[Feature] Premise: To Tell A Tale… + Extended Interview

Article by Jamar Thrasher (@jdthrasher)

Every story starts with a premise, the beginning of any story before it builds into something more. The premise is such an integral part of a story that producer Premise adopted the word to represent him and his style of beat making. The beat tells a story– from beginning to end— and listeners can hear it.

The art of telling a story through beat has been a passion for Premise since his childhood in Philadelphia.

“There are some key components that make it appealing to me: sound quality, instrumentation, usage of samples, originality, marketability, and overall atmosphere. Does it paint a picture or just drag on as a lifeless loop? A beat has to have the right recipe of all of those elements,” Premise says.

The son of a father who was drummer, Premise was always around music. In 1997, when he was 14 Premise began creating his own music. During these times he would make beats and rap on them and his father would engineer the sessions. The early versions were trial and error but Premise became better through experimenting, learning from his father and listening to hometown favorites, such as The Roots. Premise in 2001, after strengthening and honing his skills, started to produce professionally.

Premise has released three projects and has a slew of production credits for artists such as Mac Miller, Pacewon, Tekneek, and more.

But because the producer has been a misunderstood part of music so long, Premise often sees himself explaining what a producer’s role should be.

The producer should act as the “Golden Ears” in the room, says Premise. A producer does not simply create a drum scheme and layer samples.

“That’s the fundamental difference between a beatmaker and a producer. In some cases, the producer may not touch one piece of equipment. He or she may simply have a staff of instrumentalists, singers, emcees, engineers, and essentially act as the music director. Becoming a producer in that sense doesn’t happen overnight, it takes years of learning not only the art of music but the business of music as well, and how to position people to be more successful as a team than as separate entities. Offering key direction on the small nuances of a song, coaching an artist regarding particular overtones or inflections of the voice to help bring out the message more; these are things a producer does. A beatmaker just makes the music and in most cases has no insight or input into the final song product. It should be a true collaboration, not two independent things,” Premise says.

Now, Premise owns Straight-N-Narrow Productions, a production company he founded while a student at Pitt. He is also the director of media for iStandard Producers showcase. In both roles he has been able to provide up and coming acts as a spring board to perform in shows across the country. To date, Premise has worked with over 50 artists.

“I’m a strong believer that those who help others will get it back ten-fold eventually. I don’t ask for much back from those I help, but the respect I feel from them is what makes it worth doing. It brings me an inner peace to assist those who I’m in a position too. In my current role with iStandard Producers as Director of Media, I have a good line into the industry to help those who deserve it or who’ve helped me. Musically speaking, I’ve put out three compilations over the years, and they wouldn’t have been anything near what they were without some of those same artists,” Premise says.

Premise is working on new material, and although hush about upcoming project he is telling fans to look out for collaborations with DJ Revolution.

Extra Extra Read About It:

Releases: 2004 (The Payoff), 2010 (Infiltrate, Instigate, Expand)  2011 (Open Eyed Dream)

Some people believe the DJ and producer are related:

DJing is more selecting records and playing them at the timely moments for a crowd, to excite the crowd and energize them, while producing is where it all starts. A DJ is nothing without a producer, and a producer wouldn’t be known without the DJ. They definitely drive one another, and there used to be far more DJ’s who actually created new beats with existing records on the spot. You don’t hear that as much anymore for some reason.

Who is the godfather of producers?:

I’m only 29, but I can trace the history of producing as it relates to hip-hop back to the true originator of the Beat-Box, Doug E Fresh. Obviously there were producers prior to him, but he created an entire sub-culture within the Hip-Hop world and to me he is one of the true pioneers.
Where did the name for your production company, Straight-N-Narrow Productions, come from?:

That name was chosen for a few reasons… First, when I sit down to create, there’s always a focus, a specific lane or discerning trait to the music. There’s a dominant emotion coming through the speakers. Secondly, to enter the gates of heaven require walking the straight-n-narrow path, and although I admittedly have a ways to go with that personally, every time I see the SNN name I’m reminded of glory. In addition, over the years I’ve probably worked with over 50 artists and all of them are a piece of what SNN has become, so I’m thankful for that.

How did you learn producing?:

My father being a drummer, its in the blood. I can say I’ve never had training. I’m self-taught and I read, plus creating music is in my bloodline.

Written by Thomas Agnew