Hip-hop’s DJ Premier provides soundtrack for NBA Countdown highlights

DJ Premier (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Hip-hop producer DJ Premier, seen here during a concert in Toronto, contributes music to ESPN’s “NBA Countdown.” (Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Hip-hop and basketball are strongly associated with each other. That’s why legendary hip-hop producer DJ Premier’s work on ABC’s and ESPN’s NBA Countdown has been a slam dunk.

“Premo,” as DJ Premier is affectionately called by his music colleagues and herds of fans, struck a deal to contribute several original tracks to Countdown. The tracks are used during highlights, bumps and more.

ESPN NBA Countdown director Tyrone Frison: “DJ Premier is a legendary producer with a vast catalog of classic tracks. We approached him about producing tracks exclusively for NBA Countdown to inject a cool factor and create some energy. He produced several tracks for us that we use for montages, highlights and analysts’ breakdown tapes.”

NBA Countdown analyst Jalen Rose: “Premo has been a unique creator, innovator and pioneer for the hip-hop sound for decades. Whether as an artist or producer, he will go down as one of the all-time greats.”

Front Row caught up with the legendary hip-hop figure, who has worked with many of elite MCs, from his own group Gang Starr, to Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Nas. Premier discussed how Countdown analyst Jalen Rose facilitated his ESPN connection, his favorite 30 for 30 and more.

How did you connect with ESPN for this project?
Shout out to [ESPN Music’scoordinating director] Claude Mitchell and [ESPN Music director] Kevin Wilson. I have to give it up to Jalen because he had reached out to me a few years ago about doing the music for the [ESPN Films documentary] on the The Fab Five. And being that all of us were big fans of that Fab Five era, we wanted to do it. We were big fans of 30 for 30 as well, like the Maurice Clarett [Youngstown Boys] one. Jalen and I already had a relationship on that level and he was a big fan of mine and Gang Starr’s and we had an understanding musically. I remember when I got a text from Jalen saying ‘congratulations and welcome’ when he heard my music on [NBA Countdown]. Everybody was calling me when they heard it, saying, ‘It’s on, it’s on!’”

What was your trip to ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. campus like?
I got to go up to the ESPN offices, we drove up to Bristol. I got to go up to the compound and eat with the staff and everything. They took me to that food court (ESPN Café) and I was like, ‘Man, should I get Chinese food, should I get pizza? Do I get a salad? Do I get a little bit of both?’ We talked about sports the whole time. It was a really, really positive vibe. It was cool that everybody was having a good time and feeling good about my involvement in submitting the tracks.

How much ESPN do you watch?
I wake up to ESPN. That’s my morning thing. I always wake up to ESPN. I work so much in the studio so I don’t get to keep up with everything and it’s a nice, quick rundown. I was even with Jay-Z when he was on his “Watch The Throne” tour and he had a screen that was so big in his dressing room, almost a movie theatre-size, and he was watching ESPN. He was saying that he’s on the go and he is always ready to perform and that he needs to keep up with what’s going on in sports through ESPN.

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