Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Favorite Albums: He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper

Flashback: December 25, 1988

I run to the living room to see what I got for Christmas. I’m 11 years old; too cool for toys and uninterested in clothes. I want a stereo and music. Fortunately, my dad doesn’t disappoint. I get a combo record player/double-bay tape deck and three albums that would serve as a harbinger to my “golden age” of music discovery: Run DMC’s Tougher Than Leather, Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s He’s the DJ, I’m The Rapper.

He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper was on constant repeat in my brand-new stereo. I could recite every rhyme. I pretended to scratch like Jazzy Jeff. It was the soundtrack to my final year in elementary school. That’s why it’s one of my favorite albums.

People know Will Smith for his movies versus his rapping skills, but in 1988 he was a good, if not great, rapper. Teaming with Jazzy Jeff, the duo dropped what I consider to be one of the best hip-hop albums ever created. Notice I say “hip-hop” and not rap. While Will Smith is more than capable on the mic, the turntable skills of Jazzy Jeff are the real highlight.

Magic happens when the rapping and scratching merge together into party jams: the addictive “Here We Go Again” and the brassy “Pump Up The Bass” are perfect examples of how the lyrical word-play of Fresh Prince dances across the foundation laid by Jazzy Jeff.

For me, the jewel of the album is the title track. "He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper" starts off with a video-game-like intro, before Fresh Prince segues into a boastful, ballsy, G.O.A.T. romp about his superior rapping skills. Prince’s verses are backed with a twisting maze of tip-of-the-tongue recognizable samples. Jazzy Jeff masterfully ties it all together with some of the best scratching I’ve ever heard on vinyl (including the infamous transformer scratch)


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