Jay-Z is the second wealthiest man in hip-hop, and since 1995, Hov has been bringing us quality music. From ‘PSA’ to ‘On To The Next One’, the Brooklyn rapper has been around since the days of Big Daddy Kane and Biggie. However, although the Roc-a-Fella mogul has made a lot of tracks, we rarely get to see how he created these songs. Exploring how the rapper produces his hits is fascinating; even the tiniest look into his recording process is revealing.
Throughout his career, Jay-Z has worked with a multitude of producers. Whether it be The Neptunes, Swizz Beatz or Timbaland, the Brooklyn rapper (real name Shawn Carter) gets his pick of the bunch. However, Carter loves some beatmakers so much he signs them. One of these producers was Kanye, and the other was the legendary Just Blaze, who produced Jay’s 2006 anthem ‘Show Me What You Got.’
From the rapper’s 2006 self-proclaimed comeback album Kingdom Come, ‘Show Me What You Got’ was released as the lead single for the project, and it is no surprise why. The song is a high-energy musical masterpiece that keeps on giving. It’s progressive and undeniably keeps listeners on their toes. With a heavy jazz influence, the instrumental of the anthem features a potent horn section and a thrilling drum pattern that provides unparalleled dynamism.
In a 2020 interview with NPR Music for their YouTube series ‘The Formula’, Just Blaze (real name Justin Smith) broke down and revealed some of the samples he has used in tracks for Beyoncé and Jay-Z over the years, one of which was ‘Show Me What You Got’. Speaking on how he assembled the track, Smith explained, “It pulls from a few different inspiration, a few different sources, the first of which would be the classic b-boy anthem by John Pate ‘Shaft In Africa'”
Released in 1973, ‘Shaft In Africa’ was the lead single from the soundtrack of a film with the same name. Born in Chicago in 1923, Johnny Pate is a bassist producer and arranger who is renowned as one of the pioneers of the Chicago soul and blues scene. He was recruited by the film producer Roger Lewis to score the film in 1972, when he recorded ‘Shaft In Africa’.
The movie, Shaft In Africa is a blaxploitation film. The term ‘”blaxploitation” emerged during the ’70s and referred to films that perpetuate stereotypes of black people. The genre no longer exists and is very specific to films released during the 1960s and 1970s. Other films that fall within the genre are the 1975 motion picture; My Name Is Dolomite and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
Another sample featured within ‘Show Me What You Got’ that is called ‘Darkest Light’ by the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band. Formed in Long Island, New York, The Lafayette Afro-Rock Band were a fusion act that very much blurred the lines when it came to music. They were the best kind of act because you could not pigeonhole them and that’s why they were so popular.
Their instrumental tracks, such as ‘Darkest Light’, contained a bit of jazz, a bit of funk, a bit of rock and a bit of African instrumentation to make it almost world music. Although formed in the US, the band relocated to France and, while performing in Paris on the underground funk scene, worked with a range of French-speaking Africans from countries such as Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire and Algeria to create their sound. Little was known about them in the US until they were sampled in the 1980s. They went on to break up but influenced future hip-hop and R&B.
‘Darkest Light has been sampled countless times in songs such as: Public Enemy’s ‘Show ‘Em Whatcha Got‘, Ice Cube’s ‘Friday’, Wreckx-N-Effect’s ‘Rump Shaker‘ and many more. As well as explaining how he used ‘Shaft In Africa’ and ‘Darkest Light,’ Smith explained how he used live drums in the track to add energy revealing that he called Kenneth ‘Bam’ Alexander Jr to play live drums underneath the electronic samples to add life to the track with epic solos.
You can listen to ‘Shaft In Africa’, ‘The Darkest Light’ and ‘Show Me What You Got’ in the videos below.