In an alternate universe, D'Angelo's "Devil's Pie" instrumental would have gone to Canibus, as revealed by DJ Premier.
Throughout his storied career, the legendary DJ Premier has amassed no shortage of gems and anecdotes, the likes of which have pleased hip-hop heads for years. Now, Primo has connected with Tom Segura for his Tom Talks podcast, where he proceeded to share many interesting tales -- including one about the time Canibus turned down the instrumental that would go on to become D'Angelo's "Devil's Pie."
DJ Premier at Jay-Z's Concert at Radio City Music Hall Afterparty Arrivals - June 25, 2006 . Jason Kempin/FilmMagic/Getty Images
After Premier reflects on landing his first-ever gold record for Notorious B.I.G's "Unbelievable," Tom asks, with adamance mind you, as to "how the fuck" Canibus could possibly pass on the "Devil's Pie" instrumental. For those who don't know, "Devil's Pie" was ultimately served up to D'Angelo, and held it down as an undeniable highlight on his timeless Voodoo album. In an alternate universe, however, it may very well have belonged to Canibus.
D'Angelo - Devil's Pie
"Who knows," reflects Premier. "He hates when I talk about it, but it's all good. He's still my homie. And it's simple. You just don't like it. And I'm one of the few to give the cheque back. You get half up front when you do the job, you turn it in and do the other half. I gave it back to him the day after, once the offices opened, out of respect for him. I don't want to take the first half of your budget -- keep it for your pockets. But since it didn't click, it just happened that D'Angelo called right as Canibus was leaving the lab."
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"Me and D had a friendship already," explains Primo. "When he said what are you up to, I said 'me and Canibus worked on something but he didn't use the beat.' He's like 'what are you doing with it?' I was like 'we just did it, it's not really for a singer to sing on.' He goes 'come bring it, I'm in Electric Lady (Jimi Hendrix's studio). I had just cooked it, cause Bis said 'I need a driving mean bassline record. I'ma do this song called 'Ni**anometry.' That's what I cooked up, and we didn't see eye to eye on that being the right track."
Canibus' 'Negronometry' -- the song he intended to make with DJ Premier.
"So when I got to D'Angelo's and played it for him, he just started going 'WOOOOOOOO!!! Oh I'm going to fuckin' kill this!'" Primo's face narrows. "I was like 'are you sure?' Next thing you know -- I don't know if people saw the picture of me, D'Angelo,Alchemist, and J Dilla together, because J Dilla was there recording some drums, and Questlove was there recording some stuff for the 'How Does It Feel' record." Primo even makes note of D'Angelo teasing his upcoming nude video appearance in "How Does It Feel." "I was like word? And when that video dropped, I was like maaaaaan...."
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For more gems from DJ Premier, be sure to check out the third episode of Tom Talks below, and look for this particular anecdote to pop around the thirty-seven minute mark. And take a moment to reflect on what might have been had Canibus used the "Devil's Pie" beat, and D'Angelo's Voodoo was left without one of its crucial bangers.