DJ Jazzy Jeff
As one half of the Platinum selling duo Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Jeff proved to the world he’s one of the dopest DJ’s around. After establishing A Touch of Jazz, a production company which spun Jill Scott and Musiq, Jeff is back with his latest original compilation release, “The Return of the Magnificent”. Make sure to cop that album and read this exclusive interview.
by Will Hernandez

WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the new album The Return of the Magnificent?
Jazzy Jeff: I just wanted to make the extension of “The Magnificent”. Keep it in the same vein, but I wanted to show a little bit more growth and maturity. I didn’t want to go too far out of the box from what I did the first time.

WHO?MAG: What’s the difference between this album and the first one?
Jazzy Jeff: This is the album that I wanted to reach out to a lot of the guys that I wanted to do records with and see if they’d be down to some collabs. I wrote down a list of the people I wanted to work with and picked up the phone and started calling and everybody said yes.

WHO?MAG: How did the song “The Garden” with Big Daddy Kane come about?
Jazzy Jeff: When me and Kane started working was the time when the Hip Hop Honors was on TV. We just started talking about some of the guys that were around that aren’t around anymore. He just started writing and that’s what he came out with. He’s incredible.

WHO?MAG: Production wise, what equipment do you use?
Jazzy Jeff: It’s funny because I have almost everything you can imagine. I got to a point where I pretty much use the MPC2500 and Logic with this new album.

WHO?MAG: How has using Serato changed your approach to DJing vs. using regular vinyl?
Jazzy Jeff: To me it’s exactly the same. The only difference is my music is stored on the computer and I’m not going around with whole bunch of crates carrying records. The needle can still jump. It doesn’t make a DJ’s skills any better. If you can’t DJ with vinyl, you can’t DJ with Serato. The only thing, it makes the carrying records thing a lot better. But I also feel Serato and formats like that has saved the art of DJing because you can’t stop technology and we were getting to a point in time where they were going to actually stop making vinyl. As a DJ and DJ purest, I don’t know what I would have done if they had got to a point that they weren’t making vinyl anymore and I couldn’t do what I normally did.

WHO?MAG: How did the song “The Magnificent” on the Rock the House album come about?
Jazzy Jeff: You know what, I wanted to do a record that broke down a lot. I noticed when we would go places, especially in that point in time, they hadn’t caught on to the art of DJing. I would do things at shows and people would stand there looking like they didn’t get it. We realized that we needed to make a record that breaks down everything that you’re doing. “Yo Jeff! Break it down like a bird.” People can understand that when you’re doing a chirp scratch, it’s easier than you just doing the scratch. It was almost an elementary way of breaking down the techniques and exposing them to people who weren’t DJ savy.

WHO?MAG: How did you and the Fresh Prince get signed to Jive records back in the days?
Jazzy Jeff: We were on a independent record company and we were just happy that Jive expressed an interest. Jive came up to Word Up Records and said they wanted to sign Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. We got signed over to Jive. What happened was the relationship soured between Jive and the record company and we ended up being signed directly to Jive.

WHO?MAG: I’m glad you mentioned Word Up. I read the catalog was bought by somebody. What are your thoughts on that?
Jazzy Jeff: As long as they’re going to put it back and out and it’s going to expand the legacy of the music that was out on that label, it’s cool. I have to keep that stuff going.

WHO?MAG: How was it working with Joe “The Butcher” Nicolo and did it surprise you when he started Ruffhouse records?
Jazzy Jeff: Joe was one of the first guys I went into the studio with, just helping us out and piecing a lot of the stuff together. It was definitely cool. I haven’t seen Joe in a long time. He did really well with the Ruffhouse thing. I was kinda part of the beginning. Not at all. I think that was Joe’s goal from the beginning to get to a point that he could do his own thing and he did.

WHO?MAG: Talk me about the following records…Rock the House (1986)
Jazzy Jeff: That was our first record. More than anything, it was the excitement of this is our first record and we’re going to go to the studio and put it down. Most of the songs were created outside of the studio in the basement. We got a chance to go the studio and put them together. You can never forget your first record. That was the beginning of everything.

WHO?MAG: He’s the DJ. I’m the Rapper. (1988)
Jazzy Jeff: Pretty much the same thing. We kind of got a little more experience in the studio. That was our first record when we were signed completely to Jive. I think the biggest thing to us at that time was just that we were the first group to put together a double album. One was the scratch album. You didn’t think about this being a monumental thing as much as we looked at it as “Wow! We got another chance to go into the studio.” We weren’t trying to sell a bunch of records and make a bunch of history as much as go to the studio and let people know what you can do again.

WHO?MAG: In this Corner (1989)
Jazzy Jeff: That was the first record we did after we kinda had any kind of success. We started a little bit different because we were kind of, I don’t want to say cocky. We got to the point that we sold a bunch of records. We were starting to get a little bit comfortable. We went to the Bahamas and recorded that record. That was kind of like the lesson record. You get to a point that you think you’re pretty big and we can do this. We made a bunch of mistakes on that record. Some of it was the subject matter. I think it was a good record. I just think we didn’t focus the way that we did with “He’s the DJ. I’m the Rapper”. That was the thing I looked at. We needed to keep that same focus. You almost have to treat every record like it’s your first. Keep that same drive and intensity.

WHO?MAG: Homebase (1991)
Jazzy Jeff: I think that’s when we got it back. We kind of figured it out. Will (Smith) went and started “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”. We sat down piecing together “Summertime” basically because he missed being in Philly. Just the way things were and the things when everybody starts to come out and get vibed out in Philly. That was our maturity. It was our fourth album and we kind of know the ropes. Let’s make it happen.

WHO?MAG: Code Red (1993)
Jazzy Jeff: I think that was at a point when Will was doing the TV show and started doing movies. I started really getting into my production. I think at that point in time, we started to out grow the record label. We kind of wanted to go into a different directions and expand. It’s funny talking about all of this. It really makes me realize that a lot of it was a chronological thing when it came time to making and doing the records.

WHO?MAG: What happened with the “Nightmare on My Street” song?
Jazzy Jeff: (laughs) New Line Cinema sued us for the Nightmare record. It was one of those things that we took a lot of the interpretations of “Nightmare on Elm Street”. This is presampling days. We didn’t understand what the ramifications were and they sued us, even though it pretty much helped their record and their movie. It was just something we weren’t supposed to do. That really started the precedent of knowing what you’re supposed to use and what you’re not.

WHO?MAG: Have you ever had any other trouble clearing samples?
Jazzy Jeff: I don’t really want to go into that. That’s on going. Sometimes it’s about people. Sometimes people don’t want you to use their stuff. It doesn’t matter how much money you got or how much money they want. Some people don’t want you to use their stuff, which is understandable. Some people don’t understand that some records don’t sell a lot. There are people I know who have recording budgets of $50,000 and somebody wants $200,000 to clear a sample. It’s a case by case thing.