There’s an old saying: Rap is something you do; hip-hop is something you live. No truer words have been used to describe this music and culture. And no individual more truly embodies the second part of this maxim than DJ Premier-turntable technician, producer, and now, record label founder. Borne out of his daily operation to restore skills, soul and integrity to hip hop (ingredients that have been sorely neglected in recent times), Year Round Incorporated, DJ Premier’s very own independent record label, is finally now a reality.
"I’ve always felt that it’s important to have a name-whether it’s my publishing, production company or email address-that has some real meaning to it," says Premier of how he christened his imprint. "’Year Round’ describes me fully because I’m always working."
Though Premier is renown as both a member of one of hip hop’s most respected groups, Gang Starr, and one of modern music’s top aural architects, there’s an equally valuable if less celebrated aspect to his tireless work: championing new and unheralded talent. Preem has been a crucial figure in the early development of some of rap music’s modern legends specifically, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Nas when all were still relatively unknown, emerging artists, and went on to collaborate on classic records with each. He’s brought light to such other well-respected acts as Freddie Foxxx, Heather B, G-Dep, and M.O.P. well before other producers and DJs were willing to take chances on them. And he continues to seek out new underground records with an honest enthusiasm and passion that few of his peers possess. It’s in this spirit of breaking rap music’s significant voices of tomorrow that Year Round Incorporated carries its mission.
Explains Preem: "Nobody cares about developing the artists when they come up anymore. It’s not healthy for the game of rap. But instead of crying about it, we’re doing something about it by going in the studio and banging out some joints that nobody can front on. Lately, I’ve been doing tracks for a lot of cats that normally couldn’t really afford me, but have enough potential to deserve a track from me. With Year Round [Records], I’m focusing on these kinds of artists-the ones who are really gonna be a force to be reckoned with; all these little shiny cats out now are not gonna be able to hold a stick to them."
Case in point, Year Round’s first signees, NYGz, composed of the BX-Uptown duo of Panchi and Shabeeno. If the group exudes a savvy, confidence and charisma missing from so many of today’s up-and-comers, it’s because Panchi and Sha aren’t actually newcomers, but veterans (formerly known as Operation Rattification) who’ve patiently laid in the cut awaiting their opportune time to shine. Those who’ve patiently awaited a record that represents the classic sound of New York hip hop at its finest, commence bangin’ NYGz’s (and Year Round Incorporated’s) debut release, "Giantz Ta Thiz"-a modern masterpiece of gritty rhymes, commanding flows, and, of course, ingenious production that brings underground hip hop back to the urban streets where it belongs.
Lyrically, Panchi and Sha run down their resume-reminiscing on hustling days in the ’80s, running wild through the Rotten Apple’s concrete corridors, and being "in the back of the Zodiac" where they "first tasted cognac." Beatwise, Preem literally stands hip hop history on its head-taking the bass-dominated rumble of the breakbeat classic "Seven Minutes of Funk" (the foundation of everything from the Furious Five’s "Superrappin’" to EPMD’s "It’s My Thing" to Jay-Z’s "Ain’t No Nigga") and re-working it into a new, brilliantly syncopated groove that bounces with the fervor of the original. Very simply, it is one of the illest creations of his already esteemed career. With the equally hard-hitting "Strength" holding down the B-side, NYGz and Year Round possess one of the strongest singles of the forthcoming year.
Subsequent Year Round singles will continue to mine this impactive, back to basics aesthetic, and are set to include tracks from controversial Queensbridge underground legend Poet ("An OG who knows how to spit and isn’t afraid to say what he got to say," says Preem) of the acclaimed PHD and Screwball, and newcomer Rave Roulette the Hitman-a Brooklyn emcee whose Five Percent-informed ill street lyricism merges the diverse influences of Kane, Rakim and Wu-Tang, and channels them into something entirely his own. With these and other Year Round releases in the chamber, the return of the real is upon us. Hip hop devotees, your dreams have now been fulfilled.
"It’s like feeding someone a new drug," says Preem of the label’s approach. "And then as you keep on feedin’ ’em, they’re gonna want more and more. I’m definitely a pusher. I push music that you should be hearing. I have no choice but to be that way."