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The Return of the Magnificent

DJ Jazzy Jeff

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Album Review

There’s no denying DJ Jazzy Jeff's indelible impact on hip-hop — he earned rap’s first-ever Grammy award and sold over 5.5 million records in the U.S. alongside the Fresh Prince. Years removed from his heyday, Jeff has since faded from the mainstream but has continued carving out his own solo career, releasing a number of mixtapes and solo projects and becoming a prominent R&B/neo-soul producer. The Return of the Magnificent, the follow-up to 2002’s The Magnificent, is vindicating proof that Jeff is more than a mere relic of hip-hop’s golden era, and marks his first official release in five years. For the occasion, he enlists a range of hip-hop heavyweights (household names like Big Daddy Kane and Method Man), underground mainstays (J-Live and Jean Grae), and hometown talents (Eshon Burgundy and Peedi Peedi) to cover vocal duties. While guest artists are at the fore, Jeff interjects plenty of hip-hop breaks, and scratches and adorns each track with a sprawling palette of sonic tapestries, heavily embedded in jazz (“Practice” borrows from Donald Byrd's famed and frequently sampled “Think Twice”), ‘70s soul (“My Soul Ain’t for Sale” beautifully incorporates Bobby Caldwell's cut “What You Won’t Do for Love” with Raheem DeVaughn's vocal harmonies), and ‘60s funk (“Jeff N Fess” loops an insistent sample of James Brown's “Bring It Up”). The Return is, at its core, a hip-hop album, but Jeff acclimates to R&B tracks as well — much like on The Magnificent — employing singer Raheem DeVaughn on the melodic “My Soul Ain’t for Sale,” and Chinah Blac for the sensual “Touch Me wit Ur Hands,” though, Chinah Blac’s hushed vocals feel like a deficient substitute for an emcee’s flow over the song’s possessive rhythm and its infectious, sampled loop of Floetry's “Say Yes." The album rounds out with a fun rehash of the DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince hit “Brand New Funk,” featuring rapper Peedi Peedi (of State Property fame) in place of Will Smith. The conclusion connects Jeff’s past with his present, encapsulating his evolution over time as a producer and DJ, and marking The Return a cohesive, definitive body of work.

Biography

Born: 22 January 1965 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

DJ Jazzy Jeff's accomplishments extend well beyond his status as one-half of a multi-platinum rap duo. Regarded as a pioneering turntable tactician for his well-honed skills and for his development of the transformer scratch, the Philadelphian (born Jeff Townes) founded a production house — called A Touch of Jazz — a few years into his alliance with Will Smith as DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. Since parting ways with his partner, the DJ has worked on records by KRS-One, Kenny Lattimore,...
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The Return of the Magnificent, DJ Jazzy Jeff
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