Putting the Jazz back into DJ-ing 

Ex-Fresh Prince of Bel-air star turns to DJ tables

What: DJ Jazzy Jeff

When: Thursday, March 30

Where: Tommy Africa’s

Tickets: $20/$25

You’ll probably remember his quirky humour as "Jazz" on the television show Fresh Prince of Bel Air . You’ll see his producing credits listed alongside names such as Michael Jackson. He has been collaborating with Will Smith on recordings for more than 20 years.

Dancers know him not as Jeffrey Townes the producer, recording artist, actor and spokesperson, but as DJ Jazzy Jeff who can keep a dance floor bouncing into the late night hours, whatever the situation.

"As a DJ there are going to be times when you are in a situation where not everything is how you want it," Townes said in a Defected Records interview. "I have always taken the approach that there are people out there who have paid to see me play, they might have waited 10 years to see me play and they don't care if the mixer is broke, they don't care if the needle's broke or the records are scratched, they don't care if you're hot, have the flu or whatever – they just want to hear you play, so I always try to make sure they will be satisfied."

The waiting is over for Jazzy Jeff fans, with his signature scratches and house music coming to Tommy Africa’s Thursday, March 30.

Townes began mixing covering the block party circuit in West Philadelphia. Thirty years later, he’s won not one, but three Grammy Awards, including one for Parents Just Don’t Understand, which propelled Townes and his storytelling sidekick Fresh Prince alias Will Smith into the spotlight with the He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper single, one of the greatest selling rap albums of all time, that went double platinum.

The duo continued to record and diversify their outreach. They launched the first pop star 900 number, logging in 3 million calls and bringing in more money than their record sales. The then self-described hip hop group was the first to collaborate with a jazz artist, Grover Washington Jr., on an album, the gold record And in This Corner . Townes became the first corporately sponsored DJ. The two hooked up with Quincy Jones to star on the television sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air . Townes even designed the first mixer for scratching, the Gemini 2200.

As a DJ, however, Townes is most famous for his transformer scratch although he is shy to take credit for its invention.

"The transformer scratch is basically a kind of on-and-off-the-signal in a rhythmic pattern and I don't really like to take the credit for inventing it, I don't believe that anyone really 'invented' anything," he said. "I saw another DJ a long time ago do something that was that same idea and I just took it and added a lot of the rhythm patterns and put it on record. I was very widely credited because I was the first person to put it on wax and take it all around the world, but I don't like to take credit for it."

And the credits keep rolling, with the Homebase single Summertime garnering a Grammy and Code Red’s single Boom! Shake the Room being the third rap single to go number one in the U.K. In 10 years the duo has released five albums, sold 14 million records and won two Grammy and three American Music Awards.

As Smith began to focus on his television and movie career, Townes turned his attention to his production house, A Touch of Jazz, which later moved on to produce Will Smith’s albums as well as Townes’s own and other artists such as Musiq Soulchild, Dave Hollister, City High, Floetry, Lil Kim and Michael Jackson.

Since Townes’s first solo album, The Magnificent, was released in 2002 the recording artist and producer has turned his focus back to where he had began, DJing.

After years of producing albums Townes continues to work his true love, spinning house music, into his schedule.

"As a DJ people will appreciate you when they know that you're really putting forth effort, and I think that sometimes I've enjoyed playing more than the people that enjoy me playing," he said.

Townes, along with MC Mad Skillz, will mix up old skool hits, hip hop, party rock and house for the show.

Tickets are $20 for the first 100 sold and available at the Hotbox and Hub. Tickets are $25 thereafter.

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