Two hip-hop legends take each other on in Auckland this weekend to showcase the art of turntablism. Chris Schulz chats to DJ Premier.

A DJ battle competition. A hip-hop block party. A lesson in turntablism. A trip through rap's history books.

DJ Premier and Pete Rock's upcoming Auckland show is all of those things. But it's also something else: it's stopping the two hip-hop legends from coming to blows.

That's because the idea for their joint show stems from a near-fist fight between the two.

It was sparked when Rock nearly made Premier and his crew late for a flight while on tour together in Japan.


"We were on our way back home, and Pete almost caused us to miss our flight because he went record-shopping just as we were leaving our hotel," Premiere - real name Christopher Martin - explains to TimeOut.

"We were all angry with him. We couldn't find him. He wasn't picking up his phone. We had five minutes to leave. We were like, 'Dude, what's going on?' He's like, 'I know I know - I'll just run upstairs and pack'.

"I was like, 'Pack?!' You know what, now it's for real, we need to battle [over turntables] otherwise I'm going to fight you physically," he laughs.

Initially, the pair planned to collaborate on an album. But, seven years later, it's been sidetracked by demands for the pair to tour their two-hour freeform show.

They'll be showcasing it for the first time in New Zealand at the Powerstation on Saturday night, and with no strict rules or dedicated setlist, no two shows are the same.

During their recent Melbourne visit, they dedicated half an hour to James Brown hits on what would have been the soul singer's birthday.

"It's a lesson in the true art form of the culture I represent, hip-hop," explains Premier.

"There are two sets of turntables set up, side by side. It's a battle format, Pete and I go record for record. I feed off what he plays, he feeds off what I play. We switch it up sometimes - we've done tributes to J Dilla, a Run DMC vs LL Cool J battle, we play hip-hop songs, then the songs that they sampled.

"We can go in so many different directions because we're so well-versed, not just in hip-hop, but in music. We were around from before rap started so we know all of this is important to anybody who comes out to see us."

You wouldn't blame Premier for starting to slow down. He's nearing 50 and has produced some of the biggest albums and names in the hip-hop world over the past four decades.

But if you want to feel tired, just ask him what he's been up to.

That simple question takes the hip-hop producer nearly five minutes to answer, as he rattles off a dizzying array of work-in-progress that would make most producers want to have a lie-down.

His upcoming production roster includes high-profile records by major rappers like Wale, Nas and MOP, a Gang Starr tribute album, some "secret projects", and songs destined for big name pop stars like Mary J Blige, Miguel, Christina Aguilera and Ed Sheeran.

"I'm all over the place making sure that I'm staying in the mix of everything that's cooking," he says.

And after a career that's seen him responsible for some of hip-hop's biggest songs, which beat of his is his favourite?

"I don't have a favourite beat. Anything that leaves the studio I'm happy with, once it leaves I intend for it to get to the world so they can do what they do."

For those heading along on Saturday night, you'll get to wave your hands in the air like you just don't care to a choice selection of them.

Who: DJ Premier and Pete Rock
What: Turntable battle show Collusion 001
Where: Auckland's Powerstation, Saturday, May 10

- TimeOut