I had to get a late pass when it comes to Shady Blaze. I’m not at all familiar with his solo material, although I just recently started listening to his very good collaborative album with Deniro Farrar (whose music I was also a latecomer to). I really have no idea what his subject matter is usually like, or how polished his music generally is.
A week ago, Shady Blaze released a loose track called “Rest in Peace R.J.” R.J. is Blaze’s son, who was born three months premature, hung on for twenty days, and then passed away. Blaze recorded “Rest in Peace R.J.” three days after his son’s death. There is a great tradition of painful story songs in rap history, from R.A. the Rugged Man’s embodiment of his father’s Vietnam experience in “Uncommon Valor” to Big L’s story of growing up in poverty in “How Will I Make It” to Ghostface Killah’s recollection of a friend dying in his arms in “Impossible,” but this song is the most painful one I have ever heard. The detail is excruciating, the verses rough, sounding almost unfinished, the emotion so fresh that it’s difficult to listen to. But the song’s urgency is its most striking quality. It sounds as if he couldn’t do anything other than rap after losing his son. His art is the only thing that could sustain him in the days after his experience. As he says at the beginning of the song, “this is like the only way I know how to release, you know, my feelings. I don’t know what else to do anymore.”
I can’t begin to understand what Shady Blaze’s life must be like now, but my condolences go out to him and his family.