Once upon a time, Danny Blaze was happily one-half of The Koolest, a Durham hip-hop duo he formed with rapper/producer/singer Dinero P. Unfortunately, when they approached a publicist to help them take their careers to the next level, she told them they were better off as separate entities.
“I had come across someone who I believed could further our career, but she literally refused to work with us as a group,” recalls Blaze (name his momma gave him: Daniel Watkins), 26, on the phone from Durham. “I had talked to some other people who I believe had similar experiences, and they all kinda said the same thing: being in a group has, like, a ceiling. You have limitations seemingly being a hip-hop group or duo these days, you know. There used to be tons of them back in the day. But, now, you even look at the industry and local scenes, and there are fewer and fewer – and I was even told by some people straight-up that there are people out there who refuse to work with groups because they feel like they’re gonna waste their time and effort, because they usually end up breaking up anyway.”
The pair eventually split up, but Blaze says they’re still on good terms. “We’re definitely still friends,” he says. “I see him at least once a week, if not more… That was one of the things I was worried about, actually. I thought I’d lose him as a friend. I was really afraid to do that because, sometimes, people can’t really differentiate business and personal, and they kinda take both together.”
The born-and-based Durhamite was a little afraid to start from scratch as a solo artist.
“I didn’t even know if people would like me by myself,” he says. “Like, you build a brand and a fanbase as one thing and then, it’s something else. And I was actually pretty afraid to do it.”
But thanks to that aforementioned publicist, he’s been making several solid moves as of late. He recently went out on his first East Coast tour. (He still performs around these parts – he’ll be one of the MCs at “The Old Fashioned UNAMERICAN Barn Burner” Friday at Kings.) He’s also been working on new tracks, which can be found on his SoundCloud page.
“I wanted to get more personal, talk about my life, kind of show people who I am as an individual.”
But even as he pursues a solo career, Blaze will forever rep his city, as well as the hip-hop scene that shaped and molded him.
“I wanna be that guy – like, when you think of Durham, you think of me, to be quite honest,” he says. “I felt like we, as The Koolest, never got to that point where we should’ve been. I feel I have the potential to do that now, you know. I’m one of the few Durham artists already. It seems like we have less and less every year, and I really want to show the world and North Carolina itself that Durham is a dope place with some incredibly talented people – and I like to think I’m one of them.”
What: “The Old Fashioned UNAMERICAN Barn Burner,” with Jooselord Magnus x Krawzbonez, SHAME, Danny Blaze, theDeeepEnd and Oak City Slums
When: 10 p.m. Friday
Where: Kings, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh
Info: 919-833-1091 or kingsraleigh.com