REVOLT TV presents The Produce Section, where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today, to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, The Produce Section is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
The late '90s birthed a slew of producers who would direct the sound of hip hop for the next decade. This group included Just Blaze, a boardsman who propelled himself to the front of the pack with a succession of hit records and classic deep cuts. Born and raised in New Jersey, Just Blaze caught the rap bug early on, utilizing his prowess as a computer programmer and hacker to tinker with MPCs, SP-1200s, and other various tools of a producer's trade. After dropping out of Rutgers University to pursue a career in music, one of the then-unknown beat-maker's earliest production credits was on Ma$e's short-lived rap crew's -- which was called Harlem World -- 1999 single, "I Like It." However, Just Blaze's big break would come after linking up with Roc-A-Fella artist Beanie Sigel to producer the track for "Who Want What," a song featuring Memphis Bleek from the Philly native's 2000 debut, The Truth. This collaboration piqued the interest of other Roc-A-Fella artists, particularly JAY-Z, who enlisted Just Blaze to contribute tracks to his fifth studio album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. Soon after, Just Blaze would become The Roc's de facto in-house producer, placing his imprint on several classic Roc-A-Fella albums and emerging as one of the hottest producers in all of rap.
However, when Roc-A-Fella's trio of CEOs decided to split ties years later, The Roc ultimately crumbled. This ended one of the greatest movements in rap, which Just Blaze was a key component of. While Just Blaze has continued to stake his claim as one of the greatest producers of the past two decades by working with an array of rap artists and crossing over into other genres, he will always be remembered -- first and foremost -- for his tenure at Roc-A-Fella Records and the impact he had on ushering the label into its peak years atop the rap game.
In our latest installment of The Produce Section, we celebrate Just Blaze and highlight 13 of his most iconic beats from his run with Roc-A-Fella Records that define his excellence behind the boards.
1. "Beanie (Mac Bitch)"
The year 2001 was a breakout year for Just Blaze with the producer lending his talents to a bevy of Roc-A-Fella releases. This single from Beanie Sigel's sophomore album, The Reason, among them. Drums, shakers, keys, and other quirks are the ingredients that make this jittery instrumental a memorable collaboration between the New Jersey native and the Broad Street Bully.
2. "Girls, Girls, Girls"
Wails from R&B singer Tom Brock's 1974 release, "There's Nothing in This World That Can Stop Me From Loving You," serve as the foundation for this cut from The Blueprint, which captures JAY-Z giving a rundown of his plethora of ladies. Speeding up multiple elements of the track, Just Blaze reinforces the track with sturdy percussion, littering it with Brock's vocals. This results in a wistful composition that helped usher in the soul-sample craze.
3. "U Don't Know"
We don't know what was coursing through Just Blaze's veins when he crafted this epic production from The Blueprint. But, whatever it was enabled JAY-Z to deliver a performance that crushed buildings and set the streets on fire. Doing work with a sample of Bobby Byrd's "I'm Not to Blame," Just takes Byrd's vocals and transforms the pitch to a screech, which he scatters throughout. This results in an instrumental that helped solidify the New Jersey native as a god level boardsman.
4. "Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise)"
In 2001, JAY-Z flexed his lyrical muscles with this hidden track on The Blueprint. Consisting of 808s, kicks and snares with terse piano keys and cymbals from Stanley Clarke's 1978 release, "Got to Find My Own Place," Just Blaze cooks up this brooding soundscape, over which Hova runs the gauntlet with flawless execution.
5. "Show You How"
Just Blaze had every producer in the game trying to catch up after hooking up this mind-bending composition, which saw him chopping up record scratches and pairing them with a drum loop and searing synths. Originally leaked to the streets, this mixtape classic was tacked onto JAY-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse album as a bonus cut and ranks on the upper spectrum of Just Blaze tracks from his Roc-A-Fella tenure.
