Reflecting on Blaze Magazine – Rap’s Literature’s Hidden Gem
Picture the scene. The year is 1998. You are bumping Black Star, DMX and Outkast in your Walkman as you enter a corner store. When you get to the magazine section, you see The Source, XXL and Blaze. Blaze Magazine was founded in 1998 by Vibe/Spin Ventures LLC. As their name suggests, they were the masterminds behind both Vibe and Spin mag.
Editor, Jesse Washington suffered facial lacerations and fractures after being allegedly attacked by four assailants. The Associated Press reported one of the attackers was producer and artist D-Dot/The Mad Rapper. D-Dot is famous for mentoring a young Kanye West and appearing as his Mad Rapper character on various album skits. Washington also alleged that former Fugees member Wyclef Jean pulled a shotgun on him after a negative review of his then-protégé Canibus’ album. This allegedly angered Jean as he produced the project.
Outside of the drama, Blaze was notorious for its heavy use of ads in the magazine. Its Fall ‘98 issue with Method Man on the cover features over 120 pages of ads. This encompassed well over 50% of the issue. Potentially, this alienated its reader base, opting for more content-heavy alternatives.
Looking back on the adverts through a modern lens, you get a real idea of popular black culture from the late 90s. Whether its adverts for FUBU, Lugz or Tommy Hilfiger, you get a revolving time capsule of the era.
Sadly, due to unfruitful sales Blaze was discontinued in the Spring of 2000. Chief executive Robert L. Miller sought to cancel Blaze because of its lack of profitability for the company. Despite being around for two years, Blaze is best remembered for having the largest launch music/entertainment magazine ever. The mag’s first two issues sold well over 250 and 300,000 copies each. During its tenure, Blaze was graced by some of rap’s biggest stars like Nas, Lil Wayne and Mobb Deep.
Blaze could be seen as a precursor to sites like The Shade Room or VladTV as their behind-the-scenes controversy fuelled its sales and interest. Rap music and drama go hand in hand. The magazine really embodied the highs and lows of the culture.