9 gems from DJ Jazzy Jeff's "Drink Champs" episode
As one half of the dynamic duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, the hip hop vet is iconic.
Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
This week, the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff pays the “Drink Champs” a visit and gives a deep dive into his illustrious career. As one half of the dynamic duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Jazzy Jeff was one of the iconic DJs of the late ’80s and early ’90s, putting his imprint on classic albums like He’s The DJ, I’m the Rapper. In addition to releasing five albums as a unit, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince helped further hip hop’s standing in pop culture with the seminal sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
As Will Smith has become a megastar in the film industry, Jazzy Jeff has kept his name in the mix with multiple album releases, most notably The Magnificent and Return of the Magnificent. He has also kept a loaded touring schedule, rocking venues across the world and giving the public a taste of his distinct Philly flavor. With more than three decades worth of experience under his belt, DJ Jazzy Jeff is revered as one of the most respected and beloved DJs of all time.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the DJ Jazzy Jeff episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. What Inspired Him To Become A DJ
One of the first topics to arise during Jazzy Jeff’s sit-down with DJ EFN and Noreaga is what initially prompted him to become a DJ. “Well I had some older DJs in my neighborhood that would do all of the block parties,” Jeff shares. “And I would go to these block parties and these guys would be on these enclosed porches, so you would never see what they looked like. And they had these massive speakers and I always felt like they were the puppet masters because they got you to do whatever they wanted to do with the music that they played. And I wasn’t the one at the block parties trying to get the girls, I was looking at that indoor house trying to figure out who the wizard was and how he was pulling all these strings. And I got to a point that I was like, ‘I wanna be that guy. I wanna have that level of control that he has with this music.’”
2. How He Met Will Smith
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince are considered one of the pivotal duos in hip hop history, as the two Philly natives helped put their city on the map and usher rap’s ascent in the mainstream. Jeff gives the backstory behind how he and Will Smith’s partnership came to be. “I was really big in the city as a DJ and Will was in a crew in a section of the city in Wynnefield. And you know of people because a lot of times, we’re on the same show and it was crazy because this was pre-cell phone, pager, any of that. So when you had to get a call, you was in the house and I got a call like, ‘Yo, someone wants you to do this party on 54th and Wynnefield.’ And I was like, ‘Cool,’ and I picked up the phone and called the guy who used to MC for me and he wasn’t in the house. I couldn’t page him or nothing, so it was kinda like, ‘I’ma go do the party, I just can’t get him.’ And when I showed up, it was two doors down from Will’s house. And soon as I showed up to set up, he came in the basement and it was kinda like we knew each other, dapped each other up. He was like, ‘Where’s your man, Ice?’ And I was like, ‘Yo, I couldn’t find him. You mind if I rock?’ And it was just a natural chemistry that we had that night. Listen, I kept saying if Ice would’ve picked up that phone, I might not be sitting here. And then that turned into, ‘What you doing tomorrow? What are you doing next Saturday?’ And it was probably seven months later we had a record out.”
3. The Moment He Realized He And Will Smith Were Superstars
When asked when was the moment he realized he had “made it,” Jazzy Jeff points back to the release of his and The Fresh Prince’s hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand” as that turning point. “When we put out ‘Parents,’ I remember we had signed to Rush. And I remember when we played them He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper album, Russell listened to it and Russell said, ‘This is gonna be gold in four weeks.’ And we was just like, ‘Whatever,’ we didn’t believe him. And the record actually went gold in five weeks. But, what it was, we were on tour and it’s like you start off the tour and you’re the third act to go on. And then, a week later, you’re the fourth act to go on, and then a week later, you’re the fifth act to go on and you’re not realizing why they’re moving you up. And we doing these shows with Run D.M.C., it was a packed tour. And it was kinda like every night, Will started coming to me and was like, ‘Yo, is it me or is the cheers getting louder?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I can’t tell.’ And it was one night and he did ‘Parents Don’t Understand’ and he said the first verse and in between the first and second verse, he was like, ‘Listen, I’m gonna say the first line and want everybody to say the second line,’ which is really dangerous ’cause if nobody said shit, we would’ve been [embarrassed]. And he said , ‘I remember one year my mom took me school shopping,’ and 25,000 people answering. And that was it.”
4. His Relationship with James Avery
During “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s” six-season run, DJ Jazzy Jeff was a constant presence on the show and a part of some of its more memorable moments, particularly when he was continuously physically tossed out of the Banks household by Uncle Phil. However, Jeff also remembers the late actor as a close friend, and someone who liked to get out on the road and experience life. “He was my vacation dude because in the off-season, he would just get in the car and him, and his friends would drive from cross country,” Jeff recalls. “He could tell you every great restaurant, every great beach. They were travelers, so I would go to him. He’s like, ‘Yo, the best beach in the world is Cancun, the best restaurant is here. But, he would always pull you to the side, drop some knowledge. He was a big music and jazz fan, so I would always go in his room and he would slide me new CDs and stuff like that. But, he was cool. He was really cool.”
