Everyone knows that Will Smith started as a rapper, but how many people have actually dug into his old 1980s tracks? This of course doesn't apply to those who were around that era, but I was 3 years old he debuted as an artist. Well, I decided a couple of years to rectify this, and picked up a compilation album from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. I still listen to this album a lot, and it stands as one of the best hip hop albums I have in my library.
I could have chosen a lot of songs from the duo to showcase for this post, including incredible tracks like "Summertime", "Parents Just Don't Understand", and "Girls are Nothing but Trouble". Instead I chose "Brand New Funk" because it showcases the under-appreciated skills of DJ Jazzy Jeff. It'd be easy to focus in on Will Smith, but DJ Jazzy Jeff is the real unsung hero of the duo. It's clear that he wasn't going to be a big actor like his counterpart (as seen in his awkward cameos on the show), but he lived, and still lives for the music. I absolutely love what the new electronic artists are doing, but I find it amazing watching someone like Jazzy Jeff mix tracks on the spot with turntables. Considered to be a DJ's DJ, I was happy to see Jazzy Jeff is still happily touring and doing what he lives for. Staying relevant, Jazzy Jeff even did all the scratching for the recently releaesd Dr. Dre movie "Straight Out of Compton".
I've always known that Will Smith began his career as a rapper, but like most I know him first and foremost as the actor in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". The songs that I did know him from are from his resurgence as a rapper at the dawn of the Willenium, and from his various movie singles. It was clear that his choice to rap clean was a great career choice that put him in the living rooms of white people everywhere, but it could not have worked without the charisma and talent to back it. I've barely scratched the surface on 80s hip hop, but from what I've gone through, The Fresh Prince is easily a stand out among his peers. It's no wonder that he got the boost that led him to where he is today.
It's impossible to look at these old videos without the oldschool vs newschool comment wars, which I find kind of silly. Regardless, one thing is pretty clear: it is unlikely that we were ever hear the golden 80s hip hop sound again. I hope that I leave myself some time later to explore the birth of the hip hop genre someday.