Jazzy Jeff: Without Will Smith
Marlon Regis: When you were approached to be a part of this BEAT GENERATION SERIES, how excited were you and your crew, having creative freedom to showcase the true sound with that sensibility to your hometown?
Jazzy Jeff: "Just the idea of somebody giving you the creative freedom, and that's one of the reasons I didn't go first or second or third in this series. When someone gives you that kind of freedom, what da hell am I gonna do with this kind of freedom when no one has ever given it to me? It wasn't until Jay Dee kind of did his (Welcome 2 Detroit), he set the tone for everybody like, 'Ok I see where he's goingoh man, he's going for some hardcore hip hop and he just goes into this.damn!' It's not about doing a genre of music, it's about letting you know what makes you up as a producer. How fucked up is it that a little, tiny label out of London gives you this type of freedom, and Sony don't? The hard thing is, once you start doing records like that, you kind of ask yourself how can I go back to doing anything else?
MR: On this album, there are all different types of musical vibes, but all tied to Hip Hop, of course. Tell me about the whole process and being a unique part of this Beat Generation Series.
JJ: "Each song has such a different story that means something to me. To have that creative freedom, I can paint a picture of every song that we did. I did the remake of "We live in Brooklyn" as an instrumental, and something said you know what, I really want Jill on this, and I don't want Jill to do the typical song, I want her to write. I held that song 'til Jill came back from tour."
MR: I think the average fan hears your name and automatically thinks, Will "The Fresh Prince" Smith. At one time you'll were definitely pigeonholed into a certain type of rap, but who knows, that could have been just an outside perception from your explosive success?
JJ: "The beginning of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, it was kinda like if you turn back the clock and listen to the first album that we made - we have "A Touch of Jazz"? on it, which was pretty much one of the first records to ever use Jazz samples mixed together with Will rhyming. You have "The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff" on it, which was pretty much probably one of the very early turntablist records. Then you have "Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble" which was a huge Hip Hop hit, 'cause you got Will telling the story basically to a beat. You got records like "Jeff's Rocking" which was almost like an early hardcore Will just spitting. Then comes the second record (He's The DJ I'm The Rapper), which had the layout of the same stuff. But you have "Parents Just Don't Understand." And because "Parents Just Don't Understand" blew up on the commercial side, you're automatically locked. People were like, 'Oh my God, you guys are from the suburbs!' For a while you try to fight that stereotype but it got to a point. I've always been into all types of music, Will has always been a lyricist. You get to a point where you really can't worry about the perceptions. A lot of stuff that I'm doing now is really soulful, but when you sit and think about it - the song that I did with J-Live, is kinda like a Jazz record, just like "A Touch of Jazz" was; then you got a whole bunch of soulful stuff, but what was "Summertime?" The whole thing about the music industry is once you do something and you're deemed successful at doing it, they ain't trying to have you try anything else. It stunts your growth as an artist. That was one of the main reasons why I created A Touch of Jazz (the production company), it was to give me that kind of outlet. As an artist, you not gonna accept me doing Soul music? I got two areas of music - GOOD and BAD. That's it."
MR: Right now, Philly has never been better as far as the urban music scene is concerned. You and your Touch of Jazz production team are in the thick of it. What has made and makes Philly tick with all this culture?
JJ: "Not taking anything away from Philadelphia, but I believe the talent pool in just that kind of situation is in every major urban city in the world. I'm not just gonna say it's in Philadelphia only, it's in Oakland, California, it's just that spotlight isn't on Oakland right now. It seems like when the spotlight started to shine on Philly, then all it's gonna do is make you that much confident and make you feel that much better about what you're doing, then you gonna continue to do better stuff."
MR: Besides this Beat Generation release, what other Hip Hop projects are you working on, or are there any new artists you plan on launching? I'm constantly hearing about a duo from London called Floetry?
JJ: "The Floetry album is done, it's coming out through DreamWorks Records. Actually, they just pushed that back 'til October. Pauly Yamz, we're finishing up his record. I'm looking at this album (The Magnificent), as a calling card to try to get people to do these Beat Generation-type records. My whole thing is, I would love for all of the creative people I know to have the ability to do a record like this. If only you could just de-program everybodyI ain't mad that you play Jay Z five times, my whole thing is why don't you play Jay two times, and play J-Live two times as well? Just give me some variety. You can't mean to tell me that the extent of our music situation is the twenty-five records that you play fifty times on the radio. If you play twenty-five records and then I go in Tower Record Store, and I see two million records there, so I'm like 'Outta two million only twenty-five are good???' C'mon maaaan..."