DJ Blaze – From South Africa – A Biography
Tags: South Africa
When DJ Blaze’s parents christened him Blaise McLeod, they could hardly have known that this Cape Town born, Cape Flats raised boy would literally blaze across S.A’s music scene, becoming not only a renowned DJ but also a respected record company figure. The forefather of Johannesburg’s hip-hop scene and now an unmatched expert in urban street intelligence for S.A’s entertainment industry.
But that’s exactly what DJ Blaze has done since he first began living the hip-hop life close to 20 years ago when he and his school buddies would break dance for fun. Blaise’s first taste of the turntable life came in 1987 when he first started Djing and a year later he formed a local rap group, Bush Culture – which is never recorded (contractual wrangling put paid to that) but actually toured several major S.A cities. At the same time, Blaise’s prodigious turntable skills snagged him a fair amount of attention and before long; the teenager was playing clubs gigs and bagging local DJ competitions. Ask Blaise about when he first encountered hip-hop and his response is instant: “I saw the movie Beat Street and that was it. The message that came out clearly from that film was ‘make use of your resources’ and on the Flats that was some powerful stuff. We were already fixing our bicycles with anything we could find so applying the idea of doing something yourself and using what resources you had to music – which is the hip-hop ethos – spoke real sense to us.”
And even before he’d matriculated, DJ Blaze had embraced the idea of hip-hop as an all-encompassing life choice. Explains Blaze: “KRS-1 said that rap is something you do and hip-hop is something you live and I believe in that. Hip-hop is truly a culture – there’s the break dancing, the graffiti, and of coarse the music. I’ve been down with the culture nearly 20 years and that’s what you have to do. Feel the hip-hop life style for real.”
Which is something that Blaise began in earnest after he matriculated in 1990. Although his sensible side motivated Blaise to enroll at Wits Technikon to pursue and electrical engineering course (which he completed and he now assist with things like digital sampling and sequencing beats), the passion to spread the hip-hop word led him to work fir the African Hip-Hop Movement in JHB in promotions and event co-ordination. At this time, Blaise began giving workshops at various clubs, on DJing and hip-hop, an informal educational focus that continues to be part of this life to today. A desire to ensure Joburg’s youth also be part of the expanding hip-hop movement led DJ Blaze to open his own Saturday matinee club for the young kids from the city, suburbs and townships. That club, Metropolis, has run from 1993 to 2001, making it the longest standing hip-hop club ever in S.A. Currently Metropolis hosts workshops on all five elements of hip-hop every Saturday – B-Boy (break dance), graf (graffiti), self-knowledge, aping and DJing.
Early in the 90s, DJ Blaze career stepped up to another level, when we began working in the formal music industry. Again underpinned by his belief in taking hip-hop to as many people as possible, Blaise undertook several projects including freelance promotion and consulting for Warner Bros. SA, Polygram Records (now Universal), Sony (Blaise helped co-ordinate and promote the platinum selling album, The Fugees – The Score) and BMG Africa (co-coordinating, promotion and DJing for the national Funk Da Nation tour).
1995 was a hectic year for Blaze – not only did he win the South African mixing and scratching DJ competition but he began working full-time for BMG Africa as a promotions officer, before moving into marketing and product management. Before long, Blaise had carved out a niche for himself as the hip-hop expert in The SA music industry and in his four and a half years at BMG, worked with both domestic artists (among the Funny Carp who reached gold status) and international product (in 1999 Blaise headed for New York to an international strategic marketing meeting for Puff Daddy’s Forever album).
At the same time, DJ Blaze’s DJ career went supersonic: in 1997 he was part of a Friday night Mix show on 5FM with Tich Mataz and in 1999 initiated one of the few hip-hop mix shows on radio – specifically on YFM with DJ Fresh. Aside from the regular club appearances, DJ Blaze has also played at several high-profile events including the FUBU International fashion show – acting as the very successful events music co-director as well. At the 2001 Face Of Africa finals at the Sun City Super Bowl where Blaze acted as music co-director and spun the discs as the finalists in the continent-wide model search took to the ramp.
As the most respected hip-hop DJ in Gauteng, DJ Blaze is a fixture at the big hip-hop events in the region – from the Peace In The Hood event to YFM’s Birthday Bash. And if there’s a turntable battle to be had, expect to see Blaze in the area! Together with the Chop Su Crew (Bionic and Mista Big) Blaze is one of the most highly visible DJs in SA.
“I love DJing” Blaise says “I love to see the reaction of people on the dance floor when you play great songs and keep raising the energy. I think I’ve mastered the process by now, you know, just to keep rocking the joint with the funkiest hip-hop and R&B club bangers. It’s like writing music, but with other peoples records!”
After close to 20 years living the hip-hop life, working in the formal music business and hanging out in various hoods to stay in touch (“Its better that the movies because it’s the genuine thing”) this gym-mad, science and math’s loving, musically trained, basketball playing individual is the real deal. When it comes to accessing the underground, the street level or the professional hip-hop community (DJ’s, clubs, media, radio stations), DJ Blaze is your man.
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