For some musicians, creating a new album is an easy process.
Not so for Jersey City musician Shaheed Shabazz, who is releasing his first album after seven long years. Shabazz, 36, began writing the songs for his first album in 2000. 40 songs later, when he was just going to begin the editing process – he lost everything in a computer crash.
That didn’t deter him from crafting songs, although he said he was stunned at first and didn’t go back to that material until 2003. According to Shabazz, he began rewriting the songs from scratch on Jan. 1, 2003.
He said he remembers that particular day because New Year’s Eve isn’t a big deal to him since he doesn’t drink. “I just went into the studio and started laying down tracks,” said Shabazz. “I was really happy with the way it came out.”
He added, “It’s my first album, but really, it’s my second album – so it came out that much better.”
The result of all that hard work is 11 gritty, bluesy songs that convey a whole lot of passion and energy. The album, “Something Blues,” which is a mix of blues, jazz, and hip-hop, will be released this fall.
Living in Hudson County
Although he’s called Jersey City home for three years, Shabazz grew up and lived in Weehawken for most of his life. One of his first shows was at the now closed infamous Gennaro’s in Weehawken at the tender age of 15.
“I felt that I could actually make it at 15,” said Shabazz, who began playing guitar at the age of 10. His first band was a cover band that played songs by Judas Priest.
In addition to Gennaro’s, Shabazz also played at the former Love Sexy in Hoboken, where he forged a friendship with promoter John Vargas. According to Shabazz, he was in Vargas’s film “Scattered Limbs” with his former band DV8, who played one of the songs in the film.
Shabazz said that DV8 had more of a rock sound than his current music.
“That was definitely in the rock world,” said Shabazz about the band’s sound. “When I was in DV8 I thought if the band ever broke up I could play the blues.”
He added, “Two years later the band broke up.”
Creating an original sound
After getting his wish, he began spending time laying down tracks to find the right combination of jazz, blues, and hip-hop.
“I love hip-hop and blues,” said Shabazz. “I’m not getting this organic thing coming from hip-hop. And I’m not getting this futuristic thing coming from blues, so I recorded about 20 songs until I got one. And I realized that this was it.”
To him, he had to have the right balance of both in the music.
He said that there are several musicians who have influenced his music including: B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jay-Z, ZZ Top, Public Enemy and others.
“One of my biggest influences is Prince,” said Shabazz. “I like people who do what they want. Prince just does what he wants. It’s hard to nail him down. They become timeless.”
What also helped him create the perfect mix was access to a studio 24-7. Shabazz has owned and operated his own recording studio for 11 years. In addition, to his debut album of original works, Shabazz has performed on many albums for other musicians.
Blues for the next generation
Shabazz said that while he likes many styles of music, everything he records will have a little blues in it.
“I hope that people appreciate [the album],” said Shabazz. “There are a lot of purists out there who don’t want to hear changes to blues.”
Shabazz said that by mixing in a little hip-hop with blues, the music is accessible to a whole new generation of listeners.
“How do you write a better blues song than B.B. King?” said Shabazz.
According to Shabazz, he grew up listening to jazz legend Muddy Waters. “I can’t write [music] like that,” said Shabazz.
Shabazz didn’t just record the album for the joy of it – he plans to donate 10 percent of all the profits of the album to Habitat for Humanity’s 9th Ward Project in New Orleans.
“My goal is to raise $20,000,” said Shabazz. “I love the city of New Orleans.”
He said that he likes to help people when he can – even if it is just one person. This includes locals as well; Shabazz has made a point to get to know a few homeless people in town.
“I don’t write music that changes the world,” said the modest Shabazz, “so I like to do things that will change things. It helps me sleep.”
He added, “It gives the project direction.”
Shabazz said that he hopes people enjoy the album and wants to know that he helped other musicians.
“I want people to know that blues does have a future,” said Shabazz. “And I want people to realize that it has a really rich past.”
For more information about Shaheed Shabazz, visit: www.shaheedshabazz.com. His album is available at Tunes in Hoboken and at iTunes.
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