Just Blaze is an artist who evolves. He has seamlessly blended his career as one of Hip Hop’s most influential producers with his ongoing career as a DJ, which in 2014, is stronger than ever. His ability to adapt and his hunger to experience and take advantage of what’s new, have kept Just Blaze at the cutting edge of music and kept him at the top.
As with most musically minded individuals, he grew up immersed in sounds and culture, which are just as much a part of him today, as they were back then.
“I had a really interesting musical upbringing. I was always destroying my mother’s records trying to scratch them and I didn’t understand the concept of DJing or anything like that. I just knew that one record had music, one record had vocals and somehow they could work together.
“Where I grew up, in New Jersey, you heard just as much Hip-Hop as you did House, and everything in between. I was the weird dude that would show up at the High School rave or the College kid rave, playing rave records but scratching them like they were Hip-Hop records. I didn’t know that was unique… People would ask, ‘you’re scratching rave records?’ and i’d say, ‘well yeah, that’s what DJs do, they scratch!’
“Younger generations have caught on to the fact that it’s cool to like more than one thing. Back in the day you were either a Reggae DJ, you were a Hip-Hop DJ, you were a Deep-House DJ, you were a Techno DJ, you were a Trance DJ. Now it’s just like ‘Yo, I’m a DJ, I like music and I play music.’
His DJ sets are full of energy and full of life. He takes his crowds with him as he moves between classic rap hits and highly charged electronic tracks. It’s the Just Blaze spectrum. It’s what he knows and what he likes, but most importantly, what he thinks the crowd will enjoy.
“I play the same way, whether I’m playing at like a festival for 30,000 people, or to a family party with 100 people. It’s all about energy and giving people the best show that you can give them, helping people have the best time they can have. For me, that is what DJing is all about, it’s taking the crowd on a ride, taking them on a journey with you. A show or a party has to have it’s peaks, it has to have it’s valleys. I need to get them excited and then bring them down, and then bring them back up and bring them back down – tell a story from music, you know.
“I don’t want to be thinking, I want to hear this record now, so my set sounds messy. I want it to be seamless so I gradually build it down, and then back up. Some guys would just force a record on the crowd without gradually working up to it because they want to play what they want to hear, I don’t like that.”
One of the most interesting things about Just Blaze is his fascination with all things technology. It’s one of the parts of his persona that has driven him to adapt and grow as a producer and as a DJ. Whether it’s an app he uses to capture a sample while out and about, a high-end studio production tool, or a new DJing tool, he jumps right in.
“I’m a tech dude in general. The more things get slimmed down and downsized just amazes me. The fact that you can conceptualize, record, mix and master an entire record on a laptop with nothing else needed is amazing.
“When the latest in production software comes out, everyone jumps on it. When you have certain advancements in DJ technology there’s always a lot of resistance, which I never understood. Taking it back to the earliest days of DJing, DJs were using belt drive turntables just rigged up to an amp. Then came the mixer. Were people who were using mixers cheating? No. Then came computers. DJing with a computer is all of a sudden cheating? Why?
“It doesn’t mix for you, it doesn’t scratch for you, it doesn’t tell you what records to play, it doesn’t tell you what order to play them in, it doesn’t work your crowd for you. It just makes it so that you don’t have to carry 10 crates of records to a party anymore, which my back appreciates!”
Just Blaze is an artist who embodies progress. From his early production all the way through to his latest collaboration with Baauer, an artist from a much younger generation, he’s constantly pushed himself to grow. Being a DJ is at the heart of what Just Blaze does and it’s exciting to see how much further he will take it.
“It’s not cheating, it’s progress, and if you look historically through the past 30 to 40 years of DJ culture that have developed, it’s always been about progress and making your life easier so that you can engage your crowd. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the crowd. I don’t care if you use pots and pans, whatever you use, just as long as the party rocks, that’s all that matters.
“It’s a great time to be a DJ, a great time.”