Jazzy Jeff: A touch of jazz
Tue 23rd Sep, 2003 Features 910 viewsin
Jazzy Jeff is notoriously underrated. Real heads know all about his turntablism before the Beastie Boys had heard of Mixmaster Mike, but to most he was the guy with the sunglasses backing up Bad Boy Will Smith in between being tossed out of the Bel Air mansion. Well he wasn’t backing him up; he was creating the sound that gave the duo their early success eventually leading to Will Smith conquering Hollywood, and Jeff conquering Hip-Hop. He is a forefather and a visionary made up of the things most execs aren’t. You won’t hear about any Bentley’s, broads or big pimpin from this humble man, Just pure music.
B: So are you looking forward to coming down?
JJ: Oh my God. You know the last time I was there was with me and Will. I never came down there, you know, just on the DJ side, and then, you know just to come down and have a little bit of time and look around and just chill. Man I’m hyped; I’m real hyped about coming.
B: Good man, it’s a beautiful country. So how’s everything going over at touch jazz?
JJ: It’s good, you know, just being busy trying to finish off a couple of projects and, you know, do some mixes. Actually I’m doing a mix tape for BBE that I’m trying to finish up and doing a couple of mix tapes for myself before I roll out
B: When you finish up those mix tapes where are they going to be available to cats down here? Are they gonna be available from your website?
JJ: Yeah, we’re gonna start putting a lot of the tapes on the website and we got some really, really hot shirts and some jerseys, you know, some touch jazz stuff. We’re just getting everything set up but soon we’re gonna launch the web side full steam.
B: There’s a lot of misconception about you and Will having split up when in actual fact you’re still working together. Would you like to clear any of that up?
JJ: Oh absolutely, I mean, what a lot of people don’t understand is that, what Will and I are doing is what we set out to do from the door. You know, he always said “I wannna blow up and I wanna do movies.” And I was like “and I wanna blow up and do music.” So it’s kinda like, people think that Will and I aren’t together, we’re just out fulfilling the plan that we’ve all set out, you know what I mean. All Will’s albums I had involvement except the last one and that was only because I was working on my record and he was working on his and I’m in Philly we didn’t really get a chance to link. So you know, every other day I talk to Will as much as I can. He’s in Vancouver, Canada doing a movie now called “I Robot”. So you know, everything is cool, I just think people, when they don’t see me and Will together for a minute they’d think that we kinda split up but you know, you gotta look at Will. Will is the biggest movie star in the world right now so most of his focus is on him doing movies and most of my focus is on doing music, so we don’t get a chance to link up as much we would like to.
B: That’s fair enough man, but I mean, being as successful as both of you are, and therefore busy it must be really tough. Speaking of you wanting to do music and achieving that goal, your last album “The Magnificent” was really solid. For me picking up the first 12’ I was thinking; “Yeah, this is the Jeff that I need to be hearing. This is what I need to be listening to.” And a lot of people out here are really enjoying the real Hip-Hop as apposed to “RAP” feel of it. I especially felt the addition of Pauly Yams to spit on a few of the tracks.
JJ: Yeah, you know, well Paul is incredible. Paul’s been an MC with me for a while. Actually I’m bringing him when I come down there
B: No kidding…?
JJ: Yeah and we got some really good stuff. Paul’s just that underground hardMC that has a lot of flows and just rhymes, you know he’s hip-hop. When we do a show we like to take people on a tour of hip-hop and a tour of different types of music. I start on an underground hip-hop then go into old school break beat to show you where it came from and Paul is like my narrator, he takes everybody on a journey. So I think everybody is gonna be real hype.
B: Yeah it’s an impressive choice too. I mean, for a producer of your caliber and also with your reputation, you have the same clout as, let’s say, the Neptunes or Primo. You could pick and choose any guys. Like if you rang up Nas, Nas is gonna get on your album, you ring up whomever, they’re gonna do that shit but yet you choose a local cat. Why him specifically? Obviously you just mentioned his skills and but how did y’all hook up?
