Jazzy Jeff talks Will Smith in Dubai

Top DJ talks historic surprise NYE gig alongside the Fresh Prince

Interview, DJ feature

While in Dubai for a New Year’s Eve gig at Barasti, where Will Smith made a surprise appearance, the star gives Peter Feely the lowdown on his career.

Of all the places you could be on New Year’s Eve, why did you choose Dubai?
I was in Dubai at New Year maybe two or three years ago [and] it was amazing, so when the chance came up again it wasn’t even a question. I’ve had really good nights here.

Paul Oakenfold was in Dubai for NYE as well. He said that he had discovered you...
We [Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith] were signed to a record label that Paul was working at – Champion Records – before we were signed to Jive Records. He didn’t actually find us – he worked for an independent boutique label that were picking up hip-hop records in the United States and thankfully me and Will’s first record was one of the ones they picked up.

How do you shake hands with Will Smith when you meet him?
Normal – we don’t do any of that [Fresh Prince of Bel Air] stuff. That was actually a handshake that one of the guys we used to work with on tour started and we all just started doing it. It was one of the dancers who came up with it and it just stuck.

What’s the worst haircut you can remember Will Smith having?
When he first got to Los Angeles to do the show there was no one in Los Angeles who knew how to give him a proper Phili [Philadelphia] fade – it was bad. To get your hair all boxed up – it takes skill. The person who was doing his hair was a little off if you look at some of those early Fresh Prince episodes. I never completely relocated to Los Angeles so I would always get a fresh haircut just before I left.

What are your thoughts on young competition in DJing?
To watch the younger people take the reins is hard but it’s refreshing. They don’t have the boundaries [to create music] that we did. There’s a whole generation of performers that are very good at cultivating their fan base and who sell out shows without even advertising. It was one of the conversations that Will and I had – we thought if only we’d had the resources when we were young.

What would someone need to do to get you to play a certain song?
That would never happen. First of all you have to get to me. Sometimes I play according to tempo and if I’m at that tempo I won’t take a request because you don’t want to throw the whole vibe of the party off just for that one person.

What if the track’s the right tempo and the person asking for it is beautiful?
That doesn’t matter.

Any New Year’s resolutions for 2014?
We just talked about that over breakfast – about how they only last for two weeks. I guess I want to have more discipline in making music and playing music. I want more structure in my life as well
– getting up at a set time.

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