An Evening With Just Blaze and the Blazettes

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Before I begin let me say two things: first, I think DJing takes an immense amount of dexterity, reflex and an intangible sense of creating natural, yet unique, segues between records.  Second, I think Just Blaze is an amazing producer and an amazing DJ.  In fact, with regards to the second point, Blaze’s collision of buzzing synths and manipulated soul samples were the primary reason for scoping Just Blaze’s DJ set at Oakland’s New Parrish.  His time spent as Roc-A-Fella’s unofficial in-house producer paved the way for other superstar producers, like Kanye West and Pharrell, whose soundscapes would often intercept the spotlight from their lyrical counterparts.  Just Blaze is an awesome producer.  Bangers like Jay-Z’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and Dipset’s brilliantly subversive “Built This City” were often the panache highlights on albums.  The boasts of seemingly infinite wealth from the rappers on Roc-A-Fella’s roster, needed to be housed in belletristic and ornamental beats.  Just Blaze was the master architect behind these structures.

Also feeding the enigma I was paying to see was the fact that Blaze used to wear a diamond-encrusted Playstation controller. He also took the nickname Megatron (the Decepticons’ nefarious leader) long before the Detroit Lions star wideout.  Finally, JB often gloated about his massive sneaker-collections’ balance between quality and quantity.

Along with being aesthetically pleasing, Just Blaze producing a track was essentially integrating a “brand” into the song.  Blaze’s ethos is one that philosophically suggests that you can spend Friday night playing Street Fighter, watching ‘80s-babies cartoons and sucking down junk food. Then, come Saturday, you can rub elbows with exotic-models, ethnicities elusive, while wearing colorful sneakers (because loafers are for squares).  Of course this brand is suggesting a lifestyle which is essentially bullshit and unobtainable but it’s fun to hypothesize, and, frankly, that’s always been the beauty of rap music (or hair metal for that matter).  These hypothetical ideas were really what I wanted to be conveyed through Blaze’s 1s & 2s: Transforming robots, video games, fast-paced, aggressive, geeky rap music.

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I should add now that this Just Blaze and the lineup of other DJs were performing at what’s called the 45 Sessions, where only 45” records were allowed.  Full disclosure, this caveat was readily available so I really have no grounds on which to legitimately complain but I’m going to complain anyway.  The record collections, getting work that night were obscure.  My guess is that these were samplings from majestic collections.  Collections which vinyl enthusiasts probably drool over.  I’m sure, and I’m trying to say this non-sarcastically, that there are fewer things more satisfying for a vinyl enthusiast than spending an evening alone in their house, drinking beer and perusing their oceans of records and listening to oddball releases. A solitary evening alone is probably euphoric and delivers its practitioners to a state of Zen.  I wholeheartedly condone this hobby, however, the operative idea is that your weird, obscure and byzantine record collection should stay in your house or in holy circles of other vinyl-worshipping druids.

It was Friday.  It was a Friday that was particularly prevalent because of all those boring reasons people love Fridays (e.g. it was a long week at work, we’re in the throng of the hectic holiday season and so forth… ).  I was now on my second overpriced Tecate.  I wasn’t trying to think too hard. I just wanted to drink beer and hear Blaze capitulate samples and lay them over his ferocious 808 smacks and then merge in acapellas from Jay-Z, T.I., Game, Cam’ron, Freeway, Saigon and so forth.  It actually started this way as “the Megatron Don” opened with “U Don’t Know” from Jay-Z’s canonized Blueprint. It sounded stellar.  The squeaky declarations of “YOUUUU Don’t Know!!!” were hoisted up over other vocal samples, all the while plucked apart by Blaze’s sonic harp jabs.  It was like watching Dr. Frankenstein gather arms, legs, eyeballs and sew them all together on the spot, hence reanimating Frankenstein’s monster.

Throughout the night the party’s host kept reminding the crowd that “Only 45” records were allowed.”  The joviality in his voice seemed to suggest that this stipulation was a good thing. We were then told that if we wanted to hear Drake or A$AP Rocky we were “in the wrong fucking place.”  You’re so authentic; we get it.  I soon grew nervous about Just Blaze’s forthcoming set.  The charm of the 45”, I gathered, was that these were basically discontinued relics of yesteryear.  In other words, 45”s typically hold old music.  “Maybe Blaze pulled a few strings and has ‘Touch the Sky’ on vinyl?”  He did not.  After “U Don’t Know”, it was a barrage of old soul.  My guess, unsung singers who, despite adept vocal chops, were overshadowed by The Supremes, Mayfields and so forth.

None of the music Blaze, or any of the other DJs played was “bad” per se.  However, as  I mentioned before, the cheap-beer was not cheap and the week had been long.  Therefore, my hope was to get a mild buzz and hear Just Blaze re-sequence the soundtrack to my pipedreams of immature excess.  I’m sure Just Blaze has an incredible record collection.  I’m sure to a vinyl guru, the records I was hearing were gems and I wasn’t taking full advantage of the opportunity to hear such rarities.  However, it was Friday evening and come Monday I’d accept being underpaid again,. However, at that moment, I just want to shut my fatigued eyes and pretend I was a high-ranking member of the Roc circa 2002 or alternatively, a high-ranking member of Dipset, circa 2003. Am I so wrong for wanting something viscerally pleasing?

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