JJ: Well, you know, Paul has been around on the Philly hip-hop scene for a while and the wild thing about Paul was Paul got so frustrated with the music industry, he quit.
B: No kidding…?
JJ: He quit, like “I don’t wanna rhyme anymore.” You know, it’s just like “I’m sick and tired of the politics…” and with the radio not playing good Hip-Hop and they’re not really representin’ it real and I really respected that. For somebody to love something so much that if he can’t do it the way he wants to do it, he doesn’t wanna do it at all, PERIOD. So when I found all this out, I hunted Paul down and told him I wanted him to do the Magnificent with me, and because we’ve known each other for years, Paul was like “yeah cool” and we ended up hooking up and next thing you know we started doing a bunch of shows . I kinda really pulled him out to just show him that there’s appreciation level, a lot of cats that just really love hip-hop, and we started just going all around the world and bonding with people that like good music. I understand how the politics and how stressful the music industry can be, but we do music for music lovers we just go where the music lovers are and have a really good time and a really good party .
B: You seem to share a lot of the ethos with the Australian scene, a lot of the Australians artists are friends of mine and they wanna do music they wanna do and it’s gonna take them 2 years to put it out ‘coz they gotta save every penny to press their wax and if people feel it, they feel it and if they don’t, they don’t. They sell 5 copies, they’re happy, you know because they’re making “their” music.
JJ: That’s what it’s all about. You’re an artist you wanna paint the pictures that you wanna paint. You don’t want the pictures because somebody tells you you’re suppose to paint them. You know, that’s not a true artist. And you gotta respect people like that. I’m all for anybody who’s trying to put out their own music because I understand how difficult it is. That’s what made me do the Magnificent with BBE because they were a company that was believing in “you do what you wanna do”. I mean, I had a chance to do this record with SONY and things just didn’t work out the way I wanted to. So I’d rather have the creative freedom, because with that creative freedom I could put out records forever!
B: True. Now, do you find with bigger labels like your SONY, EMI etcetera, if they listen to the tracks and they feel there’s not a certified platinum record on there, not something that, you know, is gonna be banging in the clubs, they don’t want to release it?
JJ: Exactly. I mean, I just think it’s a shame because no one really knows what’s gonna hit and what’s not gonna hit anymore, and you have to take a chance. It’s just getting to the point now that record companies don’t want to take the chance. If I’m in the studio all day, every day and I’m in the streets and I’m, you know, with hip-hop cats and finding out what they like and “Oh my God, I’m really feeling it…” then why not trust my judgment when I say that this is gonna work, who better to know?
B: Of course.
JJ: But sometimes you get people that have never made a record in their life and are just sitting in the studio and they’re dictating to you and telling you what they think should sell. And I’m like, well, that’s not fair…you know what I mean…it’s like I don’t know if I want somebody, fixing my house up that has never fixed up house before
JJ: You want somebody that has done it , so it just gets to the point that I think what’s happening is you get a lot of artists that are saying; “You know what? I’m the record company, I’m the producer, I’m the writer, I’m the arranger. Why don’t I put it out and see what happens?”
B: Absolutely, and with the success of the internet and the ability to market yourself for next to no money and the ability to get to people all over the world with an MP3 on your website, and so the back lash, I think, to may be that your SONY’s and are gonna say, “Well, I wanna piece of this pie…” and artists are gonna say, “You know what? I’m not interested. You weren’t there then so piss off now”.
JJ: Exactly, and that’s what’s happening. You’re getting record labels that are mad, you know, they’re trying to blame it on the internet and it’s the internet helping true artists`get their music out. The internet isn’t saying “Well, I gotta pick this record or this one and I don’t wanna hear this one.” You’re given free opportunity for people to pick what they like and what they don’t. You know, to me, that’s the best store in the world.
