Homebase (1991)—DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
We went into the studio refocused when we made Homebase. But we weren’t mad at our critics because at the end of the day how are you going to be mad if we felt like we didn’t do the best on our own record? This was right when Will went out to LA to start work on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and I was starting my A Touch of Jazz production company. It was funny because I remember him calling me saying, ‘Yo, it’s really different in LA. As much as I love the warm weather, I miss summer in Philly.’ This is how the song ‘Summertime’ came about; it was all the little nostalgic things that you get on the East Coast as the weather breaks…that first hot day when the flowers are blooming; seeing the girl who wore a coat all winter in her summer clothes; going out to the Plateau to hang out. Will missed all of that because it’s warm all the time in LA.
Will wrote ‘Summertime’ as a story. But I told him, ‘Yo, you know what? Don’t say your name on this record…just say it on your tag out.’ When you listen back to it, the only name reference Will makes is, ‘This is the Fresh Prince’s new definition of summer madness…’ It was important that we didn’t make ‘Summertime’ about us. It was a great feeling record. Before the video came out, people were like, ‘Who is this?’ Because it was so different for us…so laid back. And I liked the fact that the fans didn’t know it was us. Vanilla Ice could have made ‘Summertime’ and you still couldn’t front on that shit. You couldn’t deny this record, even if you didn’t like Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
One of the smartest things we did was use The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to debut our video for ‘Summertime.’ It was one of the first times a video ever premiered on network television. We debuted the video on NBC at 8:30 pm…an audience of 30 million people. The affects of this was crazy. As much flack as we got for crossing over, after And In This Corner, crossing over became acceptable. It was almost like, ‘So if you sell 3 million albums and people like your shit, that’s a lot more money and a bigger fanbase. That may not be bad.’
We didn’t do a black radio promo tour during ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand.’ We were going to all the pop stations, so coming back we did [mostly black stations]. I remember specifically talking to [iconic radio DJ] Tom Joyner. We saw him at a record convention and he had always supported us from our ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble’ days. I recall telling Tom after And In This Corner, ‘Yeah man, we have a record coming out called ‘Summertime’ that’s going to be crazy.’ And a year later, Tom tells me, ‘When you walked away, I just shook my head and said, ‘Man, those guys are so nice…I feel so bad for them [laughs].’ He admitted that. ‘Summertime’ blows up and we went to go see Tom and he’s like, ‘I have to be honest. I did not think that you guys were going to comeback.’
It was all just crazy. They asked me to do three episodes on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The way I looked at it, although I didn’t want to do TV, if I hated it I only had two more episodes to look forward to. I was straight into the music…that’s all I ever wanted to do. So after we did my first episodes, they asked me to do more. We did the show in front of an audience of about 200 people. And this was easy for Will and I because were used to performing in front of 30,000 people. But what I didn’t pay attention to is the 20 million people who were watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. What it did was change the dynamics. Now I’m in the supermarket and there’s an 80-year-old white woman that walks up to me and says, Jazz! I’m like, ‘How the fuck does she know me?’ That’s when I found out that TV is a completely different animal than music.
For six years, I was making really good money appearing on Fresh Prince. The TV show actually funded me getting everything off the ground with A Touch of Jazz. Will and I both knew where our paths were headed. Maybe the first week we got together Will was like, ‘Man, I want to be a movie star.’ And I was like, ‘I want to do the music for that movie.’ None of our success is a surprise to me.