Ok, so it's Friday night and I couldn't be happier to be at home in bed by 9pm. Then I get a text at 10pm saying DJ Jazzy Jeff at the Shrine. I set my alarm clock to wake up in a reasonable time to be able to catch approx 1 hour of his set. Upon arrival I move through the crowd as the spot is packed shoulder to shoulder.
The first time I saw him was at Zentra a few years ago and it was oddly enough promoted by a House Music promoter who's one Hip Hop event each year was Jazzy Jeff. Going with lowered expectations I was shocked to walk in the room to hear Big Daddy Kane's "Raw" being tricked out by The Magnificent himself. As the night progressed he played dope Hip Hop, Breakbeats, 80s Classsics and a little bit of Funk. After hearing his set I promptly came to the conclusion that in terms of Hip Hop and skill there was no greater DJ than DJ Jazzy Jeff. His cuts were precise and he dropped them at the perfect time. Selection and programming was fluid and his turntablism and live remixing was ridiculous. Also, what made the set dope was in Zentra there is a mirror behind and above the DJ booth where the crowd can see the wizardry taking place on the tables. Another idea that was dope was Mad Skills was his MC/Hype man and he was standing in the middle of the crowd on one of those cubes you usually see "go go dancers" on. It was almost like a remote mini stage.
This time was a little different. I walk in once again to a packed house but instead of Raw, I hear "Color Me Bad". After going thru a series of bubblegum ass 90's R&B classics he flipped the script and began to teach class. Playing an original sample and then next playing the current day song that used the sample was a good call. He also transitioned from one to another very seemlessly thus making it better than any other sample set I have ever heard. On this episode he didn't do too much turntablism and was just playing for the Friday night "weekender" crowd.
I missed a good portion of his set but heard that he was playing top 40 Rap earlier in the night. I guess that's what he thought they wanted to hear...and he may have been right. The one thing that many DJs of his stature may or may not realize is they can pretty much get away with playing whatever they want and people will still love it mainly because people want to bear witness to the mystique of that DJs fame. So, if he wants to play the first 5 songs off Ultra Magnetic's Critical Beatdown the reaction from the crowd may be "What is this?, I don't know but if Jazzy's playing it, it must be dope. Let's look cool and dance". Nevertheless, I do understand. If you wanna get the gigs that pay the commercial paper some cats feel like you gotta play some commercial music. In my opinion DJs like him can walk the fine line of playing real music and stuff many heads would consider goofy or wack. After all its a business and you want to make your clients happy. I remember at one point the DJ was the tastemaker and dictator of what music would be hot and what he wanted the crowd to hear. In 2010 that is not necessarily the case. People's desire to be entertained does not have much to do with education and progressing their ear and musical taste. Its funny how he still made the crowd happy just 5 years ago when he played all good music. Big props to DJ Jazzy Jeff for the other times I have heard him but this time I have to say I was a little disappointed.
Thanks for reading!
Peace and Blessings,
If you don't know you betta ask somebody...JLC