Just Blaze is one of the most prolific rap producers of the 2000s. Growing up in Paterson, New Jersey, he had an ear for genres other than hip-hop (rave, house) starting at an early age, but caught the rap bug when his cousin showed him an EPMD record.
He went off to Rutgers to study computer science, but while he was there he landed an internship at The Cutting Room studio in New York City, and as Just puts it, “I went from this local studio in New Jersey to being in the same room as Mobb Deep, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. I got to watch a lot of classic albums get made. During that time when I was at the studio, a lot of the connections and relationships I made eventually turned into opportunities.” After three years of school he dropped out and stuck to the studio, working admin during the day, producing during the night, and squeezing in an hour or two of sleep when he could.
His hard work paid off, as he was eventually noticed by Ma$e’s team and hired to produce “I Really Like It” for the Bad Boy’s Harlem World group. Soon after, Big Pun enlisted him for a couple beats on Yeah Baby, and it was Pun who gave Just “$18,000 worth of equipment” to help his budding career along.
And then his big break: hanging up on infamous Roc-A-Fella A&R Gee Roberson, who happened to pick up Just’s beat CD while searching for production for a nebleekw artist named Bathgate. Just hung up because he couldn’t believe he was getting calls from Hov’s people, but Gee called him back, and the rest is history.
Today we know him for classic beats spanning Jigga’s “You Don’t Know” to Drake’s “Lord Knows,” but Just’s catalog is so deep that we decided to burrow into his past and dig up some of his best production you’ve probably never heard before.
25. Nick Cannon – Get Crunk Shorty (2003)
High energy records were a staple of Just’s style early on, and here he employs synths, vocal chops, and Fatman Scoop to capture that vigor. Plus, who knew Just Blaze did a record for fucking Nick Cannon? Two years later, however, N.O.R.E. used the same beat for a B-Side to “Oye Mi Canto” called “Nigga Rican.” Color me confused.
24. Carl Thomas – My First Love (2004)
Just has quietly made some outstanding R&B records and this was one of the earliest ones, showcasing his instrumental development and feel for grooves, let alone his knack for classic samples.
23. Philly’s Most Wanted – This Bitch (2001)
Philly’s Most Wanted had a dope debut album, and this cut stands out thanks to Just’s impeccable ear for layering instruments that sound like they’re being played live.
22. Jon B – Everytime (Feat. ODB) 
Just would often use the same sounds throughout multiple beats, and this intro to Jon B’s Stronger Everyday album has hints of Allen Anthony’s “Alright” from the previous year.
21. Mario – C’mon (Just Blaze Radio Mix) 
Just had a tight grasp on percussion from early on, and it shows on this vibrant remix for Mario.
20. Beastie Boys – Ch-Check It Out (Remix) 
Some of the best Just Blaze beats bridge the old and the new, and though his trademark horns are in full effect here, he also samples a 1980 riff for the hook, giving this remix the feel of an original Beastie record.
19. Cajmere – Brighter Days 2011 (Just Blaze Reopened 3am Mix) 
Reaching back to his electronic roots, Just fleshes out this bare bones track into something decadent and swinging.
18. Mariah Carey – Through The Rain (Remix) [Feat. Joe & Kelly Price] (2003)
With Joe and Kelly Price adding beautiful background vocals, Just Blaze gives this Mariah song a serene remix with added cello, guitar, and violin.
17. Eve – Let Go (Feat. Jadakiss) 
The groove here reminds me of Just’s fantastic work on “Just Burnin” for Faith Evans, drawing people to the dance floor immediately. That funky little guitar he threw in from Frankie Beverly & Maze’s “Before I Let Go” is a nice touch too.
16. Letoya – U Got What I Need (2004)
Like Kanye, Just has always been respected for his sample selection ever since popularizing soul loops on The Blueprint, but his Love Unlimited flip here deserves a lot more love.
15. Notorious B.I.G. – Living In Pain (Feat. 2Pac, Mary J. Blige, & Nas) 
14. Young Gunz – Tough Luv (2004)
I can’t recall if Young Gunz were that popular outside of “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” and “No Better Love” or if I was just obsessed with all things Roc-A-Fella, but this title cut from their debut LP is one of the best Just Blaze beats that doesn’t get enough attention.
