In the world of electronic dance music, producers are huge live artists in their own right, headlining massive festivals and multimillion-dollar Vegas residencies. Now, hip-hop beatmakers are starting to take notice, releasing EDM-leaning projects in hopes of propelling their own touring careers.
On Jan. 18, Just Blaze, known for his Grammy-winning work with Jay-Z, Eminem and Drake, digitally released “Higher,” a collaboration with Brooklyn EDM wunderkind Baauer, who dropped breakthrough song “Harlem Shake” on Mad Decent last year. The dizzying dubstep mash-up featuring Jay-Z vocal samples was intended to build buzz for the pair’s joint 16-date Big League tour, which began Jan. 24. It’s already amassed more than 320,000 plays on the producer’s SoundCloud page alone. “It just exploded,” Just Blaze says. “We’re really onto something.”
The producer is also releasing an EDM EP on Fool’s Gold Records later this year, though “Higher” is a stand-alone release for now. “This is the first time I’ve done something that’s had such an impact in [EDM],” he says.
Just Blaze hopes to use “Higher” to further invade the EDM circuit; he says he received an offer from the Electric Zoo festival right after the song’s release. His agent, AM Only’s De’Mont Callender, predicts “numerous festivals for him, as well as clubs that he wouldn’t necessarily play before as a hip-hop producer.”
But Just Blaze isn’t the only rap beatmaker to use EDM to set off a second career as a live act. Cam’ron producer AraabMuzik parlayed 2011’s instrumental “Electronic Dream,” which samples techno records, and his impressive live drum-programming skills into numerous gigs stateside and overseas, including Coachella. Similarly, DJ Green Lantern, who’s produced for Eminem and Ludacris, says his live offers picked up following last year’s EDM-influenced “Altitude Mix.”
Just Blaze isn’t sure where “Higher” will take him next, but he’s excited that the song has opened this new chapter: “I don’t plan much. I just go where I’m inspired to go at any given time and hope that it works.”