Born Chris Martin, DJ Premier spent time in Brooklyn and Houston while growing up, and studied computer science at Prairie View A&M outside Houston. Known as Waxmaster C, he'd already learned to play a variety of instruments and also managed a record store. After moving back to Brooklyn, around 1987-1988 he came into contact with Guru, a Boston native. Guru had already formed a group named Gang Starr two years earlier (and recorded with the 45 King), but his former partner, Mike Dee, had returned to Boston. DJ Premier and Guru signed to Wild Pitch and released a debut single ("Manifest") and album (No More Mr. Nice Guy). Gang Starr's interest in melding hip-hop with jazz informed the record, and they were invited to add to the soundtrack for Spike Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. Their subsequent work was much more mature and unified, with a pair of instant East Coast classics (1991's Step in the Arena and 1992's Daily Operation) arriving in short order.
Premier returned in force with the new millennium, including shots with Common, D.I.T.C., D'Angelo, Jadakiss, and Snoop Dogg. Gang Starr went out in top form with The Ownerz, their sixth and last album, in 2003, after which Premier remained consistently active. Each year into the late 2010s, he was involved with anywhere between several and over a dozen projects. His greatest commercial success was achieved with several co-productions on Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics, including the Top Ten pop hit "Ain't No Other Man." Apart from the occasional mainstream gig, such as remixing Maroon 5 and scratching on a Chris Brown track, the producer worked primarily in the underground and issued the occasional solo project, such as multiple volumes of Beats That Collected Dust. He collaborated extensively with Bumpy Knuckles (Kolexxxion, 2012) and Royce da 5'9" (PRhyme, 2015), and added to his West Coast contacts by clocking studio time with Dr. Dre ("Animals," 2015), Miguel ("2 Lovin U," 2017), and MC Eiht (Which Way Iz West, 2017). He was among the executive producers of VH1's The Breaks, for which he also provided music. ~ John Bush & Andy Kellman