I often ponder the legacy bestowed upon some of the people we put up as legends or icons in their respective industries. Maybe this will become a series, maybe just one random post about DJ Jazzy Jeff, time will tell.
Jeff Townes, Philadelphia born and raised, and to most of the world is better known as DJ Jazzy Jeff is world renown for his participation in the legendary rap group, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince with long time best friend Will Smith. But I find myself constantly defending DJ Jazzy Jeff to those who just don’t know that the man is more than a sidekick, in fact, Jeff was not only the back bone of the group but also the launching pad for some of today’s hottest stars.
When DJ Jazzy Jeff was coming up, he was the “IT” DJ for block parties in Philly, if Jazzy was DJ’ing the party was packed. Even going as far as winning the World DJ Championship in the 1986 New Music Seminar DJ Battle. Before “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble” dropped, Jazzy Jeff was scratching up the turn tables from party to party making famous what is now common place in the world of DJ’ing… The Scratch!
Most people don’t know, that in fact, Will Smith was only introduced to DJ Jazzy Jeff by chance. The story goes, that playing at party a few doors away from where Will lived, Jazzy Jeff was missing his hype man. Smith filled in and well… the rest is history. The duo went on to win awards and helped bring rap and hip-hop to the public eye and even won the very first rap Grammy award.
No one doubts the legacy of the duo, nor that of Will Smith, who as we all know has solidified himself as one of hip-hop’s greats as well as one of Hollywood’s top leading actors. Will has made that little bankruptcy thing from before his Fresh Prince TV show days a long and very distant memory. But what about Jeff? Oh sure, he pops up and performs with Will from time to time. Occasionally gets a shout out here and there, but really, what about Jeff?
Is Jeff Townes aka DJ Jazzy Jeff, or Jazz on the hit TV show, nothing more than an over-hyped sidekick? A hip-hop legend because of association? In a word… NO!
Jeff Townes is a hip-hop pioneer. Check that, a music pioneer. He has had his hands in the launching and development of current music stars like Jill Scott, Musiq and Raheem DeVaughn. Moving most of his focus towards the Neo-Soul movement. But still knee deep in hip-hop. In 2007, his release “The Return of the Magnificent” featured artists like CL Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pos from De La Soul, Method Man, Peedi Peedi and more. Showing off his strong hip-hop skills and his Neo-Soul involvement at the same time.
DJ Jazzy Jeff is not only the legend he deserves to be, but also still a moving force in today’s current music place. Working with artists like Rhymefest, he is still in the game. Just more behind the scenes pulling the strings and making beats and producing some of the best. While not prominently featured with Will Smith anymore, he still has produced several of his songs on his album releases since the duo separated musically.
There is no doubt that while you might not be in the know, Jeff Townes has earned every ounce of respect he has in the world of hip-hop, and will continue to blaze new paths throughout the music world. And if you haven’t heard them, check out “NY Weather Report” by Talib Kweli and “Get Busy” by The Roots and listen to the scratches on those tracks, that’s all Jeff.
So allow me to say yes. DJ Jazzy Jeff, you are one of hip-hop’s icons.