I interviewed Oakland rapper Shady Blaze. I first heard Shady Blaze on Deniro Farrar’s DESTINY.altered and was hooked; smooth voice, meaningful lyrical content, ill production, and mind blowing rapid fire flow are all characteristic of Shady Blaze. We covered his music, upbringing, Michael Jackson, Green Ova, politics, and a number of other topics.
How did you decide on the stage name Shady Blaze?
At first my name was Velocity, but I switched to Shady Blaze when I made my Twitter. I was working on my first mixtape ever, which was going to be called The Shady Blaze Mixtape. Shady came from where I was raised. I was raised in Oakland off of 89th Avenue, which is known as the 80’s, or the Shady 80’s. Blaze was from my friends telling me I had hot beats… also, I used to smoke a lot.
(Laughs) Shit I’m smoking right now! Anyway, I put the two together and got Shady Blaze. I didn’t want to put any numbers in my name on Twitter, which I would have had to do with Velocity, so I just put Shady Blaze. Next thing you know, everybody on Twitter started calling me Shady Blaze so I just went with that.
What sort of music did you grow up with before getting into hip-hop?
I don’t want to be ashamed of this, but to be honest I was really into Michael Jackson. I used to get a lot of hate from my friends growing up in Junior High who were listening to No Limit, Master P and all of them while I was talking about Michael Jackson.
I’ve heard that you wanted to be a singer before you got into rap. When did you decide to switch to rapping?
Back when I was nine, all I listened to was Michael Jackson. To me, there were no other artists out there; I wouldn’t listen to anything people showed me. I wanted to do all the dances like him, I wanted to sing like him, I basically wanted to be him. I moved from 3rd Avenue in East Oakland to 89th Avenue, and my friends on 89th there were into hip-hop. At first I didn’t really like hip-hop, but they were all rapping and I wanted to fit in with my friends at the time. It grew on me though. I started watching all the music videos and I got hooked.
Which emcees inspired you to start rapping?
Too $hort and Juvenile, the old school stuff though. When I was a little kid, Too $hort was hard to me because I didn’t know hip-hop that well. As I got better I realized that Too $hort was kind of falling off (laughs).
Do you rap full time?
Right now I’m rapping full time. It’s nice but I’m not making that much money off of it.
You have a very distinctive rapid-fire flow, yet you can (and do) slow it down when you want to. How did you develop this versatility?
I started out as a slow rapper. I learned from Too $hort and Juvenile and they weren’t really doing any fast rap. Juvenile turned me on to Cash Money, and I was the kind of kid who would choose artists and listen to them and nobody else; first with Michael Jackson, then with Cash Money. I started buying all the Lil Wayne, Big Tymers, and B.G. albums. I would take my CD player to school with one of those CD’s and let my friends borrow it. One day I was on the way to school in my mom and step dad’s car and my friend has forgot to put the CD back in. I was all pissed off and looking for something to listen to, and I found a CD lying around in the car and it was Bizzy Bone’s Heaven’z Movie. I put that it and his spittin was crazy to me, how fast he was going. I was 14 at the time and it took over from there. I started trying to rap fast like him and I grew onto the rest of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
You go over a lot of different kinds of beats, from keyboard to sample-based progressive. What drives you to continue experimenting with different sounds?
I make music for myself. If I keep doing the same thing on tracks or rapping on the same type of beats I get bored, I ask myself “Why am I doing this shit?” It would be a whole different story if I was getting paid to do the same thing over and over again (laughs); I would make the same shit and keep getting more bread. Working with a lot of different producers allows me to change up my style. I can do different flows and rap about different subjects. Hearing all these different kinds of beats gives me different feelings. It doesn’t even madder to me if the producer is big or not. A lot of artists today only care about fan base, they don’t give these young producers a chance. If the music sounds good to me, I’ll go over it.
You’re a part of Green Ova records. What is Green Ova all about?
Green Ova is basically about getting paid and surviving. It’s about loyalty and family. There are five of us; Squadda B and MondreM.A.N are Main Attrakionz, Dope G, LoLo, and myself.
You work a lot with east coast rapper Deniro Farrar. How did you guys link up?
His manager hit me up on Facebook and wanted me to listen to one of Deniro’s songs called “NWO”. He asked me what I thought about it and I was like, “it’s good”. He asked me, “do you really like it?” like he was trying to get me on it, so I just asked him if he wanted me on it and he said hell ya. I really felt what Deniro was getting at with the song, the political aspect of it. I’m not going to say I’m a big political rapper, but I definitely do some political rapping. I know a lot of people don’t fuck with that political shit because they think it’s boring, so it doesn’t really sell. At the same time though, I do it all; if I feel like something really needs to be said I’ll tell it like it is in my songs
What do you see as wrong with politics in this country?
Everything! It’s crazy how athletes and entertainers, people who don’t do anything, get paid more than all the people who are working their asses off doing what needs to be done. There is so much wrong with this country; I see it but I’m only one person so there isn’t a lot I can do. The only thing I can do is rap about the injustices I see.
What do you see as wrong with the rap game today?
A lot of artists are doing some serious bullshit to get publicity. People are buying followers on Twitter, that shit is crazy. They are paying good money for followers who don’t even fuck with their music. I’ll be damned if I do some shit like that.
What has been the most difficult part of being a rapper?
The criticism. I’ve met Danny Brown and Main Attrakionz, and they both get a lot of hate and they can take it. Me on the other hand, I get kind of offended by it. I got to learn how to just deal with it. When I’m on the microphone, on stage, and doing my videos, I go all out, so when somebody talks down on me I get pissed off because they don’t understand. That makes me understand though. You know Lil B? I used to hate on his music a lot, I thought his rapping was garbage. Now, I can relate to the criticism thing, so I see it how it is. They are going through five times the hate I am and are keeping their heads up. Nobody wants to understand; people just talk about who has the best flow, the best punch lines, the best beats rather than trying to understand somebody’s life and what they are trying to put out there with their music.
What has been the most memorable moment in your rap career?
Definitely my first time rapping on stage. My first show was with Main Attrakionz; it was their show but I was opening up for them. Hearing the crowd’s reaction when I started fast rapping was cool.
What does the future hold for Shady Blaze?
A lot more rap. A lot more weed. A lot more drinking. A more videos. A lot more shows. I honestly don’t know what my future holds as far as rap goes. I see how all these other rappers make it, and I don’t see myself doing the shit they are doing. I’m a regular ass dude. I wear big ass clothes and shit, everybody else wearing skinny jeans and small clothes, making me feel outdated. I would like to turn this rap shit into a career, but I know rap isn’t forever. A lot of rappers talk about rap being forever, but it ain’t. You can be an old ass rapper but you ain’t gunna sell (laughs). I’m afraid being true to myself is what might prevent me from blowing up. A fan commented on some blog that, “Shady Blaze is the best rapper in Green Ova, but he is the only one with no swag”. I was like “damn bro, what the fuck does that mean?” (laughs). It feels like I can’t make it as a rapper in this generation. I’m gunna rap my ass off though. I’d love to make some money off of this shit and then get on some businessman type shit. To make money with this generation, you gotta do some stupid ass shit. I gotta have somebody with a good ear to discover me and get me that shine I deserve.
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