DJ Jazzy Jeff (born Jeffrey Allen Townes) needs no introduction. For those who gathered in front of their TV screens on Monday nights in the early 1990s, Jazz, his character from the beloved The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is a cultural staple. One could argue that without Jazzy Jeff there’s no Will Smith, and the show doesn’t become the classic it is today — 33 years after it aired.
Born and raised in Philly, the DJ, actor, and producer knew he was interested in DJ’ing as early as 10-years-old. In Success – By Those Who’ve Made It, he told author Paul Stenning, “At summertime block parties I wouldn’t be the one dancing, I sat where the DJ was set up, watching him. Even when I would go to other block parties in other neighborhoods I was still infatuated with the DJ. He was the guy that played music that everyone in the neighborhood loved. You might not have known his face; you might not have known his name, but he was the guy that made everyone move.”
From 1986 to 1994, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) were a hip-hop duo to be reckoned with. They made history as just the third rap group in recorded history to receive platinum certification. They won their first GRAMMY Award for Best Rap Performance in 1989 for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” But their most popular hit, “Summertime,” which also won them a GRAMMY, is the block party staple that spans generations, socioeconomic status, and ethnic backgrounds. It peaked at No. 4 on The Billboard Hot 100. Although the dynamic duo began their own separate ventures, they never officially broke up. They remain close friends and still perform together occasionally.
You can’t mention Philly household names without DJ Jazzy Jeff. As someone who’s been in the music industry and Hollywood for nearly four decades, you’d be wise to listen to what he has to say. He’s been married to his wife Lynette C. Jackson for 13 years, who also manages his career, and has four children.
In his own words, he’s got a story to tell.
His social media platform of choice:
“I like Instagram if I’m being 100 percent honest. I like Instagram; I hate that they changed the algorithm. I understand why they changed the algorithm, I just don’t like it. I got really, really comfortable using it as a tool. This is a way that I can get my message out of what I’m doing to all of the people who like who you are, which I thought was 100 percent fair. I don’t like the fact now that I have people that I follow or people that follow me say, ‘I haven’t seen anything from you in three weeks’ because the algorithm is guiding me away from them. Social media is an amazing tool. I don’t like the algorithms that steer you away from your fan.”
I like Instagram; I hate that they changed the algorithm. Social media is an amazing tool. I don’t like the algorithms that steer you away from your fan base.”
“Charlie [Mack] has probably given me the best nuggets that I’ve ever had. One day I was complaining about something, and he said, ‘If your career ended today, how could you be mad?’ And I kind of turned and looked at him angry. He said, ‘You’ve done more, seen more, and been more places than 99.9 percent of the people in the world.’ I looked at him and I said, ‘I will never be afraid to jump again, you’re 100 percent right.’”
“Most of the bad advice that I’ve ever received came from people who are too afraid to do what you’re trying to do, and the only advice they can give you is don’t do it. ‘Don’t do it, you need to quit, it’ll never work.’ They start giving you averages and odds, anything that they can do to deter you away from their fear.”
Most of the bad advice that I’ve ever received came from people who are too afraid to do what you’re trying to do, and the only advice they can give you is don’t do it. ‘Don’t do it, you need to quit, it’ll never work.’ They start giving you averages and odds, anything that they can do to deter you away from their fear.”