Venue: The Jazz Cafe, London Date: 9 May 2012
It’s a true sign of the times when a deejay can simply walk into a packed club, plug his laptop in, check his headphones and then five minutes later be launching into his set. Gone are the days of power-lifting bags of records around and worrying about damaging treasured white label singles and having to work with worn-out needles. Some would say recent advances in technology have diluted the abilities of many new deejays, but with a veteran like the magnificent Jazzy Jeff you get the best of both worlds; an old-school deejay who came up rocking house-parties with vinyl on makeshift equipment who uses new technology to enhance his talents rather than hide any shortcomings.
Joined onstage by VA’s (formerly Mad) Skillz, who acted as a lively and entertaining host for the evening, Will Smith’s former recording partner took the sold-out crowd on a two-hour musical journey that encompassed everything from golden-era Hip-Hop and classic breaks to vintage soul, funk and disco.
With Skillz prowling the stage and working the crowd like a true professional (at one point performing his own 90s classic “The Nod Factor”), Jazzy Jeff remained silent behind his laptop set-up, speaking only with his hands and flashing a wide grin every time he played a track that drew a particularly enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Pacing his set to near perfection, the Illadelph deejay dropped in snatches of familiar samples before segueing into the Hip-Hop cut the audience knew each original track from. So R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Callin'” made way for Biggie’s “Unbelievable”, whilst Bobby Caldwell’s quiet storm favourite “Open Your Eyes” was effortlessly blended into Common’s Dilla-produced “The Light”.
The Beastie Boys’ 80s classics “Paul Revere” and “Hold It Now, Hit It” drew particularly large cheers given the recent passing of group member MCA, whilst a West Coast medley featuring 2Pac’s “California Love”, Snoop’s “Gin And Juice” and Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” had Skillz encouraging everyone to throw up their Westside hand-signs.
Familiar crowd-pleasers such as Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says”, Gang Starr’s “Full Clip” and Biggie’s “Hypnotize” were all given an airing, whilst some early Jackson 5 had Skillz doing the two-step and a short snippet of the “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” theme raised laughter from the crowd.
Keen to show that, party-rocking aside, he’s still no slouch on the turntables, Jazzy Jeff went back-to-back with Bob James’ “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” break-beat and sliced the intro of LL Cool J’s brilliant “Rock The Bells” to pieces, using the transformer scratch that became his trademark back in the 80s to whip the audience into a frenzy.
With timeless tracks from the likes of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, Slum Village and the Incredible Bongo Band all finding their way into the mix, not even Uncle Phil would have wanted to throw the hard-working Jazzy Jeff out of his house following a set as impressive as this.
Footage of DJ Jazzy Jeff and Skillz at The Jazz Cafe.