Live From Just Blaze’s Intimate Baseline Studios Farewell


Per Rap Radar, the producer’s “aunt busts him out as a Village People fan.”

Exhibit A for the importance of Baseline Studios, Just Blaze’s 26th Street home base for the past ten years, which finally closed down on Thursday night with a ceremonial “wake” open to his fans: the hallways festooned with RIAA sales awards trumpeting the success of records ranging from The Life and Times of S. Carter to Usher’s Confessions to the Game’s Documentary. (The plaque from Roc-A-Fella for Jay-Z’s The Blueprint was literally a blueprint, as in “commemorative inscription goes here–10.5 inches.”) And perhaps most compelling, a framed Billboard Hot 100 from 2002, back when Cam’ron’s “Oh Boy” was at #1, with every other Baseline project on the chart that week highlighted in bright pink; I didn’t get an exact count, partly because there were so many.

Exhibit B might be the people who showed up: bloggers, DJs, aspiring rappers, fans, friends, and family. A surprisingly small turnout all things considered (the extent of Just’s influence, in particular), but that just made it more intimate and personal: Just just sat around in his control room surrounded by everyone, giving demos on how to use his MPC and turntable, with a Rick Astley LP for the latter. (Biggest laugh of the night: He called one dude over to the MPC, only to be asked, “Hey, you got those Just Blaze sounds on there?”) Eventually he pulled together a quick and dirty beat for his fans to freestyle over, joking with them as he encouraged them all to join the cipher while rapping a little himself, liberally quoting Wu-Tang’s “Triumph,” and even reading lyrics off a flushed Queens fan’s phone. (“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” the latter gushed later.)

Baseline’s swan song isn’t all that surprising, especially given that large recording facilities like the late Hit Factory have been struggling for years. Just did confirm that he plans to keep going, presumably with a new smaller, sleeker operation, but declined to offer specifics; “There will be an announcement soon,” he said with a shrug.

But back to that swan song: “We have to go out with something epic,” Just eventually declared. And although he quickly settled on one of his beats for Jay Electronica as that something, nobody knew whether they had the song on hand–lots of stuff in storage already–so he had no choice but to open up a monstrous Pro Tools document full of unlabeled audio blobs and start quickly skipping across them trying to find it. Along the way, one blink of Freeway and Beans on “Roc The Mic,” another of Jigga’s “Ignorant Shit,” and so on, like a lightning-speed retrospective of the past decade. And Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C” was at the very end, naturally, at which point it came thumping out of the wall-sized studio monitors with the faders on the mixing board cranked to a brutal 10.

And then it was time to go. For everyone, forever. “I think it’s important to note that the music that was made here influenced our generation,” blurted out one fan, an Italian rapper in a blue jacket who had earlier delivered a rhyming couplet about having garlic breath. “Thank you for sharing this moment with the fans.”

“We got walls to knock down,” replied Just. “See you on Twitter.”

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