Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The DJ legend still at the top of his game after 30 years.
Award-winning Jeffrey Allen Townes, or DJ Jazzy Jeff to his millions of fans around the world, has been at the forefront of hip hop and R&B culture since the 1980’s.
One half of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince alongside close friend Will Smith, Townes has enjoyed a blockbuster career releasing tunes such as Parents Just Don’t Understand, Men in Black, Summertime & Boom! Shake the Room.
Alongside his DJ work, Townes starred in the cult hit TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, again with Smith, and is also a successful record producer.
We caught up with him for an exclusive interview ahead of the Red Bull 3Style World Championship Finals in Krakow, Poland where he is judging the 24 finalists.
1) Do you derive more pleasure from developing hit songs or artists?
I get more pleasure form developing artists. It is almost like taking a ball of clay and turning it into something. It is not necessarily turning it into something I want but turning it into something they want. They are the artist, it is just trying to help them figure out what they are trying to be and help them get there.
2) Do you think that you and Will Smith would have become so huge if you were starting out in today’s music scene?
Absolutely not. I think one of the things people don’t take into consideration is the time. If Michael Jordan had put out the Air Jordan today, it might not have worked. A lot of things work because it is the right place and the right time. We came out at the right time. What we were doing is not what people are doing right now. It is reflective of the time. It is not a good or a bad thing, it is just a time thing.
3) How proud are you of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s enduring popularity with people from all ages and countries?
I think as a creative you want to be a part of something that stands the test of time. That is the one thing we all hope for. To be a part of something that for 20 years I have been waiting for it to go away, not wanting it to go away, but to realise that you were a part of something that has transcended generations, that people’s kids are watching, is amazing. There was a point in time I really didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand what the popularity of it was. I think it was because me being in it, you don’t get a chance to experience it. Similar to doing a great DJ set as the DJ you don’t get to have the same experience as the people you are playing for. Being inside of a show like that, I looked at it from the work side out, not the from the entertainment side in. To realise it is still on TV and people still enjoy it is mind blowing.
4) What elements of hip-hop and R&B do you miss most from the late 80s and 90s when those genres were innovating so brilliantly globally?
I think song structure. What I don’t like is I feel like people started to dumb their music down to make it a lot more simple. The beauty of music is you want people to learn the complexity of it. Instead of going down, you want to make something that someone has to pay attention to. I used to enjoy the fact I would have to listen to a record a few times to understand what the structure was. I felt cool when I knew what the structure was especially if it wasn’t a typical structure. Now there is a lot of music you put on and from the beginning to the end of the song it is exactly the same thing. And I really enjoyed when it was an intro, a verse, pre-hook, a hook, a bridge, another hook, there was all of these different parts of the song that you had to learn and understand. And not that what constitutes the hook of the song is someone repeating the same thing over and over again. More than anything, I miss the structure and having to learn something.
5) What are you looking for the most when judging Red Bull 3Style?
To be inspired. The beautiful thing about this week is it is probably more inspirational to me than it is to the contestants. You are around a bunch of your peers who do the same thing, who sometimes have different approaches, music and ideas but the whole culture of just swapping ideas and music is really inspiring. The one thing we always talk about is you get so charged up from Red Bull 3Style it will last you the whole year and you are waiting for it to happen again. You can fill your gas tank up with creative ideas and come back around creative people. I enjoy it every day, you learn something new every day.
6) If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be stranded with dead or alive and why?
My wife, because we don’t need anything to entertain us. We can be entertained with conversation. If I had to pick someone, I would like to pick someone I couldn’t be upset with. I couldn’t say Bob Marley, and then say ‘ah man Bob Marley left his guitar, that sucks!’.
Watch the Grand Final live on February 11 from 8.30pm CET HERE.