Just Blaze dumps his MPC and goes with Protools (Interview with Digi-Design)

Seasoned hip hop producer Just Blaze has produced songs for some of the biggest hip hop artists, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, The Beastie Boys, The Game, T.I., and more. And he chooses Digidesign® Pro Tools® as his all-in-one creative solution for composing, editing, and mixing music.

“With so many of the records that I work on now, I go from start to finish without leaving Pro Tools,” says the former in-house producer for Roc-a-Fella Records and founder of Fort Knocks Entertainment. “Ninety percent of Jay-Z’s [hit single] “Show Me What You Got” was done in Pro Tools—from the band’s live overdubs to composing the drums and other instruments.”

While it is common in hip hop for producers and beat makers to use hardware samplers to compose music, Just Blaze prefers to do everything “in the box.” Having relied on an Akai MPC sampler for many years to compose his beats, he says that he now creates music entirely within Pro Tools. “We still have the MPC in the studio, but we don’t use it much anymore,” he admits. “What we do now is record the sample into Pro Tools, chop up the parts of the sample that we definitely want to use, then import them into Native Instruments Battery. We basically use Battery and an M-Audio Trigger Finger to trigger the samples the same way an MPC would, and we use Pro Tools as the sequencer.”

Just Blaze also attests to including Xpand!™, a free sample-playback/synthesis virtual instrument developed by the Digidesign Advanced Instrument Research (A.I.R.) group, among the critical tools he used in the production of “Show Me What You Got”. He chose to use Xpand! to produce the Hammond organ sound. Ryan West (Jay-Z, Usher, The Game), who engineers for Just Blaze, comments on the benefits of using A.I.R. instruments: “I think Digidesign is changing the game once again. Using Xpand!, we can dial up beautiful preset patches or create our own in a snap. The fact that these virtual instruments [Xpand!, Hybrid™, Velvet™, and Strike™] are tuned to work perfectly within Pro Tools means no fussing with tech support or digging through online forums to diagnose and troubleshoot. It simply works, and works well.”

But it’s not just the music creation aspect of Pro Tools that has made a fan out of Just Blaze—it’s the portability and flexibility too. In addition to the Pro Tools|HD® systems he has housed in his own New York-based Baseline Studios, Just Blaze relies on a Digidesign Mbox® 2 Mini Pro Tools LE® system and a Pro Tools M-Powered™ system when he travels. During the mix phase of Jay-Z’s single, he recalls how Pro Tools benefited his workflow: “My engineer, Ryan West, got most of the mixing done using the HD rig in the B Room at Baseline Studios. Then I took that session with me to Hong Kong and literally finished mixing the record on the plane using Pro Tools M-Powered with a set of headphones. A week later it was on MTV.”

“It’s not about the machine, it’s about the man behind it,” he concludes. “At the end of the day, all these machines do is translate the ideas in our heads into something for the rest of the world to listen to, and Pro Tools streamlines that translation process.”

Just Blaze is currently in the studio completing the debut album of Fort Knocks Entertainment artist, Saigon. He’s also working with artists from other labels, including Busta Rhymes, Memphis Bleek, Faith Evans, and Talib Kweli. For more information about Just Blaze, visit www.myspace.com/justblazeradio.


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