By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
DJ Jazzy Jeff is two decades deep into a music career that has seen him produce multiplatinum records, snatch Grammies and gain fame on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but he'll always be a DJ at heart. He's been on the road nonstop since the release of soulful beat opus The Magnificent in 2002, and he's used the years of travel to his musical advantage.
"I buy music from everywhere I go to get the idea of what people are movin' to," he says from a stop in Las Vegas. His touring work comes naturally--after all, Jeff has been spinning at house parties since the age of ten and innovating even before Will Smith came calling. Even though his classic 1987 jazz/funk groover "A Touch of Jazz" predates anything Tribe Called Quest or Gang Starr committed to wax by a few years, Jeff is virtually never mentioned as one of hip-hop's pioneers in fusing rap and jazz.
"I grew up listening to Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, George Duke and Billy Cobham," Jeff says. "So once the hip-hop thing started and people started samplin' records, I had a deeper knowledge of these records." His music sensibilities helped launch the career of Jill Scott (he executive produced and mixed her brilliant debut), and his vision of modern soul is the foundation for what has come to be labeled the "neo-soul" movement. Thanks to Jeff's roots in the Philly hip-hop/soul scene, expect an expansive set list, from boom-bap rap classics to house, all infused with his signature touch of jazz.
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