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Jazzy Jeff

In the late '80s and early '90s, the smack-talkin', party-startin' Philadelphia duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince provided millions of young American suburbanites their first introduction to the joys of hip-hop. With multiplatinum-selling status and unforgettable songs like "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble," "Parents Just Don't Understand" (which won the first-ever rap Grammy), "Nightmare on My Street" (which, full disclosure, I memorized and performed in a fifth-grade talent show), and "Summertime" -- not to mention the ubiquity of the TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — Jeff Townes and Will Smith were the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby-style musical-comedy duo for Generation X.

Though even kids today are likely aware of Smith's career trajectory as a Hollywood superstar, only close followers of hip-hop are likely to be hip to what DJ Jazzy Jeff has been doing over the years. Turns out, the guy's kept plenty busy. He's produced and lent scratches to records for a long list of artists including the Roots, Talib Kweli, and Rhymefest. He's released two all-original solo albums, one of which, 2007's The Return of the Magnificent, went gold. He's built a studio and production company in Philly called a Touch of Jazz, which has launched many artists' recording careers, including solo Will Smith, and, more recently, Jill Scott.

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