He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper (1988)—DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
We never thought that He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper was going to be a classic album that would sell millions. We were signed to a small independent label in Philly that signed a deal through Jive Records. When we started the second album our deal with that independent label fell through and we got signed directly to Jive. So we were really excited because we were signed to a big label now. Then there was the idea of doing a double album. We recorded He’s The DJ in London. And it was funny because right before we left, I was in a car accident. I broke my leg, so I was in London for a month recording this record wearing a cast from my thigh to my ankle. We worked all night just to stay on the same time zone of the States. We would finish around 4 in the morning, come back to the hotel, fight to stay up to eat breakfast at around 6 a.m. and then go to sleep and go back to the studio at 8 pm.
You know what’s crazy to me? ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ was the exact same record as ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble.’ It was a very slow paced beat with a detailed story. All we did was change the subject matter, so we knew it was going to work. But that was also one of my least favorite records on the album. Jive had a producer that they brought in to polish up our tracks. After we recorded ‘Parents’ he looked at us and said, ‘This is a smash record.’ And we looked at him like he was crazy [laughs]. It got to the point when Jive said they wanted to put ‘Parents’ out first, we fought them. We thought we had more songs with harder beats. We wanted to put ‘Brand New Funk’ out, first. But we really have to give Jive the credit for seeing something that we didn’t see.
While Will and I were on tour we couldn’t see how huge ‘Parents’ was blowing up on MTV and on the radio. We were in a different city every night, but what we saw was very strange. At that time, we were on Run-D.M.C.’s Run’s House tour. Run, and them were the headliners so they went on last. We went on third to last, but what started happening was when they would do the intro every night, the name Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince would start getting louder and louder cheers. On one of the nights we did ‘Parents,’ Will came to me and said, ‘Yo, am I bugging or were they all rapping the song along with us?’ So the next night he did the first verse and he said to the crowd, ‘I’m going to let you guys say the second verse.’ So he’s like, ‘My mom took me school shopping’ and 25, 0000 people rapped the second line! We just looked at each other. The response from the crowds got bigger and bigger each night to the point where we went from being third to the last to going on right before Run-D.M.C.
We were selling so many records. We didn’t start to get all the talk of us being pop rappers until we got home. It was weird. We are getting played on every black radio station, but as soon as we started getting played on the white stations people started saying, ‘Ah, man, y’all ain’t hard. Ya’ll soft.’ And that kind of threw Will and I off. Nothing changed in our lifestyles in the way we grew up and came up from the last album to this album. But yet people were now saying that we grew up in the suburbs [laughs]. Back then you weren’t trying to have anyone question your manhood. We wanted to prove to people that we were not sell-outs. We were exposing so many people who had no idea what rap music was. You start realizing that you are a part of the reason why hip-hop was growing, but we still had to take our shots.
I think that’s why songs like ‘Brand New Funk’ were so important for us. That song personifies what Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince are all about. It had a little bit of everything from Will being a great MC to me cutting crazy to a hard beat…it was one of those songs we loved to do live. We actually recorded the video live when we did it at New York’s Nassau Coliseum. That was the other end of the spectrum from ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand.’ The real Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince fans knew ‘Brand New Funk.’ It became our outlet from the crossover records.