Exclusive Interview w/ DJ Jazzy Jeff: From Boycotting the Grammys to Traveling the World for the Love of Music
Jeffrey Allen Townes will forever be solidified in the hearts of millennials as Jazz from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Between his endearing friendship with Will and being ceremoniously thrown out of Uncle Will’s home, Jazz has brought us classic television moments of joy and introspection. But before we knew him as Jazz, he was DJ Jazzy Jeff turning up block parties and pushing the Grammys to revere hip-hop as a serious genre. With the last of Summertime still with us, I was able to sit with the seasoned DJ.
Jones: Now that you’re a seasoned vet, you’ve seen a lot of styles in hip-hop come and go and you’ve been able to work with younger rappers such as Mac Miller & Shad, in your opinion, as you’ve seen trends in hip-hop come and go, do you think hip-hop is headed towards a good place or it’s just recycling the same things over and over?
Jeff: I think it’s headed in a good place. People tend to harbor on the negative aspects of hip-hop. There was negative stuff in the 80’s, negative stuff in the 90’s, so people will look for an issue if they can. The appeal of this work is incredible. Coming from where I came from, to witness the global reach of hip-hop is a blessing. Back in the day, Will and I boycotted the Grammys because they didn’t want to have a hip-hop award section. Now it’s almost all hip-hop. It just shows you how far we’ve come and how much we still have to do.
Jeff: I do about 160 dates a year globally and the project is to show viewers how big the world is and how small it is at the same time. You know, everyone likes to party and everyone likes to have a good time. Even if we don’t speak the same language we all speak the same language in music.
Jones: Would you and Will ever work together again to do a hip-hop single or an album?
Jeff: Listen, we’ve been talking about it and working it out, it’s just the scheduling is all. It’s more so his schedule than mine. As soon as we can clear the time up, it’s a go. He really, really wants to do it.
Jones: You’re definitely a jack of all trades. You’ve been a hip-hop artist, DJ, and an actor. Do you wish you had gotten more into acting and would you ever do it again in a more formal capacity in the same way you did with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?
Jeff: I don’t know if I would do it again, but I don’t think I would ever say no. My passion has always been music and that’s probably why I’ve only dabbled in acting. I am very happy with the direction I took in music, so right now might not be the time for me to attempt to do anything in acting.