DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince became one of the first rap acts to achieve mass crossover appeal thanks to their comedic story songs and inventive beats. Philadelphia natives Jeff (born Jeff Towns) and Fresh Prince (born Will Smith) met as teenagers at a house party in 1985 where Towns was DJing. He was already an accomplished local DJ, and the younger Smith’s vocal style complemented his sonic approach. The duo began working together and released their first single, “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Troubles” in 1986. Their album, Rock the House, came out that year, but got wider exposure after they signed to Jive Records and that company rereleased the album. They become cultural superstars with 1988’s He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper thanks to the single “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, a humorous, playful take on the cluelessness of the older generation. The video became an MTV staple, winning Best Rap Video at the 1989 VMAs, and the song won the first Grammy ever awarded for Best Rap Performance. 1989’s And in This Corner…” included the minor hit, “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson”, and the next year the dup would perform the theme song for Smith’s television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. They matured their sound for 1991’s Homebase and were rewarded with the biggest chart hit of their career when the single “Summertime” topped the R&B chart and climbed to number 4 on the pop chart. They went for a harder vibe on 1993’s Code Red, leaving behind the goofy feel of their early work. They separated soon after and Will Smith became one of the biggest movie starts in the world. They performed together on a handful of occasions since then.

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