6. "Some How Some Way"
Guitar licks and horns from Jermaine Jackson's 1978 cut, "Castles of Sand," get reworked by Just Blaze for this introspective offering from The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse. In addition to the instrumentation, the beat maestro also lifts vocals from the original, altering the pitch on Jackson's hums and lyrics from the bridge at the song's end to add an infectious wrinkle to this soulful backdrop.
7. "Oh Boy"
In 2002, Just Blaze welcomed Cam'ron to The R.O.C. with this track, which was released as the lead single for the Diplomat's Roc-A-Fella debut, Come Home With Me. Working with a sample of Rose Royce's 1976 hit, "I'm Going Down," Just Blaze speeds up the open riff of the track -- a sample of Royce's vocals -- and chops up another section to create this backdrop. Littering the track with xylophones, kicks, snares, and more; the boardsman crafted his most successful record. The song would later peak in the top 5 of the Hot 100 and help push Come Home With Me past the platinum mark.
8. "Welcome to New York City"
Roc-A-Fella Records' acquisition of Cam'ron was a major coup. But, it led many to wonder if the elephant in the room that was the Harlem rapper's rivalry with label-head JAY-Z would be addressed. The question would be answered with this classic ode to the five boroughs, which Just Blaze provided the instrumental for. Hooking up tumbling drums that thud against the frantic piano keys and synths, Roc-A-Fella's chief boardsman crafted one of the most epic collaborations between two of New York's finest. The track remains one of the greater Big Apple anthems in rap history.
9. "The R.O.C. (Just Fire)"
An extravaganza occurred when Just Blaze hopped behind the boards to construct this instrumental for Cam'ron's bar-fest with label-mates Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek. This song was for the Dipset leader's third studio album, Come Home With Me. The climax of Reg Tilsley Orchestra's 1972 number, "Warlock" is matched with thumping percussion with Just Blaze incorporating scratches of various records, including Beanie and Bleek's 2000 collaborative effort, "Who Want What." The glorious horns and crashing cymbals are coupled with kicks and snares. This results in a track with enough firepower to spark a four-alarm blaze.
10. "I Really Mean It"
The live version of R&B singer Major Harris' 1976 single, "I Got Over Love" is the secret ingredient in this glorious production by Just Blaze, which doubles as one of the definitive collaborations between him and The Diplomats. Utilizing various parts of the sample, Just Blaze bolsters the elements with his Midas touch, transforming it into the regal soundscape we know it as today.
11. "What We Do"
Just Blaze's knack for doling out certified club bangers is what helped him stake his claim. But, the producer displayed his ability to set the backdrop for a street anthem with this offering from Freeway's 2003 debut. Drawing listeners in with crashing cymbals, Just Blaze creates the crux of the track by looting Creative Source's "I Just Can't See Myself Without You," pairing the sample with kicks and snares. The result was a song that has gone down as one of the last great moments for Roc-A-Fella Records. It provoked an A1 performance from The God MC, himself.
12. "Public Service Announcement (Interlude)"
When JAY-Z was looking to reintroduce himself to the masses, he knew there was only one person who could set the ambiance for him effectively: Just Blaze. And the beat-smith rose to the occasion, crafting this monstrous production, which finds him reworking multiple elements from Little Boy Blues' 1968 release, "Seed of Love." Incorporating a sample of dialogue from Dick Gregory's spoken word piece, "Moral Gap," Just Blaze goes bonkers with this selection, which doubles as the pinnacle of Hov and Just Blaze's collection of classic songs.
13. "Bread & Butter"
One of Just Blaze's most overlooked production credits is from this contribution to Beanie Sigel's third studio-album, which stacks up with his grandest and most expansive work to date. Picking apart various elements and dialogue from "Proud of You" by Johnny Guitar Watson, Just Blaze speeds Watson's intro up, resulting in the pitch you hear on his vocals on the final product. Enhancing the instrumentation with crisp percussion, Just Blaze gives the track an orchestral feel. This makes it one of his most masterful compositions and a gem in his discography.
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