Jazzy Jeff Stays Fresh in Philly
By Tim Perlich
There's a reason why Will Smith took second billing in DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince before he was a big-deal screen celeb and prior to his television sitcom days as The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. The Phildelphia hiphop duo's real talent was scratch specialist Jazzy Jeff Townes on the wheels of steel. Not merely a party-rocking selector, Jazzy Jeff is a serious turntablist who destroyed all the competition at the New Music Seminar's 1986 DJ Battle For World Supremacy. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's smash hit Parents Just Don't Understand put Smith on track for a lucrative television career, but the Hollywood lifestyle held no fascination for Townes, who decided to stay in Philly and concentrate on music. While Smith moved upward and onward into feature films, Townes founded his Touch of Jazz production company and worked in the background to nurture the development of Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and rising star Glenn Lewis. Jazzy Jeff's just-completed recording for the UK BBE label's excellent Beat Generation series -- due for release in July, preceded by the Magnificent EP in May -- should put him back in the spotlight, but the quintessential team player is always willing to share. "Actually, it was hearing what people like Jay-Dee, Pete Rock and Marley Marl had done and then Will.i.am coming with some across-the-board stuff that made me try to do something that represented all that I do," clarifies Townes from his Philly studio. "So there's a little bit of everything from jazz instrumentals to some soulful stuff with Jill Scott putting a Philly spin on Roy Ayers's We Live In Brooklyn Baby, then closing with an ensemble scratch track involving J-Live and 15 of the dopest DJs in the world as an homage to turntablism." Hopefully, Jazzy Jeff will bring a couple of dub plates from the project to drop during his highly anticipated Uproc set tonight, which he's now planning. Don't count on hearing any current chart hits. "Mostly, I like to go with classic old-school hiphop and new underground stuff that isn't getting played on the radio. It should be a DJ's job to play the things people haven't heard and get you open on some different things -- whether it's music from the past or something brand new. "I love playing in Toronto because there's a real appreciation for hiphop music and the culture. To me, the purest hiphop being made right now is coming out of Canada from guys like Saukrates, Choclair, Kardinal Offishall. They've got rhyme skills and really dope beats. I'm such a huge fan of what they're doing, man -- they don't even know!"