It’s Jazzy Jeff’s 49th birthday today, so to celebrate, here’s our interview with him from last year!
You’ve played with some English acts before, like Shortee Blitz and Mr Thing, do you listen to any UK hip-hop?
I listen to what I can, unfortunately it’s so hard to listen to everything that you want. Sometimes I’m so bogged down with music! It’s not only the music that you play, it’s the music that you make too, so a lot of times when I do these tours a big part of the experience is getting to hear some of the stuff that you don’t normally get the chance to hear. So I always come home with a bag full of music!
Do you have any favourite UK artists at the moment?
Not at the moment to be honest, not anyone that I can really call off, it’s funny because I’m not good at picking favourite songs or tracks. My brain cuts off when people ask me for my favourites! If someone says “Gimme your favourite track” my brain has to pick from a million tracks so it always shuts down!
You were over here for The Graham Norton Show with Will Smith last year – do you spend much time in the UK?
Oh yeah, I usually do two tours in the UK a year – a spring tour and a fall one. The Graham Norton thing was something last minute, Will was like “I’ve got an idea!” and two hours later I was on a flight to London. I love it here, I’ve got a lot of friends here, I know my way around and I have places that I love to eat so it’s not like I’m traveling somewhere foreign. It’s familiar, it’s like “I’m gonna hop in the cab and go Byron burger and get me a hamburger!”
You’ve got your own web series called Vinyl Destination where you travel all over the world – do you have a place you like to perform the most?
I know I’m gonna get a lot of flack for this, but most of my favourite places to play are in the United States! I like playing to home crowds.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever played?
The weirdest experience I ever had was I was booked at a festival in Amsterdam, I played and then straight away we ran to the airport and got a flight to Germany. Turns out we were booked for a jazz festival – we walked in and people were sitting on their asses eating cheese and I was like, “Did they know who they booked?” It was really funny because we basically adapted our set to fit in with a jazz festival and people loved it! But just walking in, it was like “Wow, this could really be bad…”
Do you strictly use vinyl in your shows or do you mix it up a bit?
I use MP3s and I use vinyl. But I haven’t used vinyl in a while – you don’t miss the crackles and cracks and you don’t miss traveling around the world with tons of vinyl. But I do miss the smell of vinyl and also the hunt to find that vinyl that you really want – it just makes your day when you find it. You know, you get really excited when you find that gem. They’re the main things I miss. But I’m happy now that I can travel across the world with all my music on my back, the only way the show wont happen is if I’m missing! That’s a good thing.
Do you have a favourite find in your vinyl collection?
I mean, I have so many favourites. I recently moved and I put all my records in a locker – I guess I don’t have a single favourite find. I do remember going on a day expedition with the late J Dilla in a record store in Pittsburgh though. I was so out of the loop and he said “I’m gonna make you a pile”. We went in and he just grabbed an incredible pile of records and when we got back he was playing them to me and they were just amazing. That was the best vinyl experience I ever had.
How did you get into music in the first place?
Growing up in Philly, having a block party on Sundays, bringing my speakers and just guys playing awesome tunes in front of hundreds of people. That environment shaped me. I was intrigued by that, I wanted to do it, I wanted to make an impact, I wanted to make people’s night great.
It seems that this is something you’ve passed on to your son, AMIRacle. He’s pretty good…
Yeah, it’s probably more amazing for me! When he first got in the booth I was like “Who is this??” We’re working on a full-length album, trying to get that done and get that out. The great thing is I instil in him patience, you know? He’s 14, he’s not in a rush, he’s extremely talented for his age, it’s kinda like we’ll take whatever time we need to develop him the right way. I have experience in the music industry so I know how to get his music out the way he wants it. The good thing about this is it’s nothing to do with me, this isn’t me living vicariously through my son, I’m just there to make sure that he does exactly what he wants to do.
Is there any rivalry between him and Jaden Smith?
Haha, oh no! Not at all, actually him and Jaden are gonna be doing some stuff together!
What’s next on your plate?
I got a couple of projects, one main one but I don’t really talk about it though, I want it to be a surprise when it comes out! I’m extremely happy with it though. I’m getting a new studio built so with that and this new project, this energy will bring some great stuff!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAZZY JEFF!