Last night Just Blaze held the final goodbye for his legendary Baseline recording studio. Naturally, I found out about the evening’s festivities, which reportedly were a walk-through and tour sort of thing, super late. I wound up making my way over around 10pm, after leaving the ego trip film screening. Timmhotep came with. I entered the studio to see what looked like actual organized confusion in the lounge. Boxes everywhere, records packed up, gear laying around, sneakers, pool balls and assorted memorabilia. I’d once been involved with the closing of a major studio (Mystic Studios, in Staten Island, where a lot of classic material was recorded), and remember the disaster which became of the studio space when the equipment was broken down and storage spaces were cleaned out. It’s really a trip down memory lane.
I wish I could say I had a really close relationship with Baseline, but I didn’t. That’s not to say I don’t have my memories of it like anyone else. Here are a few that come to mind.
- My first time playing beats in the A room. This was around December of 2002. The Blueprint 2 had just come out, and somehow someway a friend of mine met Geda K at a party or something, and asked him for music for these DJ Storm mixtapes we were recording out of the Staten Island studio I had at the time. We wound up at Baseline that night, and playing beats for Geda K and the rest of the Get Low Records artists. That was the first time I met Just Blaze. I recall being ushered out of the studio super late that night- Mariah Carey had arrived and to the best of my knowledge they cut “Oh Boy” in that session.
- I would occasionally go back to check the Get Low Records rappers, and they cut a few songs to beats of mine, but nothing ever came of it. I didn’t get back into Baseline really until the Spring of 2004, when Matt Fingaz brought myself and my then manager, Gello Jones, up there during a session with Ayatollah in the B room. During that session I met the rapper Smitty, who at the time was signed to J Records, and gave him a beat CD, but didn’t really get his contacts or anything. The results of me handing him that beat CD wound up being the song “It’s Alright” which somehow got miscredited to 9th Wonder when it was released on an independent Smitty album in 2006. Till this day I’ve probably had five conversations with 9th Wonder and have never once broached this subject. I don’t even think he knows about it.
- A few months later I wound up interviewing Just Blaze for a XXL article on Beat Society that never made it into the magazine. That was my first front of the book piece for XXL. At the end of our interview I asked if I could play him some beats. He obliged. He picked two that he liked. One he wanted for Saigon, the other he asked me to bring back so he could re-produce it. I remember dropping the files off at Baseline a few days later and exchanging some emails with Just about it, saying that I don’t give files out for anything unless money is exchanging hands, but that I trusted him. A few days later I was at the XXL office and Bonsu Thompson told me Just was talking to him about me. I think he embellished a bit and said Just might want to sign me or something as a producer. That was a nice pipe dream while it lasted. Ha!
- The next fond memory I have of Baseline is coming up there to play beats for Freeway. This was either December of 2004, or 2005. Caveman Rosario, who cut my first check ever for a beat (“Through My Rearview” on Freeway’s Ice City: Welcome to the Hood LP) in 2004, wanted me to get on Free at Last. Free had already recorded to one of my beats and I was there to play more. I waited hours for Freeway to arrive. Scram Jones showed up too. I ended up playing the tracks at like 2am or something. The interesting thing about this night was this was the infamous session Freeway claims he didn’t have with Just Blaze, when he said Just was too busy for him. In fact, Just spent hours working on this one beat for him. So that’s the end of that.
- We also did the Scratch Magazine feature (NOT the cover story with Saigon) with Just Blaze and Roland V-Synth GT that was in the last issue of the magazine ever (with 50 Cent and Timbaland on the cover). I remember Scratch’s Editor-in-Chief looking at me kinda crazy when I suggested Just Blaze to do that review. He was like, “Are you just trying to get the biggest producers possible for your section of the magazine?” I replied, “Ummm… yeah.” And sure enough, Just was down for it. And in that interview is where you first heard him talk about doing more electronic-sounding music, a la TI’s “Live Your Life.”
Outside of that, I can remember meeting DJ Green Lantern at Baseline for the first time. I can remember Dan Solomito allowing me to come play beats for Naledge and Double-O of Kidz in the Hall during their 3-marathon recording session of School Was My Hustle. I remember giving Royce the 5’9 some beats outside of the studio one night. I remember playing beats for Young Guru one night when I was there for god knows what reason.
