Award-winning producer DJ Premier took the stage on Saturday at City Hall. The “beat tailor” has worked with stars like Nas, Jay-Z, and Christina Aguilera. To boot, he’s the other half of acclaimed hip-hop group Gang Starr. The Denver show was the collaboration between City Hall and Shoe Shine 7, a sneaker and art competition. We talked to DJ Premier last week about crowds, Heavy D, and longevity.

What excites a crowd? “I just read the crowd. Certain things may not work like they did elsewhere. If not, I’m always ready to correct it. You know, I’m a professional. I studied Iron Maiden. I studied Ozzy Osbourne. I studied, you know, the Commodores. I studied Prince live. I saw Fat Boy. I saw Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. So now that I’m given the opportunity, I know how to rip it.”

What is your take on the hip-hop culture in Colorado? “I’ve played Colorado many times and it’s always been great, I’ve played Vail. I’ve played Denver. It’s always been great.”

How has the loss of so many hip-hop icons—most recently Heavy D—impacted hip-hop culture as a whole? “It hurts man, you know, to lose too many. And it’s not like it’s rappers we haven’t heard of. …These were people who had albums and albums and platinum status and we looked up to. …I just look at it as a wake-up call.”

What’s your secret to longevity in the industry? “No secret, you’ve just got to study. You’ve got to know everybody. I’m still addicted to making a new beat and I’m still addicted to getting on the turntables and showing off. And I’m still addicted to wearing the fly new T-shirts, where it’s like ‘Yo, where did you get that shirt from?’ I’m still a major fan who has been given the opportunity to create my own music that makes people feel good, and I don’t want to stop doing it because I want to be like the Stones or the Beatles and Paul McCartney. That’s what I am. I’m of that cloth. I’m of the Quincy Jones cloth. I’m of the Sly and the Family Stone cloth. So that’s why my hip-hop stays funky.

—Image courtesy of CoClubs