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New jazzy Jeff Interview


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DEWEY BEACH -- When the much-touted new dance club Ivy hosts its grand opening on the site of the former Venus on the Half-Shell restaurant this weekend, the music will be provided by a disc jockey who is a household name.

DJ Jazzy Jeff, aka 47-year-old Jeff Townes, is a turntable pioneer in the world of hip-hop. As half of the Philadelphia-based duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, he played the foil to rapper Will Smith. Their massive success in the music world in the mid-'80s led to acting roles for both of them on the long-running television sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Townes is now a Delawarean. Speaking from his New Castle County home, he answered a few questions for The Beachcomber shortly after returning from a grueling run of shows overseas.

How was the tour?

It was excellent, but it was definitely tiring. I'm glad to be home. I was in the UK, Romania; I did a week-and-a-half in the Middle East. It's always amazing. I've been getting offers to do international touring since before I even started doing solo things in the states, which was a surprise. I was like, 'Are they sure they want me?' I can't even pronounce the names of some of the cities I've played in Russia. I'll show up and there will be 2,000 screaming kids who just want to hear good music.

Is the reaction different from country to country?

No. It just goes to show how universal music is.

Even here in the states? I see on your schedule that you're in Las Vegas later this month.

Actually, Vegas is a little different. There's a different vibe because most of the people don't live there. If they're on vacation, then their whole mindset is different because they came to have a good time all day and all night. I enjoy that. I imagine that's what the vibe will be like at the beach.

What can people expect in Dewey?

Bring a towel, because you're gonna sweat. I'm a very old-school DJ. I believe there are two kinds of music -- good and bad. You're gonna hear everything from Led Zeppelin to TV show theme songs. You'll hear rock and hip-hop, things you're familiar with and a few things you're not familiar with. My job is to make people dance, and I like to think I'm very good at what I do.

How did this gig come about?

Ever since I moved to Delaware, I've told my friends I'd like to do something at the beach. Some of the clubs have 1,000 people per night packed in there regardless of what's going on, so I figured they didn't really need a DJ. I always thought it would be cool, though. Then my road manager contacted me out of the blue recently and said, 'There is an offer in from one of the Delaware beaches.' I was surprised. I'm really looking forward to it.

Do you hang out at the beach?

Yeah, me and my wife take our kids down there. It's fun walking around and getting to know the area. Growing up in Philly, I always went to Atlantic City, Wildwood and Cape May. Occasionally, we'd go to Ocean City, Md. The Delaware beaches are nice.

How did you wind up moving to Delaware?

I had a friend who moved to Delaware a long time ago. I would visit and we'd all go shopping. As you get older, you start to pay attention to your surroundings a little more. In Delaware, the real estate is much more reasonable. Usually the athletes and people in Philly end up moving to Jersey, but Delaware has much lower taxes, which is a deal-maker. Now I have seven or eight friends who have also moved to Delaware.

Is it true you and Will had a demo tape of "Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble" floating around the Tri-State area back when you were still in high school?

Not a demo, but maybe someone made a live tape before we had a record deal. That would be something I'd like to hear. Will and I used to perform at parties before we ever recorded anything. We would take that Art of Noise song "Moments of Love" and Will would basically rap overtop of that whole record. Then we eventually added the "I Dream of Jeannie" samples and stuff in the studio. We were extremely young and didn't think to ask people for permission when we sampled things. It was so early in the days of hip-hop that everything was kind of under the radar.

You have a new project with a female singer named Ayah. How is that going?

Good. I'm mixing a full-length album for later this year. There isn't any record company or corporate structure, so we're doing whatever we want to do. It's music without barriers.

Any plans to record with Will?

It's hard. Will is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Every time we're on the phone, he talks about wanting to go back into the studio, but his schedule is crazy. I'm doing the "Men in Black III" movie premiere with him in New York. Every time we have the opportunity to do something, we do it. We can go a year without performing together and then get back up on stage without missing a beat. People are always surprised how tight our shows are, but we can read each other's thoughts at this point. I can tell what Will's thinking just by reading his body language.

You were featured in the video game "DJ Hero." How did your family react?

My son absolutely loved it. 'Hey, Dad is in a video game!' Beyond even that, I loved it. I always swore I would remain a kid at heart, and I'm holding onto that.

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It also shows theres no plans for an JJFP album..

Unless Will commits to doing an album with Jeff..and goes into the studio with him for a month it will probably never happen.

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