Just Blaze Says He’s Given M.O.P. All The Beats Intended For Their Roc-A-Fella Album
Just Blaze is the latest guest on Let The Record Show. The highly-respected producer tells hosts Mike Pizzo and Warren Peace about the personal significance of songs by Main Source, Nas, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Genesis, and others, as they play on a turntable.
At the end of the segment, the hosts play a few records that Just Blaze produced. One is the blue vinyl-Blueprint edition of 2001’s “U Don’t Know.” It is one of three songs Just laced on the #1 album, not including a hidden bonus song “Breathe Easy.” The records prompt the Patterson, New Jersey representative to talk about the Roc-A-Fella sessions and some mixing techniques behind the song. In doing so, he shares some cool news of sorts.
“[JAY-Z’s] The Blueprint wasn’t planned,” says Blaze at around 41:00. “[Kanye West] had given Jay a few beats, then [JAY-Z] came to the studio one day, walked in on a Friday and was like, ‘Just, do you have any beats?’” He had grown up with Bobby Byrd’s I Need Help (Live On Stage) in his parents’ record crates. In 2001, Just had sampled “I’m Not To Blame” as something he considered building upon. At Jay’s request, he played the beat in its current state.
“To me, this version was always a demo,” continues Just Blaze. “Because [JAY-Z] loved it so much we just went and ran with it.” The Roc record maker details how he felt about the construction of the beat, “I never flushed it out the way I wanted to…” Though he wasn’t all the way satisfied with the project, the opportunity to clean up the beat came a year later for The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse‘s “U Don’t Know (Remix).” That version featured the newly-signed Roc-A-Fella artists M.O.P., who Jay had worked with previously.
“When Jay got M.O.P. to be on the remix, it was [recorded to] the same beat,” says Just. However, it presented an opportunity. “I was like ‘If I get a chance to redo this, I’m doing it the way I really wanted to do it.’” Blaze got what he wished for and elaborates on the reconstruction of the Bobby Byrd sample.
Referring to the original version, Just adds some technical information. “One of the hard things for me at that time was trying to figure out how do we get the horns to scream without interfering with [the rappers’] vocals.” He details how mix engineer Jason Goldstein suggested using a compression technique, sometimes used in House music. “Whenever Jay was rapping, we didn’t do a level compression; we did a frequency-based compression.” Using science and technology, the resulting mix allowed the beat to be boisterous, without ever eclipsing the song’s crystal-clear vocals.
DJ Warren Peace and Mike Pizzo ask Just more about Mash Out Posse’s short-lived tenure at the Roc. “So the funny thing is, we had half an album planned,” recalls the producer. “They picked the beats and everything, but nothing ever got vocal’d.”
Just Blaze remained at Baseline Studios long after Roc-A-Fella’s founders had sold the company and parted ways. In closing down the sacred recording studio two years ago, Just says he found those beats that were set aside for Billy Danze and Lil Fame. “I found the folder of beats. ‘Cause when we closed Baseline, we made sure that we digitized everything. I tweeted, ‘Yo, I found the M.O.P. beat folder.'”
Shortly after the tweet, Just was DJ’ing at his Mobile Mondays post in Lower Manhattan. He got a visit. “[Lil] Fame pulls up to Mobile Mondays like, ‘Yo, I heard you was gonna be here, and I heard you got a folder of beats.’ I had just bought the new Lambo’ that day,” he says of the Italian sports car. He took the MC/producer over to the expensive ride. “So we jump in the car, and I play him the folder. He took the whole folder, like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna make something out of this.’ I haven’t seen him since. But M.O.P. does have those beats now.” Just says that in the early 2000s, Fame and Bill never took the tracks home with them. “So they didn’t get those beats until 15 years later.” Just praises M.O.P.’s 2000 Warriorz album, the released they made just before signing with Roc-A-Fella.
Just Blaze also discusses some other Roc relics. “There’s a whole [Memphis] Bleek and [Beanie Sigel] album no ones ever heard,” he reveals. “The State Property album came about because we were doing a Bleek and Beans album.” During the time of the collaborative album’s recording, Bleek’s brother was seriously injured in a car accident. “He wasn’t in the right mindset, but the studio was already booked,” explains Blaze, “So, State Property happened instead. That’s where ‘Roc The Mic’ came from.”
Elsewhere in the Let The Show conversation, Just Blaze reveals assembling a super-group of producers for Slaughterhouse’s unfinished Shady Records sophomore LP. He also explains how Genesis influenced his production on JAY-Z’s “Show Me What You Got.”
#BonusBeat: Lil Fame recently posted a photograph of M.O.P. back in the lab with longtime affiliate DJ Premier: