Jeffrey Allen Townes, also known as DJ Jazzy Jeff or simply Jazz, is an American hip hop and R&B disc jockey, record producer, turntablist and actor who is best known for his early career with Will Smith as DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
Jeffrey Allen Townes was born on January 22, 1965, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Once Townes grew up, he developed a reputation and a following as a school and block party DJ. He took the stage name DJ Jazzy Jeff and was one half of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince along with Will Smith. The group received the first Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance in 1989 for « Parents Just Don’t Understand », though their most successful single was « Summertime » which earned the group their second Grammy and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. He also won the world DJ championship in the 1986 New Music Seminar DJ Battle.
When Smith branched out into television with the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Jazzy Jeff played a recurring character named Jazz, Smith’s best friend on the show. In the early seasons the two characters always greeted each other with their signature handshake (swinging mid-five, point-back, snap with both characters saying « Pssh! »). A recurring joke throughout the show’s run involved the character being physically ejected from the house by Uncle Phil (James Avery).
One of the first records Jazzy Jeff ever appeared on was with The Korner Boyz (Street Artz Records) « Bust The Move and The Soga of Roxanne) Which featured legendary Philly Rapper / MC Parry P and Grand Tone. The Instrumental was called « Jazzy Jeff Scratch » (1985). DJ Jazzy Jeff along with DJ Cash Money is credited with making the transform scratch famous.
After DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince broke up, Townes went on to become a prominent R&B, soul, and neo soul record producer, establishing the A Touch of Jazz production company in his native Philadelphia. Among the artists that Jazzy Jeff has helped develop are Jill Scott and Musiq Soul Child, Eminem, The Roots, Jewel, Darius Rucker, Talib Kweli, Floetry, Rhymefest, and many more. Even though he separated from Will Smith as a music partner, they are still friends, and occasionally work together.
Some songs by Smith were produced by Townes (including « Here He Comes »), and he has performed on some songs by Smith such as « So Fresh » and « Potnas. » In addition, he appeared in several of Smith’s music videos such as « Will2K » and « Freakin’ It ». On some occasions, he made appearances with Smith at live concerts, producing DJ scratches. On July 2, 2005, DJ Jazzy Jeff performed with Smith at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia. Moreover, Smith acknowledges him in his music such as « Comin’ To The Stage » from the album Lost & Found and « Potnas » in his album Willennium.
His 2007 release The Return of the Magnificent featured numerous collaborations with old school and new school artists including CL Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pos from De La Soul, Method Man, Peedi Peedi (a remake of Brand New Funk), Rhymefest, and Raheem DeVaughn. In 2007, he appeared with Rhymefest in a video directed by Konee Rok, in which he makes music in his home recording studio with Rhymefest.
In 2008, Townes performed with Smith at the premier of the latter’s 2008 film Hancock.
In 2009, he made a mixtape titled He’s the King…I’m the DJ in honor of the late entertainer Michael Jackson. Townes was featured in the video game DJ Hero as a playable character. He also has some original mixes in the game .
In 2010, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Mick (formerly known as Mick Boogie) teamed up to release the Summertime mix-tape series. The mixes are released every summer.
In 2013 DJ Jazzy Jeff performed with Will Smith on the Graham Norton Show. Also that same year, DJ Jazzy Jeff released Vinyl Destination, a web series documenting his hundred plus DJ shows from all around the world.