Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff Transform Together

Now, you might be reading this title and thinking, "no shit, Werner. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were platinum superstars who recorded five albums and tons of hit singles and videos. Your title telling us they worked together is meant to come as some sort of surprise or news to somebody?" No, no. But stick with me here for a moment.

"A Touch of Jazz" was Jazzy Jeff's solo cut on their debut album, Rock the House (sometimes people confuse it as their second album... but that's because it was re-released in 1988 after the duo blew up). And it truly is jazzy, classy, smooth and probably the most important DJ record since "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On the Wheels of Steel." Pop audiences may only remember the album for "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble;" but for the real heads, this was the stand-out track. There's some scratching, yes; but this is more about smooth blends of phat jazz loops, Marvin Gaye, soul mixed into a seamless rhythm. It's everything DJ Shadow's Entroducing was, only twice as def and a decade earlier!

And that classic (I may be guilty of overusing this word, but it applies here in the truest sense) album version is present on the 1987 12" single, but so is a lot more, starting with the "Extended Re-Touch." Now, at first this essentially plays out the same as the LP mix, except with a deep vocal sample declaring "A Touch of Jazz!" every so often, which I could just as easily do without. But a quick look at the label shows us that this version is over a minute and a half longer, and soon Jeff is blending in new records, with new sounds and scratches. Every aspect you loved from the original has been retained, and the new material fits in perfectly and the quality is still top notch.

Then we flip this record over to the B-side, and here's where the title comes into play. We get the "Collapsed In the Street Mix" (as well as a shorter "Collapsed In the Street Edit") that turns Jeff's instrumental masterpiece into a vocal track featuring The Fresh Prince. There's some new scratches, drums, etc... but obviously the inclusion of several rap verses is what stands out the most in this mix. Fortunately, there are still extended instrumental periods giving Jeff a chance to flex both his cuts (this time adding a lot of "Good Times" over the classic "Rapper's Delight" bassline) and his innovative blends... it doesn't follow the verse/hook/verse formula of the typical record, so it manages to keep the mood of the original pretty well intact. And The Prince doesn't try to distract with comical stories or battle rhymes, he just raps enthusiastically about the music:

"Making a record
Is similar to baking.
You need ingredients
If you plan on making
It come out correctly
And in a second,
I'm gonna give the recipe
We used on this record:
A quarter cup of rhymes
And a cup of beats,
A half cup of clubs
And dash in the streets;
A piece of the present
And a pinch of the past;
Throw in Jeff and the Prince
And a touch of jazz!"

The song winds up being almost 7 minutes long! And that's where this 12" really gets it right... with each increasingly different mix, they don't replace anything, they just keep adding onto what they have and building up. So they never sacrafice anything - the album version was less than half the length of this mix.

All that and a colorful picture cover? In this day of rarities going for record-breaking prices, it's nice to know that some of the crate digger's shiniest gems are still in plentiful abundance.


  1. that is a fresh cover!

    Is this version on the album:


  2. That actually seems to be a different mix... That Fresh Prince verse is one of the ones from the Collapsed In the Street Mix, and their are other elements from that mix on the 12" mixes, but it's definitely a different one.