Shady Blaze spits syllables like a Gatling gun and his rapid fire flows have 90s rap fans reminiscing over smoking sessions to “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.” Despite his close friendship with fellow Oakland natives Main Attrakionz, Blaze doesn’t just make cloud-rap or whatever else bloggers want to call it. Instead the Green Ova soldier rhymes with a variety of producers to keep his sound in constant evolution.
His early work (and by early I mean like a year ago) stuck to themes of good weed, guns and women. But he’s recently touched on NWO conspiracies, family issues and even flirted with slow rapping like regular humans. Despite terrible phone reception and my recording software threatening to kill the interview, we talked about him wanting be a singer, his rap influences, learning the speed flow technique and meeting Main Attrakionz. He also said I ask good questions which gave me the perfect confidence boost for a hung over Sunday. — Jimmy Ness
There isn’t a lot of information about you on the internet, tell us about yourself?
Man, I’m from East Oakland, California. I’m 24 year’s old and I’m part of Green Ova Chapter Five. I’ve been rapping since I was a little kid. Just got serious with it when I was about 19 because Main Attrakionz really pushed me to keep doing this and here I am.
Where does your rap name come from?
At first my name was Velocity, because of how fast I was. After that Shady Blaze basically came from my friends and the streets and shit. Shady came from the part of East Oakland I lived in. It was off of 89th Avenue and that was known as the Shady eighties. And I moved from there and basically I was known as Little Shady. Blaze came from when I used to produce and make hot beats. So I just put Shady Blaze together when I first created my Twitter. That was what I named my Twitter, but my rap name at the time was Velocity. Then everyone just started calling me Shady Blaze so I just went with that.
How did you start rapping?
I’m not going to lie to you, at first I wanted to be a singer. When I was a little kid I wanted to sing. At the age of 11, I realized I wasn’t good enough to be a singer. I just couldn’t sing for shit. Then when I moved to 89th Avenue in Oakland, I met a lot of friends there who were really into hip-hop and they kind of introduced me to it. And I started copying them and writing raps and rapping on the street. We were making little songs on little cassette tapes. We would play an instrumental on another radio and record to it. We just played it to everyone and from there I’ve just been rapping ever since.
Did you come from a musical family?
My dad is a singer. He’s got his own studio. I didn’t really know him when I was little. I didn’t know anything about him. My mom happened to run into him again and I met him when I was 14 and he had a studio up and he was making his own music, he was doing shows and all of that. [The father of Shady Blaze is a traditional R&B singer named Supa Jay]
Who influenced your rapid-fire style?
It’s got to be Bone Thugs N Harmony. But when I first got hooked on rap, I was listening to a lot of Ca$h Money. Juvenile, BG, Lil Wayne, Young Turk, Big Tymers. That’s all I listened to.
Then I found a CD in my stepdad’s car and it was Bizzy Bone’s Heaven’z Movie. I was just going through it and listening like hmm let me just see what’s on here. And I listened to “When Thug’s Cry” and I didn’t know the song, but I recognized it so I listened again. I was like 14 year’s old at the time. The fast rap just caught me. I was like man this is incredible so I started listening to his other stuff. I took it to school one day and I’m like “ya’ll know this guy right here?” and they were like “yeah it’s Bizzy Bone, he’s from Bone Thugs N Harmony.”
My friends were telling me Bone Thugs N Harmony just dropped a new album called BTNHResurrection. So I went to the store fast and picked that up and became a big BTNH fan. I started buying all their old stuff Art Of War, East 1999, all of it, Faces Of Death. I’ve got everything. I just started listening to them and it just spoke to me. But then their fast rap kind put me on to Tech N9ne and Twista and D-Loc and Dalima and all those fast rappers. It just started catching me and then I started doing it.
Did people think you were copying or biting their style when you started rhyming fast?
I experienced a lot of it. At first it got to me. At first you want to click everybody that says something and start typing back to them fast and hit them back up. But at the same time, the deeper you get in the game the more people are gunna come at you. So you just have to start learning how to accept it, how to take it. I would just stick to myself.
People can stay he’s biting their style, he’s biting this style. But the game got to evolve man. They did their thing. They influenced me to do it, and want to be not like them, but to do music the way they did it. It’s cool to me. I love doing it. I love their style. I love the way they make their music. It makes me feel good when I’m making my own, you know what I mean?
How did you learn the fast rapping technique?
That’s crazy you asked that because I’m going to be real. When I first listened to Bone Thugs N Harmony, I was like they rap so fast! So I never understood what they were saying at first. But I just loved the way they did their thing and I started with Bizzy Bone. I had a cassette tape player, so I would record his CD to a tape. You could play it back and rewind it and slow it down, you could make it go slower. So I would write down each lyric he would say and as I would play it back at regular speed I would start rapping with him trying to see if I could keep up. At first it was hard, but as I started memorizing those words I started getting it down and I started writing my own fast raps after that.
You also slow down and rhyme normally on some of your tracks as well?
To be honest with you, it started in 2011 – when I actually started to rap fast. Before that I was rapping slow. That’s what is crazy. It all started because of my homie Squadda B from Main Attrakionz. He hit me up and was like “there’s a group out there called Children of the Corn and they remind me of your style.” I guess they were on some fast rap type of stuff. Then the next day he sent me a beat and I just started rapping fast. When we made the song it was called “Dirt On My Name.” After that, he just started sending me a bunch of beats and we made Shady Bambino.
It dropped February 2011 on greenovamusic.bandcamp.com and it was just fast raps on that. That’s what really put me out there. That’s what really got me noticed, Squadda B’s beats and the fast raps. So I stuck with it. I didn’t really go back to doing slow raps. But now and then, yeah I do slow raps. It depends on the beat and how I feel.
