You’re probably saying, “Will Smith, the actor?”
Well, he rapped back in the day.
And if you say “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” I will hurt you.
Anyhow, back in the ‘80s Will Smith and Jeff Townes were one of the hip-hop’s most notable and celebrated pairings. As the duo of the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, they had the game on lock with their lighthearted raps which unabashedly aimed for the pop charts and nods of approval from parents… allowing them to be shocked and appalled by other things.
Fun fact: Will originally planned on being a “hard” emcee, until his grandmother spotted his rhyme book and make him promise not to curse in his rhymes.
Anyhow, with their debut, 1987’s Rock The House and the smash follow-up He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, they broke through to a mainstream audience, even becoming the first rap group to win a Grammy with their classic “Parents Just Don’t Understand”…though the awards ceremony slighted them by having the award presented during the commercials, leading to the hip-hop world largely boycotting the awards and groups like Public Enemy declaring, “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?”
Anyway, one of my fave tracks by the duo is “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff,” from their debut. No, I didn’t just select the song because my name is in it, but it’s a solid track which features an element that doesn’t really exist anymore in today’s rap: The deejay. Back in the early days of hip-hop the deejay was king, the person who got the party going. The rapper was only an accessory to the one on the turntables, and in the nascent years of hip-hop, emcees would often shout-out their deejays or have a few tracks dedicated to presenting their craft.
And “Magnificent” is a fine example of that, as Jazzy Jeff (you know, the dude who kept getting thrown out of Uncle Phil’s house on ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’?) does some fantastic work on this joint, making a playful track which is complex in it’s production. It’s a great listen, and a slick showing of the talents of Jeff.
Originally posted a real long time ago on my Tumblr, Emaciated Wildebeest, on July 19, 2011.
But wait! It’s 2020 and I’ve got more to say: While the group was passed over by some rap fans back in the day for not being hardcore enough, JJ & FP were trailblazers in pop rap, and the Grammy win was a significant moment in hip-hop history. They also have an enduring classic with 1991’s “Summertime,” a mainstay on EVERY summer playlist.
To this day Jazzy Jeff reigns as a legendary deejay with incredible chops on the turntables. This moment of breakneck scratching and sampling was completely mindblowing for listeners back in ’87 and still sounds incredibly dope today. The producer/deejay combo is pretty gone from hip-hop nowadays, but deejaying still gets the party going and Jeff elevated the art.
Also, I’m reposting this cuz my entire adult life everyone says I look like Jazz and I’m leaning into it. Good company to be in!