LargeUp Exclusive: Ricky Blaze - "Lightaz" + Interview
Ricky Blaze, photographed by Martei Korley liming in his East Flatbush residence
Photos by Martei Korley
Ricky Blaze is the biggest producer you have never heard of, with riddim credits on everything hits in universes that range from the hardcore dancehall ("Badman Forward" and "Brooklyn Anthem" for Ding Dong and Vybz Kartel, respectively) to EDM/club (Chelley's "I Took The Night") to global reggae crossover (Gyptian's "Hold Yuh") to hipster royalty (Santigold's "Disparate Youth"; Major Lazer's "Keep It Going Louder"). He is also a versatile artist in his own right as his newest solo track "Lightaz"--which premiered right here on Okayplayer's Carib-centric channel LargeUp. LU's Emily Shapiro took the opportunity to sit down with Ricky in his E. Flatbush crib to discuss his newest music as well as the untold backstory to some of those cult classics...to experience, stream "Lightaz" below, scroll down to read an excerpt about how "Hold Yuh" accidentally became a crossover smash and then click true to LargeUp for the full Q&A.
LU:I read that when “Hold Yuh” broke Gyptian didn’t really believe that the record was big…
RB: It was definitely that vibe with Gyptian. We were working on his album and it was supposed to be a conscious album but every time we would finish, I would just play him random R&B and pop songs. I always thought he had that type of quality and demeanor to kill these tracks as an R & B artist. One day, I was playing some tracks and I had started the “Hold Yuh” beat but it was more of a Caribbean vibe. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with it because I wanted it to have cross-over appeal, so I [had] started it and left it. I was about to skip it but I pressed the space bar and he eard the “bing bing” [piano sound] and he stopped it and was like “play that back, lemme hear it.” Then he started singing. He wrote a song for someone else’s track. But he sung it a different way, and I was like “We should record that right now” because they were about to leave. It took about 3 minutes and we just recorded it and he left and never cared about the record.
I sat down for like two days and listened to the record over 60 times and I was like this record has an appeal that doesn’t appeal to Jamaica but more of the small islands. It had that overall Caribbean vibe, it made you want to move. I reached out to Johnny Wonder, who is an ambassador for reggae music—he’s responsible for half the reggae music you hear today—and I was like, “I have this Gyptian record that we need to get into small islands.” He sent it out and at first the response was a little rocky and then he sent it out again and he called me and was like “The record is in the top 20 in Trinidad.” The record started building and I called Gyptian and I was like “We got a smash record.” He was like “It’s not in Jamaica so…” That’s how Jamaican artists look at it— It’s not playing in Jamaica so it’s not playing anywhere. He was really doubtful. And then he called me a week or two later and was like “I just did a show with Gregory Isaacs”—in Guyana or something—like, “Yo, the people were screaming for me to perform that song. I performed it three times for them ‘cause every time I just started singing it, the crowd response was crazy.”
I started hearing it in random places in Brooklyn, hearing cars just blazing it. One of the guys from Hot 97, Mister Cee, called to tell me they were adding this record into rotation because it is popping everywhere. A lot of people didn’t believe that I produced the record so I wanted to make my own version and I made “Just You & I.” I was already signed to Atlantic Records but we didn’t know what we were gonna roll with as the first single and then that record just kind of blew up on it’s own without any help from anybody and Atlantic was like, “We might as well just use that.”