A short interview follows a story of how DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince impacted my teenage years. The group released a total of 8 albums. Wow, it’s crazy how music has changed in the interim. I can safely say my generation grew up in the Golden Age of Hip Hop and Jeff Townes and Will Smith deserve a lot of credit.
So I’m 16. Chillin‘. Going though what we all go through being a teenager. On Saturdays, I had to watch Tony Atlas hulk one of Freddie Blassie’s villains or Ric Flair clown some cat by telling him he was going to take his girl to Space Mountain. Woooo!
About 1:00 in the afternoon, it was time to tape the WDNR show from Widener University in Chester, PA. You should see the look on my kids’ faces when I talk about cassette tapes. They know nothing about having the player paused on record trying to catch every second of whatever was blaze at the time…something like Pack Jam by the Jonzun Crew, Scorpio by Grandmaster Flash or F.R.E.S.H by the Fresh MC’s. We passed those tapes around the development until they popped or were jacked.
The next couple of years Hip Hop was burned into our psyche and when my brother pulled into the driveway one summer morning, I heard something fresh to def rhymed over an I Dream of Jeannie sample. The track actually seemed like we could have produced it. That’s no respect to Will and Jeff for it just flowed so natural. Up until that time, most rappers were older and Will and Jeff gave us something we could identify with a little more closely.
The group debuted Rock the House and being from the Philly area, Jazz and Will got extra respect. The title track was Ready Rock C beat boxing to Will’s rhymes and clubs here went crazy when it played. On The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff, Jeff showcased his ridiculous turntable skills. He was the originator of the transformer scratch and we would rewind the track over and over and over. Saturday night we would bang nothing but the tape as the fellas and I drove to Hockessin, DE to kick it at a club called TP’s. This is when the dances Pee Wee Herman and the Fila were popular at the same time. I always rocked this blue leather kufi with at least one medallion swinging around my neck looking around for a lovely to dance with when Computer Love (the long version) came on to end the night.
When He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper dropped it was all over.
Brand New Funk…Live in Union Square…Nightmare on My Street…Charlie Mack, (1st Out the Limo) were the joints I listened to the most. Nightmare on My Street cracked us up when Freddy jumped out and scared the mess out of Jeff on the track.
Will got his show after that and the rest is history as you all know it.
Just imagine this time transitioning into the blow ya conscious mind era of Chuck and Kris. This period turned the entire industry out one street at a time. I wonder if Hip Hop will ever see another period of such drastic change. I was listening to a Little Wayne track where he was comparing himself to MLK and I was disgusted. No hate, just disappointment. Thank God for cats like NYOIL (make sure you check out Father, Father).
This was conducted after the Bull Wonder played tricks on Sixers stand out point guard Andre Miller. It’s just something short just to give you a feel of the personality in his Philly element. Thanks Jeff for helping to shape my love of Hip Hop and Jazz.
Michael Tillery: Whassup Jeff? How are you doing? Sixers fan?
Jazzy Jeff: Absolutely.
MT: Was Derrick Rose ridiculous tonight or what?
JJ: Yeah…you know…wow! That’s like an understatement. He definitely got an offensive and a defensive ESPN highlight.
MT: Have you ever seen a point guard this athletically gifted? Think back.
JJ: Not from a rookie. Not like that. I think he’s gonna be crazy in a minute. He is definitely worthy of the number one pick as far as I see.
MT: What’s it like kicking back at the game? I’m sure everybody shows you love here.
JJ: Oh it’s great. I’ve been coming to games…I’ve been here through the super duper losing seasons to the season where we almost won the championship and even the Dr. J seasons. I’m glad the Phillies won the championship. Hopefully one of these days, the Sixers will be in line to do the same.
MT: It’s crazy, but the first time I saw you was at a rest stop on the way to Six Flags Great Adventure. We used to bang Girls Ain’t Nothin’ But Trouble in 1985.
JJ: (Laughs) That was a fun record to make.
MT: Anyway…as we go into what I think was a Roy Rogers, I see this Celica with a red name plate that said A Touch of Jazz. Did you have a Celica? This was like 1986.
JJ: Yeah I had a white one.
MT: That’s crazy. I’ve always wanted to ask you that. Obviously you are having a remarkable career. IMO you are one of the greatest DJ’s that have ever lived. Do you put yourself in that class? Do you ever reflect on your career?
JJ: As far as me being one of the greatest DJ’s…Nah, I let everybody else do that. The ride is not over. Growing up in Philly has been the backbone of everything. The whole thing has been incredible. I haven’t reflected on my career because I don’t think it’s over.
MT: What’s going on now? Who are you working with?
JJ: The last three years I’ve been a DJ all over the world–which has been great. Everything has come full circle. I’m doing DJ shows that are bigger than the shows we did. You know I’m sure, to be able to do what you love is a blessing.
MT: Did you ever envision Will becoming the megastar he is or what was to come for you two as a group?
JJ: Yes. I don’t think I can pinpoint what it was but his drive and determination was crazy. I’m waiting for Will to be President and I can be the secretary of music or something. As far as us, not at all. Not even if somebody told me. We’ve definitely went through a whole lot. We basically grew up in the business. All the changes. Will is like the first person to do acting on both screens and also rap. No it’s like a prerequisite. Everybody is trying it now. Just thinking about the trends and also the ride…I can’t help to think that it’s not over.
MT: Charlie Mack is here all the time. Everybody still cool with each other?
JJ: Oh yeah. Of course, Charlie lives right around the corner from me.
MT: Thanks Jeff.
JJ: No problem.
We all remember this classic shot in and around old hot spot Fairmount Park…
Jeff rips it here…
and here as well