DJ Jazzy Jeff – M3

It’s hard not to think of DJ Jazzy Jeff as the partner of The Fresh Prince – aka Will Smith. The late 80’s and early 90’s featured a near constant stream of radio and MTV hits from the duo. Once Will Smith broke into television, he made sure DJ Jazzy Jeff – aka Jeffrey Townes – had a constant presence on his hit show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Fresh Prince started putting out records under his new name (some of them still featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff), and DJ Jazzy Jeff put out two critically acclaimed records and an impressive amount of mix tapes. The last decade or so has found Jeff DJ’ing throughout the world, producing records, and reminding the world that he is one of the world’s premier DJ’s – setting moods, scratching, and mixing with an expert ear. M3 marks his 1st album in 11 years and is the final chapter of the Magnificent trilogy. It just may be his finest solo work yet.

The album features jazzy (he he he) interludes, feel good hip hop, and social commentary. I like how M3 The Beginning and M3 The Outro provide a sense of symmetry to the album. “When I’m 45 i can see my son surpassing me / I’m almost 45 my midlife crisis is happening…damn” is a lyric that appears in both pieces. While the intro serves as a brief introduction to the album and statement of intent, the concluding track expands on this, subverts it, and rides a crest of soulful horns and a moving soundscape. The first single usually makes or breaks an album, and Skaters Paradise is absolutely perfect. Catchy beat, killer rhymes, it is absolutely infectious. Rhymefest brings some Chicago flavor to the Philly proceedings and shows incredible chemistry with Dayne Jordan. DJ Jazzy Jeff has scratches all over this track and it is instantly memorable. The video features a very brief cameo from The Fresh Prince himself.  Scars veers down a darker path and features Rhymefest bearing his soul. “You want to know why it cuts so deep? / I grew up without a father and my clothes was cheap”.  Wide Awake is a strong mid album cut – it features The Trinity (Rhymefest, Dayne Jordan, Uhmeer) seamlessly trading verses. An almost orchestral background with trap like beats and of course, scratching. In addition to these great, pure hip hop songs, DJ Jazzy Jeff offers up two perfect soul songs with Aaron Camper. Midnight Escapade features a deep, deep groove. Late night funk vibes. The Way We Cool is pure joy – I’d say a summertime anthem, but Jazzy Jeff already did that in ’91. Breezy, soulful, catchy – it is perfection.

There isn’t a weak track on M3 by DJ Jazzy Jeff. His many collaborators on this album help to present a unified vision. Retro futurism popped into my head a few times – these tracks sound so fresh, yet there is never any doubt that it is DJ Jazzy Jeff & friends. Not just the hip album of the year – this is in contention for album of the year, any genre.

Verdict: Magnificent

For fans of: The Roots, Typical Cats, DJ Shadow, LL Cool J, Sly & the Family Stone,

Tracklist:

  1. M3 The Beginning
  2. Skaters Paradise
  3. Scars
  4. Where You At
  5. Hi & Hungry Interlude
  6. 2 Step
  7. Wide Awake
  8. It’s June Already
  9. Stronger Than Me
  10. Midnight Escapade
  11. Child of God
  12. Ludesfordays Interlude
  13. The Way We Cool
  14. The Government’s Dead
  15. M3 The Outro

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