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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jun-18 > JAZZY’S GROOVE


One of the pioneers of hip-hop, Jazzy Jeff introduced many record-buyers to an underground world and helped to make it accessible. As he once again begins working with Will Smith, MusicTech are honoured to speak to a bona-fide legend…
© Getty Images

From making colossal smash hit records such as Summertime and Boom! Shake the Room to being one of the inventors of the ubiquitous ‘Transformer Scratch’ to being repeatedly lobbed out of Uncle Phil’s Bel-Air mansion in one of the most treasured television shows of the 1990’s, Jazzy Jeff has been a high-profile figure in the world of music and popular culture for over 30 years.

Perhaps due to his comically naive, dumb persona on that legendary show, we were surprised to discover during our conversation with him that, in actuality, Jazzy Jeff is one of the more intelligent, deep-thinking interviewees we’ve ever had in these pages. His consideration for the science behind how music works and, indeed, his music-focused approach to everything he does was fascinating, refreshing and totally in-line with our philosophy too.


For Jeff, the road to stardom started at a young age. “I grew up in a really musical family”, he tells us. “My Dad was an MC for Count Basie, my older brother played bass with The Intruders and so music was always in the house. As the youngest, you’re the one that gets to soak it all up because you’re too young to really have an opinion. So I got a chance to listen to loads of different things. My Dad’s 78 jazz records and guys like Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith and then I got a chance to listen to my older brother’s records too, stuff like Earth, Wind and Fire and The Headhunters, so really I just absorbed all this musical knowledge without really knowing that I was doing that.”

It wasn’t just listening to music that Jeff absorbed at this stage – via his brother he started to understand the practicalities of record handling. “I was blessed with my brother giving me the ability to use his records and his stereo and, at eight years old, he taught me how to take records out of the sleeve, how to handle vinyl and put it on a turntable. This was all pre-hip-hop too, so when the hip-hop explosion happened it felt like ‘my’ music, and I already had all of this other knowledge of other music that I enjoy. I remember going to a block party and this guy had these huge speakers, and he was set up in a way that you couldn’t see him and all you could do was hear his voice and the music. All I did was sit there and stare at these big speakers and then just gaze out at these hundreds of people just dancing. I was like, ‘He’s controlling all of these people with the music he’s playing – I want to do that!’ I thought that was amazing.”

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About MusicTech

Though it was only a few issues ago that we contemplated the future of music, we came to the realisation that the future is now! With more effects at our disposal than ever before, we tour the modern arsenal of plug-in effects, tools and software that you might not even realise existed! Elsewhere, we speak to the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff about his production and DJing ethos, and join Detroit-based artist Klayton, whose love of 80s electronic and metal bands has borne many fruitful projects, not to mention an amazing studio. We put Hans Zimmer Strings to the test, as well as a slew of new pieces of gear and software in our expanded reviews section. Additionally, there’s 4 new tutorials for Live, Logic, Cubase and Pro Tools, brand-new tips, retrospectives and our Essential Guide series draws to a close with a 101 to recording. We hope you enjoy the issue!