Big Willie Style (1997) Willennium; (1999)—Will Smith
I was a little distraught with the music industry during this period. When we signed with Columbia I had the opportunity to do another Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince album with Will, but I chose not to because I was developing A Touch Of Jazz. I thought we were going to be on Jive forever. I was kind of broken hearted that it didn’t end up that way. I was just thinking unrealistically. I needed a break. But the irony is Big Willie Style, Willennium and all the other records Will has made I have had something to do with. We looked at it like this is still Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, it just that my name is not on the cover. This was when Jill Scott and I started working together. I felt like what better time than to introduce the world to a great talent through her appearance on Willennium (Editor’s note: One of Jill’s earliest song appearances was on the Will Smith track ‘The Rain’ produced by Jeff’s Touch of Jazz collective.)
Will managed to become this box office star, yet sell millions of albums. I was never surprised about any of this. It’s not like we lost our talent. Jive thought we were done. This motivated Will and myself. And then Will started to get a better understanding of the machine. He’s like, ‘Not only do I have the TV show, but my movies are starting to become huge box office hits. But what if I started down music for the soundtracks to my movies?’ It all started with Men In Black. Once he did that it just exploded. One of the things I realized about Will is if he came to me tomorrow and said, ‘Jeff, I’m going to be the first man to fly without a plane,’ I am the first person buying tickets [laughs]. Because I know his determination. I know how he thinks…I respect that. You can never let someone on the outside tell you that you can’t do something. I’m on the set of Independence Day with Will and I’m like, ‘Yo, this is millions of dollars that someone is spending because this guy is so talented.’ You bet against Will, you will lose.