4 stars out of 5
DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince actually turned out better albums than many of their pop-rap contemporaries, but like their peers, they excelled at singles, not albums. That's what makes the appearance of Greatest Hits welcome. Although it has its flaws -- the sublime "Summertime" is here twice, but only as an "Extended Club Mix" and a "'98 remix" -- it remains an excellent summation of their career, boasting such hits as "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble," "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson," "Parents Just Don't Understand," "Boom! Shake the Room," "Ring My Bell," "A Nightmare On My Street" and, as a bonus, Will Smith's 1997 solo hit "Men in Black."
-- Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Before Will Smith expanded into acting on large and small screens, he played rapper to Jazzy Jeff's scratcher in a series of semi-novelty radio and video smashes. A teenager empathizing with the peer group his records were aimed at, the Fresh Prince communicated ground-level dispatches on home life ("Parents Just Don't Understand"), would-be romance ("Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble") and Walter Mitty-style flights of fancy ("I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson"). Movie stardom led Smith to put the mic down until the recent Big Willie Style; the success of that disc makes this the right time to revisit his early work, which shares space here with the newer "Men in Black" and "Just Cruisin'." Is it jiggy? Yeah, pretty jiggy.
Rap reputations revisited for maninblack Will Smith and former DJ partner. It's easy to forget that Will Smith wasn't always a film star. It's even easier to forget that as a rapper he was set on the path to stardom, alongside his disc-spinning partner Jazzy Jeff, by a North London label that recorded the Philadelphia duo's early, marvelously bawdy hits in a scruffy studio in Willesden. Later world beaters, such as the thumping, party-friendly Number 1 Boom! Shake The Room and the luxuriously evocative Summertime, were almost impossible to avoid for anyone who owned a radio. These songs, and a fair proportion of the other 16 included here (including Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble, Parents Just Don't Understand and I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson), still sound great because as well as being cleverly commercial and expertly rapped, they're just too busy having fun to take themselves too seriously.
They advanced Hip Hop's popularity significantly..... In it's virtual "eye blink" time span of existence, Rap, and the Hip Hop house it lives in has been rapidly and constantly changing. Just as we look back on our Afros and bell bottoms and can see our development since then, with this collection, we can look back, even if just ten years, at a group that as weathered some changing times. By that, I mean musical tastes. Rap is as diverse as the population it serves. And those who consider themselves "the true and the pure", can't resist promoting their style at the expense of trashing anothers. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince have been extremely popular, yet also have been unfairly maligned by a large part of the industry. I guess I have to admit that I'm partial to fellow West Philly natives. I am also West philly born and raised, and the playground was were I spent most of my days. I wasn't frontin', trying to emulate a gansta, or felt my role models were those who participated in "the thug life". I was a regular brother, trying to catch the eye of the pretty girl, keep my head low when bullets were flying, and survive the drama of the inner city. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince reflected this attitude, as did Kid and Play.