Do you make music full time or work on the side?
Nah, I do music full time. Actually I’m not even really making that much money to be honest. I’m not doing that many shows, but when you do a show you get paid this and that. Basically I’m living with my girl to be honest and she’s paying, she’s paying for the rent, she paying all that. I’m just going from studio to studio you know what I mean? I’m not working. I’m not doing anything. I’m just recording.
What do you think of the music scene in the Bay Area?
Right now, there are a lot of different styles in the Bay Area. It’s just our radio people are getting paid to play just one type of music. There are so many different styles and so many talented rappers that are not getting known and not getting looked at because they are coming up from nothing. Like Biggie and Pac and shit, we are coming from nothing right now but that’s not what the radio wants to see. They want to see people who have got the money already. People who have got the money to pay the radio stations to play their music over and over again. And people who are tying to come up don’t get noticed because of that. It kinda sucks out here, but that Hyphy shit was cool. That was a movement. The DJs were playing it all over.
How did you link up with Main Attrakionz?
I had just turned 15 year’s old. They were 12 when I met them. I met them through a friend. I produced at first, I didn’t rap. I had a keyboard and everything at my mom’s house in this little garage. One of my friends hit me up and was like “there are these two kids and they are dope at rapping, we are going to bring them over.” We went over there to pick them up and it was Squadda and Mondre. We came up with the name Main Attrakionz. We were all Main Attrakionz as a group. I didn’t see them again for about four years and when I met back up with them they were Main Attrakionz. They kept the name.
You guys mention Green Ova a lot and also release albums under the Green Ova name, what is it?
Green Ova is a family. You know what I mean? A bunch of guys, we grew up together and we trying to survive out here. No matter what we go through, we have to get money and make sure we are good. So that’s basically it. When you hear Green Ova that’s all you really need to know, get money and survive. Aint doing stupid stuff, getting locked up, getting into a beef situation or any of that. We are just doing us. The members of it are just Squadda B, Mondre, Dope G, LOLO and then me. That’s the Green Ova chapters, one to five.
As far as a record label, Main Attrakionz basically started this whole thing. If it wasn’t for them I basically wouldn’t be rapping right now, I’m going to be honest with you. I would not be rapping.
Producer Ryan Hemsworth said in an interview that you and Main Attrakionz were fastest working artists he knew. You went through a period of constantly dropping new albums but you’ve slowed down recently, why is that?
[Laughs] Oh man, you ask some good questions. The time when I was recording and dropping back to back mixtapes, I didn’t care about the mixing process. I didn’t care about any of that. I just wanted to get the songs out, you know what I mean? All of that backfired on me you know cause Shady Bambino was cool, it sounded good but Shady Business that was just awful. That was a half-ass album.
And then from all the blogs and the critics and everything, I learned that it was quality over quantity. You got to make sure your songs sound good before you put them out. I used to just put my songs out just because I did it, instead of putting time into it. That’s why we have to slow the writing process and make sure everything actually sounds good before we put it out for the public.
You touch on some political themes and personal stuff in your music?
It’s just me being real man. A lot of the times when I’m in the studio, I’m in there alone. It’s just me. I just sit in there listening to the beat for so long and I just start thinking there’s so much going on in the world today that shouldn’t be happening. Everything feels funny to me. Everything in the world when it comes to the radio, the videos, everything just looks so funny to me. If it’s funny, I just have to express myself and how I feel about it.
And my family, they go through problems as well. I don’t want to say that when you go through so many problems you write better music but it happens ya know?
You work with a lot of different producers?
I work with so many producers because I put my email on Twitter and everybody hits me up with beats. And there are so many feels and styles and so many different types of rap I can do. They are not out yet but they will be out. I don’t like sounding the same on a track, if you get a rapper that sounds the same on every track you get bored after a while. I love coming different and I love trying different things because if it’s boring for the public, it’s boring for me. So the only answer is to try something new.
You’re making a new mixtape with Deniro Farrar?
Yeah at first it was an EP, but with all the songs we got now it will be like a project.
Deniro said you haven’t actually met in person?
Yeah, we never met. Basically I was on the internet and his manager contacted me. He said he had a song with Deniro Farrar on it and it was the “NWO” track with [producer] Nem270. I listened to the verse and I was like this is deep, I should get with it. So I wrote my verse for it and after listening to the whole song I realized me and him had the same look on what was happening in the world, government and all of that. So we did a second song and I was like damn this chemistry is like really building up. So it’s crazy because he sees the same shit I see and he’s not even around me, he’s from the East Coast and I’m from over here, the West Coast. To see other people feel the same way I do, that’s deep. I feel like I’m not the only one. I don’t feel like I’m insane, like damn this shit is real. So we both make music and we might as well start this revolution. Get people to rock with us. Let’s do it.
What are the world views that you and Deniro share?
Fucked up government man. Shit isn’t fair for people. Some people starve, some people are hungry and poor as hell and then you got the rich people who don’t even pay for shit. Everything’s backwards in the world today man. I’m not saying I’m going to be on the one to put shit back together, but I’m not going to stand here and just watch it happen. I’m going speak my mind about it. I’m not trying to be a superhero or nothing, save the world and shit, I know I can’t do that. But at the same time, shit going on in the world is looking stupid man.
What do you want to achieve with your career?
I want to do this long term because I love doing it. I love being able to express myself in music and get paid for it, you feel me? At the end of the day it’s all fun, you can have the shows, you can have the videos. I’m going to be doing this for a long time for sure. I definitely don’t want to go to working in a warehouse or no McDonald’s making hotdogs or hamburgers and shit. This is definitely the real deal. Anyone that says they rap and they don’t want to make money off it, they lying. I for sure want to make this a career, this is cool.