DJ Jazzy Jeff, who rose to Grammy-winning fame in the early ’90s as the Fresh Prince’s musical partner, is one of the world’s greatest party-starting deejays. He brings his skills to CIAA weekend for the eighth year, soundtracking parties on both Friday and Saturday.
The 49-year-old music vet talked to The Observer last week from his home in Delaware about his dance-floor philosophy, the popularity of DJ culture, and what he thinks of today’s hip-hop.
I do it. If I hear a DJ play something I haven’t played in a while, I have a folder in my phone called “Records.” I’ll make a mental note to pull such and such back out. I was walking through the airport yesterday and they were playing a Gloria Estefan record that I put in my phone. You drop this at the right time, people are going to lose their minds. The only sucky thing is sometimes it stops me from enjoying music. I had a conversation with Will (Smith). He says sometimes he doesn’t enjoy watching movies. You always look at a movie as an actor. Sometimes I hate the fact that’s how I can listen to music. I’m always listening to how I can play it, unless it’s smooth jazz.
One of the biggest discrepancies with DJs I know is that it’s all about them. My job is to make you happy. Sometimes you go to events and feel like the DJ is solely playing for them. If I’m booked and they want to hear what’s popular on the radio, my job is to play it in a way that they’ve never heard it.
I grew up in a different era. People put more emphasis on the hip-hop and R&B records. (Today) I’ll hear 10 records. The drum sounds are the same. The samples are the same. If you put 10 artists on a shuffleboard, I couldn’t tell you the difference. When I grew up there was so much diversity. You knew that LL Cool J record when it came on, not because of his voice, but because of the sound. Now it seems like when something is popular, everybody does it.