How does one begin to explain the excitement and soon to follow panic of being told you are interviewing a hip-hop pioneer in two hours that you have been waiting a mere 7 years to get a chance to speak to? Well the answer is quite simply… yes, when and where and pray the conversation flows.
Conversating about hip hop is an effortless task for the enigmatic DJ Jazzy Jeff aka Jeff Townes, who is as informed as he is entertaining when discussing the highs and lows of this game called Hip Hop. A game this Philadelphia native has mastered over the past three decades with deft music production, an incredible work ethic, and a humility that is belies the greatness that shrouds this DJ/producer like a super hero’s cape. Jazzy Jeff is a living legend and as he makes his way back to Australia this week for another tour, courtesy of Delta Bravo Touring, he dropped some inspirational gems about what the art of djing means to him and how the global music community is shaping the genre of hip hop into its next chapter.
Hi Jeff, how are you doing ….. it is so amazing to speak with you after so long! I see you have been keeping yourself busy no doubt?
Jeff: (laughs) Yes just a little. Hey how you doing Maxine, thanks for your time and yes I am doing well. I’m always good when I’m travelling you know, I just love to travel. I am currently in Tokyo right now and oh man I Iove the energy in this city with its amazing people and how much they love music. Just amazing place to be. So yes I am well and very busy, no other way to be (laughs)!
That’s amazing to hear and yes Tokyo is an awesome city. No doubt you are in the Japanese leg of your current world tour and making your way to Australia for your tour kicking off in Sydney on 8th November. We are so excited to see you again and doing what you do, your fans are waiting with baited breath. What is it that keeps you returning to Australia so often, much to our joy, clearly Australia holds a special place in your heart?
Jeff: Oh, I love Australia, always have from my first visit years ago. The love you guys have for music from across the hip hop music genre is something that a DJs dreams are made of (laughs). You love every era from the 80’s to the 90’s and more and never tire of hearing classic tracks remixed in with newer beats and artists and that is the beauty of partying in Australia. You couldn’t play the era fusions you guys love here in the States, the crowds will not vibe to it or even understand why the 90’s are being mixed in with the newer generation …. it just wouldn’t work. And that is why I love djing out here, just good people who love good music and that’s all you can ask for”.
DJ Jazzy Jeff has been wowing the world with his infectious djing and head nodding beats since 1985 when he first started playing parties in his neighborhood wowing the crowds with his impeccable turntablism …. and the rest as they say is history. Moving forward to the creation of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince with friend Will Smith and you have one of the most successful hip hop duos of the late eighties – early nineties covering the charts with hits and giving the genre a much-needed dose of positive and uplifting hip-hop its youth needed. Thus, inspiring the birth of Jeff’s critically acclaimed production company A Touch of Jazz, where his dreams of music magic could finally take hold.
What are your thoughts on hip hop production today? Do you see evolution or stagnancy at times with sounds and beats?
Jeff: I think Hip Hop, like any genre of music is going to go through its challenging times. It has to in order to grow. For me at the moment I think the genre is in a stage of explorative beat creation with a new breed of artist that want to push the envelope a little. Hip Hop right now doesn’t sound like what you would expect it to sound like and that’s what shakes people a little, when music pushes it boundaries. The artists and producers today are doing what they are supposed to and that is to make music that tells their story or reality and connect to their fans in a relative way. If you aren’t making music that creates emotion or feelings inside a person then why produce is my question? I could’nt do what I do if I could affect someone with my music, feelings are what it’s all about.
You know I couldn’t agree with you more, whenever I put on a Jazzy Jeff album, my two favorites being The Magnificent and The Return of the Magnificent, they always leave me in my feelings, and not in a Drake way….
What I‘m trying to say is that your music reaches out and touches people, in whatever state their feelings or headspace is in, Jazzy Jeff gonna find and make you feel something. Take the track “ The Garden ” off the Return album, oh my gosh , an ultimate favorite of mine and one that always makes me feel that connection to the line in the song where Big Daddy Kane says “ Unto God and to Hip Hop stay in circle There’s a lot to see beneath where the dirt is, Dig a little deeper and scratch the surface, Maybe then you’ll understand your purpose”, it doesn’t get any realer than that, especially if you are in this game with some time.
Jeff: Man, I hear you, that song was such a treat to make as well, to work with the legendary Big Daddy Kane and create a track paying homage to what we all need to tend to, our hip-hop garden. If that song made an impact, then I did my job (laughs)
You are an inspiration to so many DJ’s and producers alike not just for your skills on the deck and beat creation but your longevity and consistency in the industry, which speaks volumes. What would you say has kept you so consistent and humble in this game called Hip Hop?
Jeff: You know it’s funny you ask me that as I was just thinking a few days ago how lucky I have been to travel the world doing what I absolutely love for so long and still have a passion to want to learn and explore hip hop more. I am so blessed to be able to say that because I choose to play and create music on a daily basis I am able to collaborate with some amazing artists, meet some pretty cool people in my travels and provoke feelings in those who listen to my music, at the very root of it I truly love my job and therefore staying consistent is easy. However, I will say this, it is also the touring aspect that has kept me hungry and on my game. Hip Hop would not be the genre it is today without the global infusion outside of its birthplace of America, it is so much bigger than the States and that’s what producers and DJ’s need to realize when it comes to creating their hip hop sound. Don’t just look to the American sound when wanting a starting point, look in your own community and if you are lucky, travel and get the global perspective and your creativity will forever be challenged. For me, being in Tokyo one week and Australia the next is the reason why I remain so committed to my craft because it’s the people I meet and work with along the way that are my greatest inspirations.
So your national tour of Australia kicks off in Melbourne on the 8th Nov and we are so excited to see you back on stage doing what you do. What can we expect from your show Jeff and do you have any surprises in store?
Jeff: Yes, I am so happy to be coming back to Australia, I love you guys and your energy so much. I hope that everyone comes out to see the shows and enjoys the music and has a fun time with me at the of the day. I am bringing a hype show with some real head nodders in there and I am travelling with my man Rhymefest, so you know he’s going to make it hype as well. It’s going to be a great show and I hope to everyone come through and have a good time.
Whatever your reason is for being a fan of DJ Jazzy Jeff, be sure to get your tickets to his upcoming shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and show your love for a DJ / producer that has shown us nothing but love through his craft and for the pure love of the game!
Tickets available through: https://www.itsdeltabravo.com.au/jazzy-jeff-november-2018/
Always Hip Hop