April 04, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

To the hip-hop cognoscenti, Just Blaze provides soul-drenched beats for Jay-Z and Usher. To gaming geeks, he made the phat track that plays every time you nail that Super-Slamdunk in NBA Street. So how’d he become one of the most sought-after musicians in videogames? ”I guess they wanted to get somebody who could give the games another stamp of authenticity,” says the 28-year-old producer of his career double-double stats. In 2002, when EA was seeking a brand-name knob twiddler with gaming chops, an industry friend tipped them off that Blaze was the guy for the job. When EA called him, ”I thought it was a joke.” Hardly. In fact, not only did the company hire Blaze to score for a number of theirhottest titles (Def Jam Vendetta, NBA Street Vol. 2), they put him in NBA Live as a free agent. ”They made me like a 5′ 11” Jordan,” he says. ”They’ve banned my character [when we play] in the studio because he’s too good.”

So what’s better than getting your very own superskilled mini-me baller? Free publicity. ”My deal was unique because it wasn’t just one game. I got a pretty good paycheck, and I put my name in all the commercials. To be honest, I would have done it no matter what the number was, just off the publicity. For me, it was a good stepping-stone.” But on to more important matters: Do his beats actually help him win against hip-hop’s finest? ”Fat Joe is a beast at NBA Live. He embarrassed me pretty bad,” Blaze admits. ”But then I turned around and slaughtered him in Madden. By the second quarter, it was 56-0 and he had given up.” Cue self-penned victory track.

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