The RZA and DJ Premier have both been able to produce legionary remixes, delivering fresh new versions that often supersede the original track. We decided to showcase some of their best remixes throughout the years.
Over the weekend, DJ Premier and The RZA went song for song on Instagram Live. Each player played more than 20 of their greatest songs over their 20 plus career. Who was the winner? Hip-hop fans were.
Through Premier’s work with Gang Starr and The RZA’s work with The Wu-Tang Clan, both producers have established themselves as masters behind the boards and legendary figures in hip-hop. With their rugged, sample-based production style, both producers have introduced countless bangers to the pantheon of rap classics.
RZA’s moody, atmospheric style shaped the sound of classic albums like Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), GZA’s Liquid Swords, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, and more. While Premier’s innovative productions for Nas, JAY-Z, The Notorious B.I.G, Jeru the Damaja, and — of course — Gangstarr have stood the test of time.
In addition to their original productions, both RZA and DJ Premier have been able to translate their skill at crafting beats into the realm of remixing, delivering fresh new versions that often supersede the original track. We decided to showcase some of DJ Premier and The RZA’s best remixes throughout the year. Check them out below.
Method Man & Mary J. Blige — “You’re All I Need (Razor Sharp Mix)” (1994)
An enduring hip-hop classic, Method Man and Mary J. Blige’s “All I Need” was a street-oriented take on Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need To Get By.” In stark contrast to the keyboard-driven original and Puff Daddy’s radio-rocking mix, RZA’s Razor Sharp Mix is a decidedly darker, more stripped down approach to the tune.
Fat Joe — “The Shit Is Real (DJ Premier Remix)” (1994)
Perhaps the finest remix in DJ Premier’s catalog, his take on Fat Joe’s “Shit Is Real” uses a silky, electric piano as its primary melodic motif, layering it on top of heavy drums. A rough but gorgeous track, Premier’s take on “Shit Is Real” lays the perfect backdrop for Fat Joe’s vulnerable tale of growing up hard in the South Bronx.
GZA, Inspectah Deck, & D’Angelo — “Cold World (RZA Mix)” (1996)
At first glance, it may be difficult to spot the differences between RZA’s remix of GZA’s “Cold World” and the original that appeared on Liquid Swords. While the remix retains its drums and its truncated chop of Dennis Coffey’s guitar from The Dramatics’ “In The Rain,” RZA’s remix subtly rearranges the original track by removing its Frank Zappa sample and adding synthesized strings.
D’ Angelo & AZ — “Lady (Remix – Just Tha Beat Mix)” (1996)
Throughout the ’90s, countless R&B cuts were given a more rugged, streetwise edge by allowing hip-hop producers to craft remixes. As one of the more prominent hip-hop producers of the day, DJ Premier was no stranger to this art. One of his more well-known remixes was his version of D’Angelo’s “Lady.” Featuring a verse from AZ, and backed by a now-iconic video, Preemo’s rough beat melds beautifully with D’Angelo’s ecstatic and seductive vocal harmonies.
AZ & Raekwon — “Doe or Die” (Remix) (1996)
In stark contrast to the smooth, down south funk groove of the original, RZA’s remix of AZ’s “Doe Or Die,” is a muted, ugly, headbanger of a track. Recruiting Wu-Tang’s Raekwon to contribute a verse, the track ups the lyrical ante while revealing a surprising chemistry between the two. With hard-hitting drums and a grimey sample that leaves room for AZ and Rae to trade graphic tales of drugs, money and crime, RZA’s remix of “Doe Or Die” is pure, dusted-out opulence.
D&D All-Stars — “1, 2 Pass It” (Remix) (2001)
A blistering posse cut featuring Fat Joe, KRS-One, Smif-N-Wessun, Jeru the Damaja, Mad Lion, and Doug E. Fresh trading bars, “1,2 Pass It” would’ve gone down as a classic off the strength of its original mix (also produced by Premier). Upping the ante on himself, Premier completely rearranges the track with his deft sample-chopping and razor sharp cuts.
Wu-Tang Clan — “Method Man (Remix) (Skunk Mix)” (1993)
A smash hit that helped the Wu-Tang Clan crossover from underground heroes to mainstream superstars, “Method Man” is an impossibly catchy tune full of ear-worms and delightful pop culture references. For the most part, RZA’s “Skunk Mix,” extracts the song’s accessible sonic elements, leaving us with a hulking, dusty take on the original.
Group Home — “Up Against Tha Wall (Getaway Car Mix)” (1996)
Everything that DJ Premier produced for the New York-based duo of Lil Dap and Malachi The Nutcracker is pretty much audio gold. Group Home’s debut Livin’ Proof was produced by Primo in its entirety and the album remains a standard-bearer for a particular brand of ’90s street hip-hop. Premier’s “Getaway Car Mix” of “Up Against The Wall” is one of the trio’s finest moments. Propelled by vocal scratches and a piano sample that is downright elegant, the track strikes a subtle balance between a rough, rich and jazzy atmosphere.
Bjork — “Bachelorette (RZA Remix)” (1997)
A lesser-known oddity in RZA’s discography, his remix of Icelandic art-pop legend Bjork’s tune “Bachelorette” is a stunning slice of dark, orchestral hip-hop. Anchored by Bjork’s bold vocal performance, RZA’s remix of the song takes the strings, from the original version and outfits it with a head-nodding, boom bap drum pattern.
Showbiz & AG — “Next Level (Premier’s Nytyme Street Remix)” (1995)
Most famously known for its appearance in one of the battle scenes for Eminem’s 8 Mile, Premier’s Premier’s “Nytyme Street Remix” displays Premier’s uncanny ability to take a dope song and make it even better. With its rubbery bassline and minimal drums, Premier tops the track off with his signature scratched hook to create a beat that dominated freestyle sessions and late-night mix shows throughout the ’90s.
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John Morrison is a writer, DJ, and sample-flipper based in Philadelphia.