Let me not forgot, there was also that night I waited outside for something like three hours for Just to show up, just so I could play him some new shit. That was the grind back then.
To sum it up, it was a great place, a sort of crossroads for a lot of different types of folks in the music and media business. There used to be many of those types of studios in Manhattan. Now sadly many of them are gone, and we add Baseline to the list.
Just Blaze with the last call for alcohol
Just Blaze freestyling over Exhibit C
Pardon the terrible quality on these videos. I found out about the baseline closing event super late and was armed with only a blackberry camera phone.
Since Beanie Sigel’s halfway dis record against Jay-Z, “What You Talkin Bout” debuted on Kay Slay’s show on Hot97 last night, the internets/streets are going nuts about the Broad Street Bully airing out Hov.
First, the song. People are going ape shit but in reality, this song is like, not good. The beat, a middling drum pattern with a tick-tocky clock-like melody, is a mellow backdrop so you can clearly hear what Beanie’s saying. Except he’s not really saying much. which makes this song itself a total non-event.
Secondly, the interview. In the first half it sounds like Beans is genuinely peeved about a bunch of things that went on with Roc-A-Fella, all legitimate beefs. He talks a bit about going to jail, how the Young Gunz were only getting $1200 a night on the road with Jay, himself not being paid on tours, money that he thought he was due through a sneaker deal with Pro Keds, so on and so forth. Without any intimate knowledge of the business affairs that went on at Roc-A-Fella, I’ve no doubt in my mind that the funny money situations Beans speaks about with album advances, recording budgets and Roc-A-Fella’s various business, were really occurring. This is the record business, shit happens.
The most striking part of the interview to me though, was when Beanie says he hasn’t spoken to Jay-Z in two years. He mentions that he can’t get in touch with Jay, that it takes talking to 5 people to speak with him. To hear Beanie tell it, Shawn Carter is like the Michael Corleone of the rap game. Except he’s really not.
Beanie Sigel thinks that Roc-A-Fella was a family. It wasn’t. Beanie Sigel was signed as a recording artist to Roc-A-Fella Records, given an album budget to record songs which the label could then exploit in the marketplace. In terms of that avenue of business, not mixtape songs or whether Beanie Sigel is “nice” or he bodied so and so on a track or went to war with Jadakiss or Nas, he was not very successful. To the best of my knowledge, only one Beanie Sigel album went Gold, and that was his first LP, The Truth, which was spearheaded by a Jay-Z single, “Anything.” Keep in mind this was the year 2000, when a rapper could literally take a piss on a record and it would have sold platinum or better. That Jay-Z had the single from another artist on his label’s debut LP should tell you something- Beans was a commercial liability from day 1. As Beans alludes to in his new song, he “brought the fellas to Roc-A-Fella.” Yeah, that’s exactly what he did. He lent an element of goonery to Roc-A-Fella when all they had was Jay and Bleek (hardly what I’d call goons).
Beanie was like Jay-Z’s Tony Yayo, except less paid.
On top of all this, Beanie signed with Dame Dash Music Group back in 2004. In a wikipedia entry on Beanie, it says he made the decision to sign with Dame over Jay because he’d never spent time around Jay on and off day. That he had a more personal relationship with Dame and Biggs. Now here he is, five years later, saying they were like a family, that he wants a phone call blah blah blah. He didn’t want that phone call in 2004, when he was sitting in Jay’s office (according to the Charlemagne interview), asking to be let out of his contract. So what’s the real story?
Perhaps Jay is like Michael Corleone, and once you take sides with another family, you’re done in his eyes. Or perhaps it’s a lot less dramatic, and it’s more like, as I alluded to above, Beanie never really being much of a marquee player, more like a Rick Mahorn-style bruiser who was on the team just to rough up the other team’s best player (Jadakiss, Nas, Jaz-0, etc).
In that respect, Beanie would fall in line with a whole assortment of characters who Jay-Z has left by the wayside as he’s moved on to bigger and better things. Take a number- R. Kelly, Foxy Brown, Jaz-O, Amil, Dame Dash, DMX, Irv Gotti, Ski Beatz, Sauce Money… this list goes on and on. My thought is, Beanie should add his name to the list of those who may never get a return call from Hov. This whole scenario is sounding like a Tweet song right about now.