We’re excited to bring to you a brand new segment on The Urban Play called Millennial Moguls. This is where we will be highlighting millennial movers and shakers; young entrepreneurs that are holding their own and redefining what it means to be urban in their own way.
For the first installment of this series, we had our very own Cindy Makita sit down and get to know Miami DJ, Justin Elliott. Known professionally as LLCoolBlaze or Blaze for short, he has made a name for himself in the Caribbean DJ circuit not only as a musician, but also as an entrepreneur. Check out the interview below where Blaze talks about the power of social media, the current landscape of urban music, and how he plans to spread Caribbean culture to the world.
Cindy: So take us through a typical day in the life of LLCoolBlaze. What does it entail?
Blaze: For the most part I wake up pretty early, I try to work out because I feel like it energizes me for the day. Then I check my schedule, see what meetings or events I have for the day so I can prepare myself for that. If I don’t have anything going on then I’m usually in the studio working on some remixes or working on some new riddims I have coming out.
Cindy: Nice and how much of your time is actually spent on social media? Because I follow you and you’re pretty active on there.
Blaze: I feel like as DJ you have to be active on social media because that’s where your fan base is. Nowadays everyone’s phone is always in their hands, and it’s the same thing with me. I’m always either on Instagram, on Facebook, or on Twitter just trying to interact with fans or I’m on Soundcloud listening to new music.
Cindy: And there’s this new thing you’ve been doing with memes. Where do they come from and how do you think them up?
Blaze: A lot of my memes I come up with them myself. I feel like the best memes come from real life, situations that you’re in, other people will find relatable. Having those memes and putting them out on my social media, I feel like it gives my fans a more like personal side of me, because I’m a clown and I love to make people laugh.
Cindy: So there’s a lot of DJ’s out there, and everyone’s trying to be different and do their own thing. What differentiates you from your competition?
Blaze: With DJing, my philosophy is that you can play someone else’s music as good as you want, but until you create your own sound, you’ll never be as good as the best in the business, because the best have their own sound. So what I do is I try to create a lot of my own remixes, a lot of my own edits, so when I’m playing, people are hearing songs that they know, but they’re hearing them in a different way and enjoying it, and they can only hear that when I’m playing.
Cindy: And who or what inspires you?
Blaze: The two people that inspire me musically, are actually two of my really good friends, DJ Crown Prince and DJ Walshy Fire. I’ve watched their careers from the start, and they’ve always been on their grind, and they’ve always stayed consistent. They do what I said earlier, they make their own remixes and they have their own sound. Walshy with Major Lazer doing his thing creating sounds and making original songs, and Prince doing his thing with edits and bringing that international vibe. You know with both of their vibes, it’s that international sound influenced by Caribbean culture which is the same direction I’m trying to go with my music.
Cindy: Right, and how would you describe your personality when DJing, do you stick to a certain genre or do you switch it up?
Blaze: I feel like if you’re a good DJ, you feed off of the crowd’s energy. So if you’re playing something and the crowd isn’t reacting, you need to adjust what you’re doing. Until I get to a point where I’m like Walshy with Major Lazer, where when you go to a Major Lazer show you’re going to hear Major Lazer songs, until I get to that level, I just feed off of my crowd. Every time I play I try to have people say one of two things, either “I never heard that before but I like it”, or “Damn I haven’t heard that in forever.”
Cindy: So tell us where you got the name LLCoolBlaze from because that’s a pretty interesting story isn’t it?
Blaze: Alright so yeah it is a pretty funny story. When I was younger I used to get my hair cut with my dad every Sunday, and I every time I walked into the barber shop, my barber would be like “Yo, just blaze!” you know like the producer.
Cindy: Just Blaze! Lol yeah it is kinda catchy.
Blaze: Yeah it is lol. So growing up the name kinda just stuck. In high school everybody had nicknames, mine was Just Blaze. Around 2006 when Twitter started popping, my username was JustBlazeMIA and I ended up in a little bit of Twitter beef with the real Just Blaze so I figured it was time for a name change. You know that ‘s one of my favorite producers so I didn’t want to start any problems. One of my favorite rappers is LLCoolJ, so I just switched it up, I kept the Blaze and added Ladies Love Cool Blaze. So I kept the name, I just kinda made it my own.
Cindy: So can you tell us what Island360 is your involvement in it?
Blaze: Well I’m the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Island360. Island360, we were kind of like those freshman kids in college that didn’t know what our major was, so we actually started out throwing parties. I had moved from Miami to Orlando for awhile and I was up there with three of my friends from Miami, and we wanted to bring Miami-style Caribbean events to Orlando, because it was kind of lacking at the time. So we did a couple of parties up there in Orlando and then we all left Orlando and came back to Miami and were like “What do we do now?” This was around the time that Instagram started getting really popular so we just started posting really funny Caribbean-related memes on Instagram account.
Cindy: Lol so that’s really your thing huh? Memes?
Blaze: I mean that’s really how it all started lol. If you keep people smiling and laughing, then they come back because it makes them feel good. So our mission with Island360 went from bringing that Caribbean culture to Orlando, to bringing that Caribbean culture to the world. Island360 is kind of like a grown up version of CSA.
Cindy: Gotcha, big up CSA!
Blaze: Right, we all started in the Caribbean Student’s Association. We try to keep that same kind of mission which is just spreading our culture, because it’s a wonderful culture. When people think of the islands they think of Bob Marley, they think of Jamaica, or they think of the Bahamas for cruises, or they think of Haiti as poor. They don’t really see the beauty, just the stereotypes. A lot of times even people from the Caribbean don’t see the difference in each of the islands, so it’s really about educating people about the beauty of the Caribbean.
Cindy: So you said you started Island360 with your friends. What advice do you have to give young millennials coming up in the entertainment industry?
Blaze: My biggest advice is just don’t give up. People think that everything happens overnight, but they don’t actually see the grind that people go into. You know like right now one of the biggest songs out is Panda. Desiigner wrote that song two years ago and we’re all just hearing it now. It’s a struggle because there’s so many people out there trying to do what you’re doing, but stay true to yourself , don’t try to be like anybody else, and just stay consistent. Like Jay-Z said, “The genius thing we did was, we didn’t give up.”
Cindy: As you know, we are The Urban Play, and we are redefining what it means to be urban. What’s your definition of urban?
Blaze: To me, in 2016 my definition of urban is transcending because if you look at what people would consider “urban”, it’s a lot of what pop culture is now. I was actually having this conversation with an older DJ, and we were talking about how now, Top 40 is Future, Lil Wayne and Drake, and 10 years that would have been urban music but now it’s considered popular culture. So I feel like urban is really just what sets the trend.