DJ Jazzy Jeff on possible reunion with Will Smith: 'The time is right on so many different levels'
Will Smith threw the hip-hop world a curveball Monday when he told Zane Lowe on Beats 1 that he plans to hit the road with longtime collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff next summer. Jeff, who recorded five albums with Smith from 1987 to 1993, has confirmed to EW that a reunion is a serious possibility. “The time is right on so many different levels,” the DJ said by phone Tuesday. “It’s simple as Will has been my partner for 30-something years. I’ve been waiting for him just to say, ‘Let’s go.'”
Jeff attributes talk of new tunes and a tour — Smith also told Lowe that he’s “pretty much poppin’ in the studio everyday” — to conversations he’s had with the star about adapting to changes in the music industry. “I think he’s really coming to grips that so much of it is independent and you can do it on your own,” Jeff says. “Coming from a record background and as long as we made records, that’s really hard for someone to understand that it’s different now. We always talk about going into these million dollar studios and making these records that we made. [But] having the ability to make a record in a hotel room, if we’d have had that, we would have probably did 50 albums!”
According to Jeff, he and Smith “perform together maybe like four or five times a year, just on different occasions” like movie release parties and Jeff’s own gigs around the world. After those appearances, Smith often remarks to Jeff that the duo should reunite in earnest — prompting Jeff to reply, “I already do it! I’m waiting for you!” While Jeff says he and Smith “haven’t started our stuff yet,” he praises his return to the studio. “The thing about Will, from the day I met him, he is never lacking in ideas and content,” Jeff says. “It’s just the execution. I’m happy that he’s executing now. With the help of his kids — who are so into just doing it — he’s kinda like, ‘You know what? We can just do it.’ The possibilities are endless because we have these resources that we didn’t have 20 years ago.”
And although Smith’s schedule might be the limiting factor for a DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince reunion, Jeff has kept busy in his own right. The DJ says he plays more than 160 gigs a year, and he provided scratch overdubs for the summer box office smash Straight Outta Compton — an offer he initially thought was “an elaborate joke” when he received multiple texts from numbers he didn’t know that turned out to be Dr. Dre trying to contact him. The mogul eventually got through to Jeff, who says Dre told him “there’s no one that I would pick other than you” to do the DJ work in the film. “I was really honored, I was just really happy that I could help,” Jeff says.
Still, the idea of being an “elder statesman” of hip-hop is still a little weird to the DJ, who tells a story of hanging out at a Hong Kong club with Dre and Snoop Dogg, where all three were performing. “Will and I still do this,” he says. “There’s a side of it that you never lose, that this is funny. ‘Can you believe this?'”