Amid Black History Month, Grand Rapids rapper, songwriter, producer and DJ Blaze Bryant reveals recordings that have impacted him most, along with a current favorite.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. With hip hop marking its 50th anniversary this year and in celebration of Black History Month, writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases music that changed the world for Grand Rapids rapper and producer Blaze Bryant. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks, along with two new tracks of his own.
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Blaze Bryant, a.k.a. Bryant Blaze, a.k.a. DJ Blaze 589, is a rapper, songwriter, producer and DJ.
“I’ve been a DJ for a long time, since 2008 professionally. I was a rapper and switched to DJ ’cause I can get paid every time,” he says with a laugh.
He comes to the field naturally. “My mom was a DJ in the ’80s in radio. We had a lot of records and tapes. I always have had a love for music.”
Today, he performs anything and anywhere from weddings to block parties, as well as recording his own music. His latest release, “Alpha King 2,”is a collection of 12 new collaborations between the Grand Rapids-based DJ and various guests.
1. Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.), “Ready to Die” (1994) – That’s my number one inspiration. When it dropped, I’d never heard anybody rap those rhymes. It was slick, like jazz in how confident with the flow. You can tell he was dealing with some stuff. He was painting a picture. The worlds were so clear you can envision what he was rhyming about.
Listen: “Ready to Die”
2. Jay-Z, “The Blueprint” (2001) – It came out on 9/11 2001. It dropped on that day when the towers went down. Start to finish, it’s a classic. It was produced by Kanye and Just Blaze and the beats were amazing. It was a perfect match with those two producers. I revisited it the other day. If you can go back 20 years and still be amazed … It’s his best.
Listen: “The Ruler’s Back”
3. Raekwon, “Incarcerated Scarfaces” (1995) – Raekwon is the Chef, and the first thing is it was a tape and purple. We listened to it every day. I’d just graduated high school. The production is by RZA and Ghostface Killah and it was dope. Wu-Tang Clan spit lyrics; some of it to this day I’m just realizing what he meant. He had an actual scar on his face from prison, that’s what it really meant.
Listen: “Incarcerated Scarfaces”
Currently Loving: Styles P, “Penultimate: A Calm Wolf Is Still A Wolf” (2023) – That’s the man. It’s new, it just came out. I like rappers; he was in a group with Jadakiss. He goes back to how it was in the ’90s when we were spittin’ bars. It’s rugged street stuff. I listen to everybody, I listen to cats like Lil Baby, DaBaby. I like newer artists.
Listen: “What You Want to Do”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: DJ Blaze 589’s Playlist on Spotify
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