What Is DJ Jazzy Jeff of ‘DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’ Up To Today?
Before Will Smith became the most influential actor in the world, he was a rapper whose lyrics were clean-cut and beats were catchy. Smith was first introduced to the world as a member of the hip-hop duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
The two broke the mold in the rap game by creating a fresh sound without the use of profanity or derogatory lyrics and focused on uptempo tracks and relatable rhymes. Smith spit the bars and Jeff provided the music. Over 30 years later, the two are still close friends and Jeff continues to rock the house with his DJ skills all around the globe.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince started their careers together
Born Jeffrey Allen Townes, DJ Jazzy Jeff met Smith in the 1980s when they were both trying to break into the hip hop scene. Jeff was performing at a house party on the same block where Smith lived. Without a hype man, Smith filled in. Their performance rocked and they decided to join forces for good. They quickly gained notoriety in their hometown of Philadelphia. In the early days of the group, Clarence Holmes, also known as Ready Rock C, was an unofficial third member and performed with them. Holmes left the group in 1990 and the two moved forward as a twosome.
They were signed to Jive Records and released their first album Rock the House in 1986. Their 1988 follow-up album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, catapulted them into mainstream success. They became the first rap artists to receive a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance in 1989 for their song “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” They followed it up with the 1991 hit “Summertime” (1991), which earned them their second Grammy and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Together, they sold over 5.5 million records.
When Smith landed the leading role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he took Jeff along with him. The show chronicled Will’s journey from Philly to Bel-Air to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle. Jeff played Smith’s best friend, Jazz, who had the ultimate crush on Will’s cousin and always found himself hilariously escorted out of the family’s mansion.
Shortly after the release of their third album, Smith began to pursue acting full-time and the group split. They were eventually sued by their record label, who alleged that the duo was still under contract to create more albums. The duo claimed to have remained friends.
Where is DJ Jazzy Jeff now?
As Smith became the biggest actor in the world, Jeff continued booking gigs as a DJ and branched into the world of producing. He produced music and helped develop artists such as Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Eminem, The Roots, Raheem DeVaughn, Floetry, and Talib Kweli. He and Smith reunited a few times, including for Live 8 in 2005.
Jeff has also released several solo projects. In 2009, he paid tribute to Michael Jackson with a mixtape he titled He’s the King…I’m the DJ. He’s also released mixtapes ever summer with Mick Boogie since 2010.
Outside of music, Jeff has worked in the animated game world. He was featured in the video game DJ Hero as a playable character and also has original mixes in the game. Jeff has produced several scratch overdubs for the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton.
In August 2017, he and Smith reunited and performed two shows – one for the MTV Summerblast Music Festival in Croatia and the other in the Livewire Festival in Blackpool.
Their latest reunion happened at the 2019 Budafest for the premiere of Smith’s film, Gemini Man. The duo elated fans when they hit the stage and performed “Summertime.”
Jeff and Smith remain in contact and continue to support one another. Jeff says they speak often via phone, mainly about their lives as family men.