DJ Jazzy Jeff
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The accomplishments of Jeff Townes pre-date and extend far beyond his partnership with Will Smith as DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. Although the duo's prominent role in hip-hop history is secure with five gold and platinum albums and two Grammys, including the first award for Best Rap Performance with "Parents Just Don't Understand" (1988), Townes is a major figure for his individual work. A pioneering turntablist acknowledged for his development of the Transformer scratch, as well as a veteran global club DJ, Townes has also led the production house A Touch of Jazz, executive-produced Jill Scott's multi-platinum debut (2000), and released numerous DJ sets and studio albums, including multiple volumes of Hip Hop Forever (2004-2006) and the Magnificent trilogy (2002-2018).
Revered at a young age for his party-rocking skills, which he began to develop in his parents' basement, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Townes began working in studios during 1985, when he provided uncredited scratching on tracks by Korner Boyz and Cazal Boys. Along with fellow Philly DJ Cash Money, he was soon acknowledged for the development of the Transformer scratch -- a dexterous technique generating a sound similar to that of the like-named toys -- as documented on "Live at Union Square, November 1986." That track appeared on He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince's 1988 mainstream breakthrough. The duo's commercial peak, the album went triple platinum on the strength of the number 12 pop hit "Parents Just Don't Understand," the first winner of the Grammy award for Best Rap Performance. During the duo's rise, Townes founded a production house called A Touch of Jazz, named after another one of his early turntablism classics. Among A Touch of Jazz's early successes was the theme for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the sitcom on which Townes acted as the sidekick to Smith's lead character (to the comic annoyance of James Avery's Uncle Phil). Following another Best Rap Performance award for the Top Five 1991 pop hit "Summertime" and the 1993 conclusion of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince's run with Code Red, Townes assisted with Smith's solo material and worked with several other rap and R&B artists. Most notably, he served as executive producer of Jill Scott's 2000 debut Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1, a Top 20 Billboard 200 hit that led to a handful of Grammy nominations and a double-platinum certification. Townes' proper solo debut, The Magnificent, followed in 2002 with Scott, Eric Roberson, and Freddie Foxx among the guest stars. Although a sequel, The Return of the Magnificent, arrived five years later, Townes was much more active on other fronts, such as on official mixes (In the House, Hip Hop Forever II, Hip Hop Forever III), a series of mixtapes (Summertime, with Mick Boogie), production work (as the facilitator of the Playlist), and global touring as a club DJ. The third Magnificent album, M3, arrived in 2018 with a core vocal crew consisting of Rhymefest, Dayne Jordan, and Uhmeer. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi