While Will Smith, the former Fresh Prince, has flourished as a solo act for most of the past decade, DJ Jazzy Jeff has kept himself behind the scenes, playing a key role in the success of Smith's first two solo albums and helping to foster the careers of fellow Philly artists Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild. Jeff's new album, The Magnificent (part of BBE's "The Beat Generation" series), is a homegrown effort that joins the producer with a flock of other Philly-bred artists including Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and ?uestlove. The album's first single, "For Da Love Of Da Game," and "Musik Lounge" pick up where the cool vibe of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Summertime" left off. Jeff's magnificent versatility shines throughout the album; his signature scratches and jazzy guitar licks adorn hip-hop tracks like "Break It Down" as well as smooth R&B songs like "We Are," featuring Raheim. At a lengthy 17 tracks, The Magnificent seems to trudge along at times, perhaps burdened by sparse arrangements which keep the vocals center stage almost too consistently. But just when things get yawny, the monotony is broken by a trio of expertly crafted tunes: J-Live waxes poetic on the personal value of education on the jazz-infused "A Charmed Life"; Jill Scott whimsically relates a dream as it occurs on "We Live In Philly," a reinterpretation of Roy Ayers' "We Live In Brooklyn Baby" ("It was a o-a-sis of athletes!" she squeals); and "In Time," where the Nuyorican house beats of Masters At Work meet Jeff's Philly soul.
© slant magazine, 2002.