B: Absolutely. I think the negativity of the whole industry as well, saying to people; “Well, if you download that record, you’re not gonna buy it.” You know, true fans are gonna download stuff, they’re gonna listen to it and they’re gonna go; “You know what? I want the CD and the vinyl.”
B: People will go and support the artists. Even though they’re hearing the shit and they can burn it for free, they’re not gonna do that. People are true to the artists.
JJ: A true fan likes that record cover, they like the cover art, they like the liner notes. That’s a true fan
B: Yeah, and most of the people who get down with hip-hop, you know, get down with this kinda hip-hop; they love to buy the original record. Me, I download stuff listen to it and think; “You know, I need to pre-order that wax right now. I need doubles of it actually.” So the artists still sees their money. I haven’t seen any real cases where they’re saying; “Yeah, this artist lost that much money and we’re going broke.” It’s just not happening.
JJ: But you know who’s losing the money? It’s not the artists; it’s the record company ‘coz the record company keeps 90% of the money anyway.
B: Exactly, that’s what’s beautiful about labels like yours, labels who are helping the artists out, saying “You know what, let’s cut this up a different way.”
JJ: Exactly. I mean, nobody is trying to take all of the money. I’m trying to do records and be happy. And if I can make the people happy that are making the records with me, then we can keep on making records
JJ: You know, it’s a shame that you go into this big record companies and they’ve ‘all got armed security because half of the people they’re putting out records with are mad at them
B: Yeah, that’s the truth. I was watching a video tape when my buddy got back from New York. He showed me the part where you were jamming on the TTIs, the new Numark decks. And funnily enough, we hooked up with the Numark rep here and we’re endorsing the decks now. Before we saw anyone not “helped along” to use them I didn’t trust their equipment. But we’re finding out that they’re actually really dope.
JJ: They are that.
B: So what other equipments are you using right now that you’re really feeling?
JJ: You know, I use my Rane mixer. I use my Pioneer CDJ 1000 and my Pioneer efx. That setup allows me to play everything. You know ‘coz what I do is kinda dope. I bring 3 bags of hip-hop records but I bring classics and some old school and some house and some commercial, I bring a lot of that stuff on CD. So I go through and just give you everything on 2 turn tables and then I end the night off just playing classics, you know, just joints that you ain’t heard in a while, like Oh my God, what’s that? Know what I mean…so I love the Pioneer stuff. You know, I’m waiting to see what the new Pioneer CD turn tables because they’re supposed to make them with the 1200 platter. You can actually really cut them, BUT as much as I like them, I’d never give up my turn tables
B: Of course not. Especially being in the game as long as you have and having the respect for the whole digging and turntablist culture. People just don’t understand, we hip-hop DJ 5 to 6 nights a week, we have to carry around 250lbs worth of records. And then cats rocking the super clubs walking up with a zipper case full of cds and play. They’re rocking the crowds and that’s fine, the crowd’s having a great time. But for us, it’s like “Damn! You know I spent $150 on that record and you burnt it. You’re killing me.” And just when I thought I’d seen it all De La came over here and they were rocking CDs on stage. There were no turn tables!
JJ: But you know what? I can understand when they rock it for the MCs because they don’t want it to jump. That’s one of the reasons why I carry turntables and CDJs because there are times that, when I want Paul to do one of his records and I want it to go dope I can put it on a CD and use the turn tables to scratch over top, I use it like a tool not a crutch.
This man could confidently rock a crowd on crutches, without question. DJ Jazzy Jeff tours nationally in October:
Wed 01.10 Sydney @ Home Live (BUY TICKETS)
Thu 02.10 Adelaide @ St Pauls (BUY TICKETS)
Fri 03.10 Perth @ Globe (BUY TICKETS)
Sat 04.10 Brisbane @ Arena (BUY TICKETS)
Fri 10.10 Melbourne @ Prince (BUY TICKETS)