Producer Just Blaze mistakenly thought his schedule would be less hectic now that one of his main collaborators, Jay-Z, is supposedly cozying up at the hip-hop retirement home. But that hasn't been the case.
In fact, the producer, who has created beats for Jay since 2000's The Dynasty: Roc La Familia album, is busier now than he's ever been.
"As much as I try to lay low sometimes and rejuvenate, I haven't really gone anywhere," Blaze said recently. "I'm still working as much as ever."
Blaze has recently been in the studio with Fabolous, Joe Budden, Carl Thomas and Nick Cannon. He assembled the Jay-Z S. Carter: The Remix CD that accompanied the release of the S. Carter shoe with Reebok, which features several of his remixes, including "99 Problems," "Public Service Announcement" and "Allure." Blaze also remixed Jay-Z's collaboration with Lenny Kravitz, "Storm."
In the midst of all his studio work, the producer has also had to deal with some controversy of late. Blaze produced a beat that's been used twice — once as a white-label street single by Roc-A-Fella rapper Peedi Crakk, and then for Cannon, on the young singer's single "Get Crunk Shorty." Cannon's use of the sample is official and thus the one that will be released, which caused Peedi to bad-mouth Blaze in interviews and created friction between Blaze and the label.
"There's no tension on my side at all," Blaze explained. "I have nothing but love for the artists over there. I gave [Peedi] a beat a year and a half ago. He recorded the song [with rapper N.O.R.E.] but nobody from the Roc told me that the song existed. Meanwhile, I sold the beat to Nick Cannon."
Blaze said he's since smoothed out the conflict with Peedi and hopes his relationship with Roc-A-Fella is just as reparable. "As a producer, the last thing you want to do is sabotage a relationship with an artist," he said. "I'm actually supposed to work with [Roc's] Freeway soon and I'm working with Memphis Bleek on his new album."
Another artist who will feature Just Blaze beats this summer is Shyne. The two worked on a couple of songs before Shyne was sentenced to prison (see "Shyne Signs Deal With Def Jam From Behind Bars"). He said songs that appear on Shyne's album will essentially be the same tracks. "I may add a few new twists to them, but for the most part they liked the songs the way they were."
Blaze is doing all his work now at Baseline Studios in New York, which he purchased at the beginning of the year. The studio has been the main base of operations for Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella for the past several years. "It still bugs me out, because not even six years ago I was an intern at a studio," Blaze said. "I never imagined things would go this far."
In addition to the work he's doing with other labels' rappers, Blaze is spending time developing his own artists. He's close to signing a deal with New York MC Saigon, whose album would be released through Blaze's soon-to-be-titled label.
"He was open to the idea of working with me," Blaze said. "He wants someone to produce him, someone to make him greater than he already is. I've gotten past the stage of making hot beats — I'm trying to make real records now."