5. His Respect For DJ 9AM
DJ AM is regarded as one of the most talented disc jockeys of his time and even made a great impression on DJ Jazzy Jeff, which the legend reveals during his “Drink Champs” interview. “I had a Vegas residency for seven years. Me and DJ AM had great times in Vegas because we would push the envelope. I always had a massive level of respect for him. I’ll never forget one of the first times I went to Vegas and he was playing, and I walked in and it’s 2,000 people. It’s 1:30 a.m. at night and he was like, ‘Yo, did you hear the new Mobb Deep record?’ And I was like, ‘Nah,’ and he was, ‘Yo,’ and just dropped it. But, it was a level of respect that I had for that, that he’s kinda like, ‘Yo, I’m the DJ, I’m the train conductor. Everybody’s on my train, they gon’ go where I’ma take ’em.’ And you respected that.”
6. The Inspiration Behind “Summertime”
Of all of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s songs, “Summertime” is the duo’s definitive banger. Jazzy Jeff gives DJ EFN and Noreaga the scoop on how the record came to be. “It was funny that was the first year that Will was on the [Fresh Prince of Bel-Air] show and you know, we’re east coast. Fall: leaves turn brown, get a little chilly, throw your jacket on. Winter: snow, you got your bomber ski-hat. First day of spring, it’s 70 degrees and we go overboard, and wanna throw some shorts on and think it’s hot. But, you see the girl that you ain’t seen all summer and she got a little thick. Your man got a new car, he now shining and what happened was he’s in L.A., and it’s 90 [degrees] in the winter. So, I remember him calling me in the spring, first nice day we had and was just like, ‘Yo, what’s up?’ And I’m just like, ‘Yo, such and such, boy, she stacked now. And such and such got a new car,’ you know? And he was like, ‘Damn, I miss that.’ And I never thought about that. You don’t get the seasons changing. So, you don’t have that nostalgia, it’s a little bit different. It’s 90 [degrees on] Christmas. So, that was the inspiration, that it was like, ‘Yo, I miss summertime in Philly. I miss these nuances’ and it was crazy because not realizing that every place has their own nuance, it didn’t have to be what he talked about. And it was kinda like we put the record out and everybody loved it in the summer.”
7. Sticking To Your Guns As A DJ
Pleasing the crowd is at the top of the list of a DJ’s objectives. However, Jazzy Jeff makes it clear that he stays true to himself and his sensibilities whenever in doubt. “You know what, I’ve always had tunnel vision. Right, wrong or indifferent. It’s kinda like I am the steak, baked potato and salad that you get in the restaurant. I’ma give you this shit every night. If you book steak, baked potato and salad, you’re gonna get it and there were times it didn’t [work]. But, for the most part, I believe that people are booking you for you. And especially, you really gotta stick to ‘I’ma do me when I don’t know what this is.’ When you’re unsure, the one thing you’re sure of is yourself. I don’t know what language they’re speaking, but I’ma fucking play Biggie.”
8. His Favorite Live Performance
DJ Jazzy Jeff has tore down the house at countless venues and stadiums. But, his favorite performance occurred recently, when he and Will Smith reunited onstage for the first time in decades. “You know what’s crazy, after twenty years, Will and I did two shows last year. We did a show in Croatia and we did a show in the U.K., and it was just us, and it was 30,000 people, and it was different ’cause you don’t know. It’s kinda like, ‘Shit, we doing these shows, I don’t know. I have no idea what my or Will’s relevancy to the world is.’ You hear it, but you almost think everyone is lying to you, so you don’t know. And to me, it’s safer me not knowing ’cause I don’t know where I’d be if [I did]. So, going out and somebody selling a show and tickets, you’re just kinda like, ‘Damn, is anyone gonna show up?’ But to watch people show up with albums and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and jackets, and it was just us… And it was crazy during the show, I have a monitor in Will’s ear, then I have a microphone that I could talk to him during the show. And I told him, ‘Tell everybody to put up their phone and turn their flashlights on.’ And when he said it, I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t pick my phone up and take a picture of it. Like, I froze. Because it was on a pier in England and you couldn’t see how far the crowd went back. So, when everybody put their light on and you kinda saw how far 30,000 people went back, I couldn’t pick my phone up and take a picture. Listen, we ain’t ever gotta do another show in life. I’m good.”
9. His Favorite Part About Being A DJ
When asked what his favorite part of being a DJ is, Jazzy Jeff says the challenge of conquering crowds and watching the play develop before it happens. “As a DJ, there’s a point where you know you got ’em. And when you got ’em, sometimes you can have ’em as soon as you walk on, you ain’t gotta play shit. And then sometimes, it’s like, ‘You gonna fight me a little bit, so it’s gonna take me fifteen minutes to get you.’ I think what I like is knowing that I know what’s about to happen three records from now and you don’t. Especially when you get the dude that’s in the front, you wanna be in the front, but you wanna have the stone face, and I’m like, ‘Listen, you’re gonna nod your head.’ I’m betting money, that’s my goal ’cause you don’t know. And I’m watching you. I’m watching this smile come on and go off. I’m watching you ice-grill, I’m watching your hands loosen up to the point that at the end of the night, you can’t take it. You gotta go to the back cause you gotta let go, but knowing that you know something that everyone else doesn’t. I know where this is gonna end and I know where you’re gonna be when this ends. But, you don’t know.”
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