I’ll never forget it; it was late August 2001. That’s when I became a committed fan of Roc-A-Fella Records, right after hearing the bootleg of The Blueprint. The beats sounded like the evolution of the sound that was introduced on Jay-Z’s previous album The Dynasty: Roc La Familia—it was a soulful throwback, sample-heavy yet modern. And it sounded like nothing else.
Flash-forward eight years… Kanye West, one of the architects of that sound, is a huge star. Just Blaze is the Art Garfunkel to West’s Paul Simon and it’s a shame because the guy is just as talented behind the boards.
I love Just Blaze’s beats. To me, he’s like the second coming of DJ Premier in that both have the ability to cram the very essence of hip hop into a single track. They’ve got a signature sound that’s hard to nail down; you know something they’ve produced when you hear it. He’s like the Kobe to Primo’s Jordan.
But Just Blaze, while once a peer of Kanye, seems to have fallen off the map. His production seems to have slowed to a crawl the last couple of years, with tons of his work not getting released at all (The Greatest Story Never Told).
It’s frustrating because it was his contribution that made me throw the diamond up. His arrival is what cemented the Roc as label to be reckoned with. He and Kanye were in-house production, finally the label had a sound. I really want to hear that sound right now.
Kanye’s got his solo albums, Common and John Legend to showcase his skills behind the boards. Just’s got Saigon, maybe. There’s no one to consistently spit over Just Blaze tracks and as such, he’s in danger of being relegated to the “Greatest Producer Who Completely Fell off the Map” along with Q-Tip. But at least Q-Tip had an honest-to-goodness tragedy to account for his disappearance as a producer.
I’m worried that Just Blaze, who used to write the video-game column for XXL, has completely fallen under the thrall of the PS3 or 360 and is now more gamer than producer.
It’s 2009 and hip hop’s on life support. As much as I liked recent offerings from Nas, Joe Budden and Jadakiss, I’m sure that hearing them spit over a Just Blaze beat would have made the listening experience that much better.
I want emcees to go and knock on Just Blaze’s door and demand hot beats to rhyme over. He’s a slumbering giant and it’s time someone wakes him up.
Tags: Common, DJ Premier, Jadakiss, Jay-Z, Joe Budden, Kanye West, Nas, Q-Tip