The early ’00s was a glorious time for hip hop, if only because Just Blaze’s output kept pace with his knack for making the most combustible of beats.

This article highlights some of the best Just Blaze songs from 2001-2005, the most prosperous period of his career. Honorable mention: Dipset’s “Welcome to New York City, Freeway’s “Flipside” Jay Z – “Song Cry” and “Girls, Girls, Girls,” Memphis Bleek “Dear Summer,”… and the rest.

Click through the image gallery to read on.


Jay Z – “U Don’t Know” (2001)

#TBT: Just Blaze

In preparation for The Blueprint, Jay Z assembled the production ubersquad of Kanye West, Just Blaze, and Bink. Name a more iconic trio…

With all due respect to “Song Cry” and “Girls, Girls, Girls,” Just Blaze’s most important Blueprint creation is the “U Don’t Know” beat, which elevates Hov from silver-tongued salesman to God of Hustle. The iconic couplet: “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell / I am a hustler baby, I sell water to a well.” 

Cam’ron – “Oh Boy” feat. Juelz Santana (2003)

#TBT: Just Blaze

Just Blaze on “Oh Boy,” as told by Noisey:

“Oh Boy” actually went through a couple iterations. It was sitting around for a while, and Jay loved the track but wasn’t working on an album at the time, so he asked me to hold it for him. So he had it on a CD with a bunch of other beats from me. Cam started working on his album, and when he first came over to Roc-A-Fella they played the CD for him. And he loved it immediately. So I got the call asking if Cam could use the “Oh Boy” beat, and I’m like “yeah go for it.”

By the time I got to the studio they had already recorded the demo, left, and it was on the radio. I walked into the studio, and they were playing it in the office. So I’m thinking they must be playing it off a CD or tape, and then I realized that we were actually listening to the radio. And I’m like, “dude you just recorded this song an hour ago.” That was the thing about New York radio back then: If you had the right relationships with the right radio personalities then you could just literally walk in with a song and get it on the air. And that’s pretty much what they did.

Freeway – “What We Do” feat. Jay Z & Beanie Sigel (2003)

#TBT: Just Blaze

Just Blaze produced over half the songs on Freeway’s debut album Philadelphia Freeway, including “What We Do,” which flips Creative Source’s “I Just Can’t See Myself Without You.”

In a 2011 interview, Freeway explained that neither Jay Z nor Beanie Sigel originally planned to appear on the track: “I originally called Jay just to do the ‘keep going’ [ad-lib],” he said. “So when he heard it, he sat down on the bench in Bassline [Studios] and was just vibing out. He sat there for 10 minutes, then he was like, ‘I got you. This shit crazy, I got you.'”

Joe Budden – “Pump It Up” (2003)

#TBT: Just Blaze

Just Blaze produced “Pump It Up,” the rousing New York club anthem that took the nation by the storm in the summer of 2003. It was a big year for Budden: he also got his own character in the timeless video game Def Jam Vendetta.

Jay Z – “December 4th” (2003)

#TBT: Just Blaze

The sultry and nostalgic stylings of the Chi-Lites made them one of the most celebrated R&B quartets of the ’70s. Just Blaze introduced them to a new generation by flipping “That’s How Long” to create the backdrop for Hov’s origin story “December 4th.”

Jay Z – “Public Service Announcement (Interlude)” (2003)

#TBT: Just Blaze

Just Blaze on “PSA,” as told by Fader:

The album was finished, cases were already made. Then, while I was mixing something else, at the last-minute, I made the beat for “PSA.” Jay was doing press at a studio around the corner. All the different outlets were coming to listenings. In the midst of that, I ran back to the studio where Jay was and was like, Dude, listen to this. He liked it but he was like, “We’re already done.” I’m like, “We’re not done until this song is finished.” So before each press listening session, he’d run back into my room, write four bars down, go back and do another round of press, come back to me. We did that all night.

To get “PSA” on the album, we literally stopped the CDs and records from being manufactured, stopped all the artwork from being printed. We ended up pulling a song called “Looking at My S Dots” from the album to put “PSA” on, literally in the eleventh hour. Just two or three weeks later, we were at the Madison Square Garden show and when “PSA” came on everybody already knew every word of the song and the place exploded. It was an amazing feeling. 

Dipset – “I Really Mean It” (2003)

#TBT: Just Blaze

OH MAJOR. DON’T GO!!!

Historians will look back at “I Really Mean It” first as the beat used in the legendary 2003 Iron Mic rap battle between Eli Porter vs Jonathan “Envy” Hodges at Atlanta’s Chamblee High School. It will be remembered as a Dipset song second.

Fabolous – “Breathe” (2004)

#TBT: Just Blaze

Just Blaze on “Breathe,” as told by Noisey:

I had that record for a while and always loved that sample. I made the beat on a really slow day at the studio when there wasn’t much going on. When Fabolous came to the studio a few weeks later, I played him a bunch of stuff that he didn’t seem to be into until I played that one, which he asked for a copy of. He was so nonchalant about it, I thought he was taking it just so he hadn’t come in to the studio for nothing. Two days later I woke up with a ton of calls from his people saying they needed to get this record out ASAP, that this track is gonna be the first. I didn’t even think he liked it.

Usher – “Throwback” (2004)

#TBT: Just Blaze

Just Blaze’s flip of Dionne Warwick’s 1973 “You’re Gonna Need Me” was originally conceived as the outro track on Dr. Dre’s Detox. Once it became clear that Detox was getting sent to the backburner, Usher repurposed it, playing the part of regretful ex-lover to Warwick’s knowing refrain, “You’re gonna want me back.”

Kanye West – “Touch the Sky” feat. Lupe Fiasco (2005)

#TBT: Just Blaze

“Touch the Sky” has the sonic signature of an early Kanye West beat, so believing he produced the beat is a forgivable offense. In fact this exquisite Curtis Mayfield flip is the work of Just Blaze… tha god.