DJ Premier: Beats That Collected Dust Vol. 2
Most beat makers would struggle to put out a collection of their finest craftsmanship. DJ Premier can happily release instrumentals that were “just not adequate enough for me to ever release them with MC’s spittin’ over them.” He can do that once, and then release another batch of similar tracks: instrumentals that don’t meet his (probably unparalleled standards) of production. What is even more extraordinary about the second volume of Beats That Collected Dust is that these instrumentals are first-rate. This selection would serve as the magnum opus for all but a handful of contemporary producers.
Beats That Collected Dust Vol. 2 displays Primo’s remarkable diversity. Few producers can match his range of sounds. Take a track like “Ch-Ching.” As its title suggests, this could work well with the glitzy swagger of a boisterous, flash rapper from the Dirty South; yet the clipped bars wouldn’t allow a moment’s careless MC’ing.
Beside that, sits “Dots,” an instrumental entirely devoid of frippery. “Dots” does what Primo is most famous for – it provides the perfect platform for an MC to rhyme over. It’s characteristic Primo – a selfless beat that works to foreground the poetics of the rapper. Except here, without any MC, the beat still seems engineered to have heads nodding in time.
It is perhaps Primo’s lack of affection that has him name one of the collection’s standout tracks, “Epic-Ishh.” (It is worth noting that “Epic-Ishh,” alongside a few of the album’s tracks, has hardly collected dust. (The instrumental was used in Dynasty’s “Epic Dynasty.”) “Epic-Ishh” features Primo working a sample for its grandest moment – measuring in the manner of a fine tailor, leaving no slack note.
Another distinguished instrumental here is “Change.” Like so many Primo productions, the sound relies on straining strings (in this case violins), repeating a glorious climax of trumpet work. As with most of the tracks on the album, it’s hard to understand how it hasn’t produced a hit record.
The last track on the album is the beat for Nas’s “N.Y. State of Mind Pt. II.” Given the iconic status of Illmatic, this beat has never earned the respect it deserves. Again, this is Primo using thoughtful melody with a few piano chords, honing it, splicing, winnowing it, and fitting it perfectly to hip hop.