Josh Baze Embraces Jay-Z Link, Works With Hype Williams
For most artists, a major label debut is preceded by the release of a mixtape — or several — but buzzing rapper Josh Baze will drop his first complete body of work as a self-titled album before ever releasing a tape.
Guided by his manager and producer Griffin Guess, who created hits for Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’ album, the Brooklyn rhymer feels confident that his debut will be a success, as soon as people have a chance to listen closely. “For my demo, I sent out a few 30-second tracks so I’ve never had an opportunity to have people hear my music in its entirety,” Baze tells The BoomBox. “This will be the first time that people actually hear what I have to say.”
And despite his recent emergence on the scene — to date, he’s released three singles ‘We Made It,’ ‘Hollyhood’ and ‘Peroxide’ — Baze has already drawn comparisons to respected artists such as Jay-Z and Ne-Yo. “It’s not everyday that a kid from Brooklyn gets compared to the greats,” he says humbly, noting that he grew up in the same neighborhood as Hov.
The ‘Josh Baze’ album will easily appeal to a wide range of musical tastes, according to the performer. “I have R&B, pop, hip-hop and all different sounds on the album, so I think it’s going to break out all over,” he shares, detailing features from Jamie Foxx and cult favorite producer-DJ deadmau5.
To top off an already promising start in the industry, Baze had the chance to team up with legendary director Hype Williams to shoot the video for his album’s lead single, ‘We Made It,’ which The BoomBox will premiere the behind-the-scenes clip for on Tuesday (Oct. 11). We caught up with the MC on the set of his video in Brooklyn to get the scoop on where he’s been and where he’s going.
It seems appropriate that Hype Williams ended up shooting your first video for ‘We Made It.’ How did that happen?
My manager Griffin met Hype while he was working with Kanye West years ago. So Griff sat down with Hype, vibed out on all of the tracks we’d recorded and he liked this one special track ‘We Made It.’ It’s funny, because after that, Hype came in, excited, like, “I’ve got this idea, we can go to Miami, New York, California etc, to film the video,” but we eventually decided to shoot iconic locations in New York like the Brooklyn Bridge and Prospect Park, in addition to some footage in California. Working with him on the video has been great because he’s a real humble and cool guy. It’s nice to build a relationship with him, not even on the director tip, but as a friend.
Is ‘We Made It’ as matter-of-fact as the title sounds?
It’s actually a laid-back song. Most people come out with a club banger for their first single, but I didn’t want to do that because it’s not original anymore. I just wanted people to know where I’m coming from — Brooklyn to Hollywood. I take them on that journey the way B.I.G. did it, the way Jay-Z did it, the way Kanye did it. Kanye came from Chicago and I’ve never been there but I feel like I’m in Chicago when I listen to his albums. I want people to feel the same way when they listen to my album and to ‘We Made It.’ It’s a real feel-good track.
Where did your interest in rapping originate?
The whole music thing started off in my house because my dad is a jazz DJ, so growing up around him influenced me. He even sells his own albums, so being with him and seeing how he hustled and seeing how music took over his whole life, it eventually took over mine too. Because of him, I was inspired to get in the studio and start working on tracks. He was always by my side, so I really owe everything to him.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue rapping full-time?
I’ve always been playing around with music, but I started to get serious about it when I was 10 years old. So I’ve been working on it for about 11 years now. I wasn’t a fan of school, but kids don’t worry about that, go to school! So I’m glad that music took its place. I write my own songs and I’ve never produced before but it’s something I’m willing to learn.
You’ve released two unofficial singles, ‘Hollyhood’ and ‘Peroxide.’ What was the inspiration for those?
Those were test tracks. I went into the studio and played around with those songs, then we released them and they were just big. I didn’t even expect things to work out like that. ‘Peroxide,’ I wrote that inside of my hotel room. I was basically telling the story of how life was in Brooklyn, how I met Griffin, Cartel [Records] and how I got out here. So I’m really glad that people could tune into that and understand what’s up.
It’s rare to have your first album be an official label release. How does that feel?
It can be a little scary but in general I’m just really excited because I have a beautiful team behind me. I’ve got Hype Williams shooting my first video, I’ve got Griffin Guess as my producer and he’s worked with Kanye West so he really knows how to mold an album. There are different sounds and different feels throughout the entire album so I can’t wait for people to hear it all. It’s like a variety pack of food — you’re getting everything, from club tracks to emotional tracks.
People are already comparing you to Jay-Z. Does that surprise you?
I’m excited about those comparisons because it’s not everyday that a kid from Brooklyn gets compared to the greats. Kanye West, he really inspired me musically — I grew up on him — and of course Biggie and Hov, too, especially since I’m from Brooklyn. I had to learn how music was built and to understand where an artist like Jay-Z came from and where I was coming from. Jay lived just down the block from me, but listening to his music is what really made me connect with him. So I want people to feel the same way about my album. Those comparisons are beautiful.
What features did you secure for your debut?
First, I cooked up a few tracks with Jamie Foxx. I went over to his house and we just chilled because Jamie is so cool and I really didn’t expect that. I also have an artist called Sarah Jaffe that people probably don’t know now, but will know soon after hearing this album because she has such a unique sound. She really changes the whole album; she turns it from right field to left field. Finally, I did a track with the producer, deadmau5. It was a new experience because never in my life would I have expected myself to do a pop track. I was so into soul music in Brooklyn, but Griff and my second producer, Jaye Jeffers, really took my sound from a five to a 10. So that was exciting and inspiring at the same time. deadmau5? That’s gonna be crazy.
What’s been the best part of all the career developments so far?
Everything is exciting because this is all new to me. I can’t wait to see the left turns, the right turns and even the downfalls. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen with everything. I’m confident about every single step I’ve taken so far and I can’t wait to see where these steps take me. People are comparing me to Jay-Z already, so what’s next? Biggie?
Are you going to work on your social media presence? Your Twitter account seems to be semi-abandoned.
I used to be Twitter active [@JoshBaze] but I haven’t been on it as much lately. I guess it got boring to me, but I’ll learn to love it though. In the beginning, when I first started tweeting, it just seemed like a weird play-by-play of my life in 140 characters — “I’m going to the bathroom,” “I’m going to the shower,” “See ya’ll later, I’m cooking breakfast.” I’m more of a Facebook person, to be honest.