As one of hip hop’s pioneering sound sculptors, DJ Jazzy Jeff knows firsthand how to move the crowd.
Along with MC-turned-megastar-actor Will Smith, Jeff has rocked plenty of stadiums and at this year’s Red Bull Thre3style national final, the legendary deejay (who also happens to be one of the judges) says U.S. contestants will have to prove they can command the room if they want to keep up with other countries.
“You definitely can tell that when it comes to this art that the world is being influenced.” Jeff told BET.com in a conversation leading up to this year’s competition in Phoenix. “Coming from America, you automatically think we have the best technology, we got the best music, we got it locked and let me tell you that there are places in the world that run circles around the United States. This year’s contestants have to bring their A-game cause these guys from around the world are coming with new ideas and they’re adding some of their own regional music along with all of the other stuff and they’re doing a great job with it. I equate it to basketball, where you think you got it on lock until you realize there’s a dude in Paris doing all of the 'AND1' moves with all of the fundamentals and he can play defense,” he added.
DJ Jazzy Jeff, who will sit on a panel of judges that also includes DJ Z-Trip and former Red Bull Thre3style champion Four Color Zack, will also be the focus of a performance film, which is a collaboration between Red Bull and DJ audio software specialists Serato. The film will feature Jeff performing his infamous rendition of Run-DMC's "Peter Piper."
As for the contestants, Jeff says they should focus on the set as a whole as opposed to going for shock value.
“This competition is about breeding the next group of great deejays, so I just want to feel like you’re somebody that I could walk into a club and I would enjoy hearing you play,” he noted. "I’m not looking for you to set yourself on fire or wow me [with something shocking]. A deejay’s job is to string up tunes in a way that takes people on a journey. I want to see what kind of a trip you’re gonna take me on. Are you really passionate about it? Are you paying attention? Are you gonna give me something that I’ve always expected, because to me a great deejay is the one that throws something that I didn’t expect in that makes me say, 'Oh s**t that was great.'”
Jeff is still active as a performer himself and he says that is the reason that people like him and his cohorts are such harsh critics when it comes to representing the art form.
“Z-Trip and I especially can be rough and that’s just because we all talk about it and we agree that you have to hold people in a high regard because in a way we’re the gatekeepers of this culture,” said Jeff. “I hate when I hear people say ‘I went out last night and the deejay sucked.’ I don’t want you to get used to sucky deejays. I feel like I need to have some kind of say so over the quality of deejays cause I don’t want you to have to get used to sucky deejays. That’s why I think it’s great that Red Bull brings in credible deejays as judges, because you can’t pull nothing over on us. You have to hold it in high regard like we do. These are the guys that are going to keep me working for the next 25 years so we’re just trying to make sure that the next wave is equipped to do the job.”
Click here to see a clip of DJ Jazzy Jeff's performance of Run-DMC's "Peter Piper."
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(Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images)