DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
|Fresh Prince||Willard Christopher Smith, Jr.||September 25th, 1968 Philadelphia, PA|
|DJ Jazzy Jeff||Jeffrey A. Townes||January 22nd, 1965 in Philadelphia, PA|
Label: Jive Records
West Philadelphia, born and raised the Fresh Prince and the DJ, Jazzy Jeff were one of the first, smiling, radio-friendly rap acts to crossover to mainstream delight. The mega superstar of Will Smith was the vocalist, Fresh Prince while Jeff Townes was the DJ Jazzy Jeff. The late eighties rap era begrudgingly gave way to these two talented teenagers who soon became the billboard faces of rap music to the pop generation. The pop/rap act soon became the first rap group or artist to win a Grammy.
Fresh met Jeff while trying to make a name for himself in West Philadelphia’s local party/rap scene. After joining forces, the team became local celebrities. Philadelphia-based Pop Art Records released their first single in late 1985: "Girls Ain't Nothing but Trouble", a tale of misadventures with the opposite sex. The song sampled the theme song of I Dream of Jeannie. Smith became known for light-hearted story-telling raps and capable, though profanity-free, "battle" rhymes. Townes was known for his turntable acrobatics, and he is credited by many as inventing a style of scratching called "transforming".
Based off this success, the duo were brought to the attention of Jive Records and Russell Simmons. The duo's first album, Rock the House, débuted on Jive in March of 1987. The album sold about 300,000 units. That same year, the band found themselves on their first major tour with Run DMC, Public Enemy, and others. Their 1988 follow-up album, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper made them multi-platinum stars. Mostly recorded in the UK, the album was rap music's first double-vinyl LP release (also issued as a single cassette and CD). "Parents Just Don’t Understand", the lead-off single, made them MTV household names, and in 1989 they became the first to be awarded a rap Grammy. Also tracks like "Brand New Funk" were received well by their fans. Rock the House was re-released to gold sales later that year.
Another single, "Nightmare on My Street", showcased a fictional confrontation with movie villain Freddy Krueger. Coinciding with the release of the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street film (1988’s The Dream Master), New Line Cinema was not pleased. A video allegedly shot for the single was buried, and a disclaimer was hastily included on pressings of the album indicating that the record was not officially affiliated with any of the "Nightmare" films. (Ironically, Jive Records ended up releasing the soundtrack to the next film in the series, The Dream Child.)
1989 saw the release of And in this Corner..., which sold gold, but the duo's popularity was slipping. The crossover curse of various rap acts had come to pass, as their initial audience felt they had become too accessible; non-crossover rap acts like Big Daddy Kane and Boogie Down Productions had bigger street followings; meanwhile, pop radio had latched on to new faces like Tone Loc and Young MC, while non-radio followers became more enamoured with hardcore acts like Ice-T and 2 Live Crew
- 1987 Rock the House (Chart positions: #24) Last RIAA certification: 2x Platinum
- 1988 He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (Chart positions: #5) Last RIAA certification: 3x Platinum
- 1989 And in this Corner... (Chart positions: #19) Last RIAA certification: Gold
- 1991 Homebase (Chart positions: #5) Last RIAA certification: 2x Platinum
- 1993 Code Red (Chart positions: #39) Last RIAA certification: Gold