Interview: The Legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff

DJ Jazzy Jeff
Legendary hip hop producer Jeffrey Townes, better known as DJ Jazzy Jeff (Courtesy the artist)
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DJ Jazzy Jeff is a bonafide legend in the hip-hop world. The casual fan might be quick to think of Jeffrey Townes as merely the comic foil to Will Smith from the early DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince records and his featured episodes from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But, get any DJ on earth — or pretty much anybody from his native Philadelphia — and they'll rattle off his bona fides including introducing the transformer scratch to the world, running A Touch of Jazz Studios in Philadelphia and being one of the most popular DJs on the international circuit.

Now, more than thirty years into his career, DJ Jazzy Jeff still exudes the vibe of a true musician who gets electrified by new tracks and new opportunities. But his veteran status also gives him the opportunity to share insight on picking the right DJ gigs, the travails of ending a relationship with a shady record label and staying true to yourself, even as you travel the world.

In anticipation of Jeff coming to Minneapolis this weekend for a performance at the Walker Art Center, I asked Jeff about he and Will Smith's early travels to NYC to perform in front of hip-hop royalty, the history of his transformer scratch, what goes into playing a DJ set, boycotting the Grammys and his production ethos.

Listen to the interview using the audio player above, where you can also hear the heartbreaking story of Jeff and Will Smith giving over their rights to their catalog to be released from their contract with Jive Records. Dig in for a great conversation with a true musical icon.

Check out a playlist of DJ Jazzy Jeff Production and Scratches Highlights