As a veteran of Hollywood blockbusters, Will Smith is used to huge budgets when he performs. But longtime friend and music partner DJ Jazzy Jeff says he’s trying to convince the former Fresh Prince that they should hit the road and do some scaled-down shows.
“He wants to,” said Jeff, who last hit the stage with Will in February during the NBA All-Star festivities in Philadelphia. “That’s the funny thing — with all the stuff Will does, anybody that knows him up close knows that Will is hip-hop till he dies. It bothers him because he wants to get out and do some shows. I’m pulling his coattails like, ‘Leave the dancers, leave the girls. Let’s do two turntables and a mic.”
Jeff said Will’s next solo album is the star’s first project that he didn’t work on. See, although Jeff remains humble and quiet, he’s been keeping busy with his own projects. Besides his production company, A Touch of Jazz, pounding out hits for everyone from Michael Jackson to Jill Scott and Musiq, Jeff’s been working on his own solo album, The Magnificent.
The album came about after he was approached by international company BBE Records. “I do a lot of production, and I’d never had anybody come to me and say, ‘Do what you want, do what you feel,’ ” he said. The Magnificent is part of BBE’s Beat Generation series, which highlights producers. Pete Rock and Marley Marl have also put out albums through the company.
“It’s not necessarily if it sells, it’s not if radio will play it,” Jeff
continued. “Somebody is asking you, ‘Tell me musically who are you.’ You ain’t used to it. The hardest part for me, it took me a good month and a half to even start. You have complete creative control. You’re trying to figure out, ‘Damn, where do I start?’ ”
Jeff finally got around to beginning his album in December and finished up during the NBA All-Star weekend. The Magnificent is a collection of Jeff’s abstract beat sensibilities, and it features veterans like verbally brutal MC Freddie Foxxx and Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman. Upstarts like J-Live and Jazzy’s protégé V also join the fray, as does the lady who really focused people’s attention on A Touch of Jazz, Jill Scott.
“Jill Scott was the first project that somebody gave us the ability to do the whole project and we put it out,” said Jeff, who started the buzz on Scott by pressing 200 CDs and passing them out to people he knew.
Musiq started working with Jeff’s camp soon after Scott, and then the snowball effect started kicking in for A Touch of Jazz’s ever-changing collective of producers and writers.
“This is what I wanted to do after the whole Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince or even the artist thing died down,” he said of his 12-year-old company. “I love all kinds of music. I wasn’t just a lover of hip-hop. I love soul,
jazz, funk, rock, [but] … people did not know how to accept people who did more than one thing. It’s sort of how like when Will did the TV show, everybody was criticizing him like, ‘He can’t do that and be an MC at the same time.’ ”
Jeff said he still keeps up with his first love of spinning records. He constantly travels the world, spinning records by favorites like Notorious B.I.G. and Jeru the Damaja in clubs. Besides working on albums by new artists, Jeff’s getting ready to work on Jill Scott’s next album.
The Magnificent hits stores in August.