for classic hiphop.
"There's a place for adult hiphop," he claims. "We've just got to prove that to people. I mean, those of us who have been in this game for years aren't kids any more. Jay-Z's in his 30s, De La Soul are in their 30s, and even 50 Cent is older, although he looks like a teenager."
The whole idea of hiphop for adults is a head-spinner, particularly when Gang Starr are still releasing tracks called Who Got Gunz?
"We just approach those records in a much more mature way. When I was in my 20s I was totally up to no good, doing a lot of ignorant, stupid things that I wouldn't do now. We just approach it differently now, but that doesn't mean you have to be soft.
"I'm going to work with Jay-Z tomorrow, and we're going to be doing some mature shit that reflects our age, but it isn't going to be soft.
"I'm still going to give him that gutter, and he'll love me for it."