2016 has reminded us like no year in recent memory that while music is timeless its creators are not. We’re barely a third of the way into the calendar and we’ve had to say goodbye to David Bowie, Vanity, Phife, Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire and now the iconic Prince Rogers Nelson. All irreplaceable. All irrefutable giants. The natural reaction from fans has been sadness and disbelief. But I have to admit I’ve gotten angry too. Not just at the fans who abandoned some of our greats in their waking moments, but in artists who still function like they have all of the time in the world to create.
Weeks ago I sat in the Apollo theater with the artists responsible for scoring my childhood to mourn the passing of Phife of A Tribe Called Quest. It was a moment that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully articulate. But of all the sound bites from that night that made headlines, it was Andre 3000 of Outkast telling the audience that ‘Kast and A Tribe Called Quest had planned to do an album together that stood out to me.
“I’m gonna say some interesting news and disappointing news at the same time. About a year or two ago maybe we were talking about doing A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast album. And for whatever reason it did not happen…And that’s one of the biggest things I regret now.”
As much as I love and respect 3 Stacks, in my mind I screamed “bullshit” because fans have been clamoring just to get a body of work from him for years. Shit a SONG. Even more so an Outkast reunion SONG, and here he was raising and dashing our hopes in a single breath that the brilliant “A Tribe Called Kast” mash-up I’ve been listening to for years may have gotten an actual execution.
It’s the kind of broken promise music fans have had to endure for years and are sadly getting used to. However, in the wake of Prince’s passing producer extraordinaire Just Blaze tweeted:
“Tomorrow not promised. Going to go do something I’ve always wanted to do right now.”
And his Tweet could have had to do with anything in his life. We all have the one person we want to call, the place we need to visit or essential task on the bucket list to check off. But as a fan I hope that he revisits a musical idea that he planted in my head more than a decade ago.
In was Spring of 2005 and I was the Features Editor at The Source magazine. After months of campaigning with my then boss Kim Osorio to write a Just Blaze feature I was finally given the green light. His then recent tracks like Usher’s “Throwback” and Fat Joe’s “Safe 2 Say” were buoying his already hefty discography and he’d tore down a Beat Society showcase months before at the old Knitting Factory and I felt the time was ripe for a profile. So here we were at Baseline studios finishing the first of what would be many conversations. He’d shared a lot of his future plans, including signing “this kid named Jay Electronica” who had been in Unsigned Hype. But before I left he played a remix he’d done to MF Doom’s “Kookies” and teased the idea of them doing an album together.
“The group MFSB had an album cover with skulls on it and one of the skulls had a mask on it, that could be DOOM,” he envisioned. “The album would be called MFJB.”
Less than a year later I sat next to him at the Best Buy Theater to watch DOOM perform with Big Daddy Kane, Little Brother and Pete Rock. Even as his peer Just’s fandom was palpable.
In the years since he has released that “Kookies” remix to the web and I have still pined away for that collaborative album. In a 2011 interview with Young Guru for iStandard I asked him if he could convince Just to get the elusive DOOM in the studio to do something.
“I wish we could all kick Just in the butt to do a lot of stuff,” he said jokingly. “He’s definitely playing video games, buying Polo and doing whatever else he does. But speaking on my brother, like my friend, Just is one of those people that has to be inspired. There’s so many times I’ll be like ‘Yo dog, let me run around and sell these beats.’ But it’s not about that for him. For him it’s really about the vibe and the feeling. So I’m sure he would love to do it if DOOM came in the studio for two weeks and got it done…it’s just a matter of getting DOOM and Just together.”
Now in all fairness to Just Blaze I know better than anyone how hard it is to get DOOM in a room. When I was running Scratch magazine he infamously sent a double to a photo shoot with Danger Mouse for a Danger Doom profile and the practice became pretty common at shows. Not to mention we’re all still waiting for the promised DOOMStarks album with Ghostface (Do you have a beat on there? Please say yes.)
That said, if you have some special powers of persuasion left in your Polo bag, find a way to get this done. An entire album seems ambitious so I’d take one song at this point. Shit, I’d take a loop of quixotic phrases from DOOM from Snapchat set to a beat. I’m not picky. But as 3 Stacks lamented,“Please people don’t let the time go by.” MFJB forever.