It’s practically impossible to distil DJ Jazzy Jeff’s career into 12 moments, and frankly we’re also constrained by what’s available online. After all, his career goes all the way back, pre-internet, to the mid-80s. Plus, some of the things he’s done are just beyond public footage being available. (DJing President Barack Obama’s private birthday party, for instance? We suspect “phones at the door” was definitely a prerequisite for entry to that one!)
But to give you a sense of just how influential Jeff, the tutor behind our DJ Jazzy Jeff’s How To DJ Right course, has been in the DJ world since the 1980s, we invite you to take a look at this list of amazing career moments. Read on for some great examples of how, time after time, Jeff has had a hand in literally altering the course of DJing and DJ culture…
1. Co-writing one of the greatest hip hop anthems of all time, “Summertime”
Who doesn’t smile when they hear “Summertime” on the radio? DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s Grammy-winning global hit is one of those tracks that’ll never go away, a feel-good record that still sounds so great 30 years on, written of course by Jeff and long-time rapper partner Will Smith.
2. Performing his infamous “Peter Piper” scratch routine
Cutting up the RUN DMC classic Peter Piper is one of the most famous scratch routines of all time, recreated here on video by the man who invented the routine. This video was filmed by Serato back in 2015, and the routine is now one of the featured lessons in the course.
3. Acting with Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Jeff’s character, Jazz, was an integral part of the much-loved TV series, and a running joke was that he was constantly being kicked out of the house – usually just for being himself. E Online has lovingly compiled a list of all the times it happened!
4. Playing Boiler Room in Philadelphia in 2018
“One of the most important DJs and a tick on our bucket list,” said Boiler Room, of Jeff’s first Boiler Room in London in 2014… but this is our favourite Jeff Boiler Room set, from his home city of Philadelphia in 2018, in front of an intimate and very lucky audience…
5. Playing at Tomorrowland, Belgium, in 2018
…and from the intimate Boiler Room set above, we go to a huge stage, Tomorrowland Belgium. As one punter enthuses in the comments of this video, “Jazzy Jeff killed this… the EDM crowd needed to see this. He hit them from every angle: EDM, pop, Latin and hip hop…”
Read this next: DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 12 Things DJing Has Taught Me
6. Having DJ AM bow down to him at the end of a back-to-back
We have yet to meet a famous DJ who doesn’t hold Jeff in hushed reverence, and here’s a good example, captured on video. In this clip, the legendary DJ AM and DJ Jazzy Jeff are playing back to back. DJ AM eventually takes off his headphones to just watch, bowing repeatedly as Jeff takes everything to another level entirely.
7. Winning (and then boycotting) the first ever hip hop Grammy
“Summertime” actually wasn’t Jeff’s first Grammy. That came in 1986 for “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. Against the likes of LL Cool J and Salt-N-Pepa, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) triumphed to win the first ever hip hop Grammy – and then chose to boycott the ceremony. Why? All is revealed in this article on The Undefeated blog.
8. Launching his respected annual Playlist Retreat
In 2015, Jeff started The Playlist Retreat, an invitation-only event that “brings new and established artists together to inspire, motivate and fuel collaboration”. This video, from the first Playlist Retreat, pulls back the curtain with behind-the-scenes footage of jam sessions, artist conversations and more, showing the humble and sharing side of Jeff’s character.
9. Establishing his A Touch of Jazz production company
Jeff’s A Touch Of Jazz production company and studio showcases Jeff as a producer. In his own words, “[I wanted to] get a building and put a studio in it that we could go in and basically make music without someone telling us what we should make.” Jeff achieved this, to the benefit of artists including Jil Scott, Eminem, The Roots and Talib Kweli. You Know I Got Soul has the full story.
10. Being an early adopter of the Phase DJ system
We wanted to include this not so much as a “greatest career moment”, but as an example of how Jeff has always pushed the technological boundaries of DJing, from using guitar effects pedals in DJ routines in the late 80s, to the infamous Jazzy Jeff scratch button on Pioneer’s DDJ-SB3 controller, to this – immediately seeing the potential of the (now hugely popular) Phase wireless DVS system.
Read this next: DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 3 Tips For DJing With Stems
11. Being a pioneer of DJ livestreaming
In quarantine, Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff brought smiles to a locked-down world with “Will Smith’s Quarantine Concert”, featuring Jeff (as ever) backing Will, as his DJ. Jeff has since, of course, gone on to be one of the biggest DJ livestreamers in the world, with his hugely popular twice-weekly shows, The Magnificent Lunch Break and the Magnificent House Party.
12. Being a character (with his original music) in Nintendo’s DJ Hero, in 2009
Jeff at the time said that this was probably the biggest thing to have happened to him in his career, and he was hugely proud that DJ culture had reached the mainstream enough for his music and character to appear in this soon-to-be-famous video game.
And now the DJ course…
“I’ve wanted to make a DJ course for a long time, but it was important to me to do it with a partner who would make sure it wasn’t cheesy. I’m excited to say that the result is even better than I imagined!” says Jeff, about DJ Jazzy Jeff’s How To DJ Right, the course he’s made with us here at Digital DJ Tips. We, too, couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve made together.
Want to learn how to DJ like Jeff? Find our more about DJ Jazzy Jeff’s How To DJ Right by clicking this link.