13. Bars N Hooks – Ain’t Nobody (Feat. Prodigy) 
Around the year 2000, Just Blaze would have Prodigy come over to his house and teach him how to make beats. They did “about five records” with Bars N Hooks at the time, and this was one of them. Sampling this Chaka Khan joint is kinda cheating though, no?
12. Lenny Kravitz – The Storm (Remix) [Feat. Jay Z] (2004)
You might have heard this remix, but I’m really only including it so I can point your attention to Max B’s superior version.
11. Scoe – The Crown (2013)
Just has significantly slowed his rap production in recent years, choosing instead to dabble in the *surely more lucrative EDM market. Still, a couple years ago he hit off Kurupt’s brother Scoe with this splendid track that lifts glorious horns from Crown Heights Affair.
10. Dave Young – Settle Down (Feat. Mary J. Blige) 
When Just sampled “Ike’s Mood” for “Still Got Love For You” in 2001, he did something different – lifting eight bars from the original instead of the usual four bars that most producers had settled for in the past. Here he applies the same formula; instead of simply taking the main loop that Alchemist used on Mobb Deep’s “The Realest,” Just takes a vocal snippet from the middle of “Born To Lose You” as well, something no other producer had done to that track before.
9. The Game – I’ll Find You (2010)
This is a gem. Game and Just Blaze have chemistry dating back to The Documentary, so the West Coast rapper released this promo track leading up to The R.E.D. Album. Two thoughts I have about this beat – one, it sounds like something Black Milk could have made, certainly indebted to Detroit’s sound, and two, I wonder what Just Blaze picked up from Kanye, if anything.
8. Naledge – My Country (2006)
This song has all of 15 views on Youtube since 2013, so I know you haven’t heard it. The sample sounds familiar, but I can’t place it. Still, Just Blaze always manages to keep his production varied throughout the duration of a song.
7. XV – Wichita (2011)
XV was a member of the Blog Era who never quite made it out of that distinction, but Just blessed him with this stirring intro.
6. Saigon – Gotta Believe It (Feat. Just Blaze) 
Saigon had a shitload of buzz in the mid 2000s, and though his career was eventually set off track by major label politics, this was supposed to be the lead single for Moral Of The Story, his oft-delayed official debut album. I’ve always loved this record, from this enchanting synths at the beginning to Just’s hook and bridge at the end.
5. Jay Z – Reminder (Remix) 
Blueprint 3 left a terrible taste in my mouth, no doubt aided by the fact that Just Blaze was nowhere to be found on the production credits. But in 2009 Just did a special set for Tony Touch where he played snippets of unreleased songs like Jay Elect and Mos Def’s “Exhibit B,” an alternate version of T.I.’s “Help Is Coming,” and this “Reminder” remix, which immediately trumped every beat on the original BP3.
4. Shyne – Diamonds & Mac 10s (2004)
The horns, the keys, the drum patterns….all vintage Just. This was the last track on Shyne’s comeback album Godfather Buried Alive after he spent ten years in the pen, so you might have missed this one. Plus, Just told us he made it while learning new equipment:
3. Dame Dash – I Am Dame Dash (Feat. Cam’ron & Jim Jones) 
Again, Roc La Familia heads are familiar with this classic, but the Paid In Full soundtrack isn’t too easy to find online these days, and this Vicki Sue Robinson flip is one of Just’s greatest ever.
2. Common – The Light ’08 (Feat. Marsha Ambrosius & Bilal) 
In 2008 KRS-One, Common, and Q-Tip remixed their own classic songs, but the Lamont Dozier strings on the updated version of “The Light” pack an extra emotional punch in the context of Dilla’s death.
1. Jay Z – Allure (Remix) 
This is one of the greatest beats Just Blaze has ever made, and S. Carter: The Re-Mix is one of the greatest mixtapes ever, yet neither get enough shine today. Stick around for the alternate last verse.