Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"Parents Just Don't Understand" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3525
Date:  05/21/1988
Debut:  75
Peak:  12
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  This DJ/rapper duo from Philadelphia first got together in 1985. They would record a track called "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" that got released on the local Philly hip-hop label Word Records (not to be confused with the Christian-based Word label). The song did well enough to crack the R&B chart at #81 and a debut album, Rock the House, would follow. It got the attention of Jive Records who signed the duo, reissued the LP on the new label and got them promoted in a larger way. Two more singles from the album would be middling entries on the R&B chart, which helped the album get to #24 R&B. The pair then went back into the studio to record a follow-up and came out with He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. A first single, "Brand New Funk," was simply issued as a promo, but a bit of airplay got it to #76 at R&B. Then this second single was officially released. It started to catch on at R&B first where it finally got to #10. As it neared that peak, the song crossed over to Pop. Aided by a video that got a lot of attention on MTV, the track nearly cracked the Pop Top 10. The crossover hit would sell well enough to become a gold record. It would also go on to win the inaugural Grammy for Best Rap Performance. The album would become a hit as well getting to #4 Pop/#5 R&B. Eventually, it would go triple-platinum.

ReduxReview:  The duo's brand of inoffensive, sometimes humorous rap was perfect for mainstream audiences. I'd venture to guess that parents who were either terrified of or didn't get rap/hip-hop and tried to keep their kids away from it most likely approved of Jeff and Fresh Prince. How bad could these two cute guys whining about their parents in an "aw shucks" kind of way be? I guess if there existed a genre called "wholesome rap," these guys would have been the epitome. Obviously they were skilled and genuine entertainers, but even my straitlaced, Wonder Bread at the time self thought they were a bit on the milquetoast side of things. It worked for them and I think they did help in breaking down some barriers at pop radio, but I just never really got into their brand of rap.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  In the rap/hip-hop world, during live performance some artists would have an emcee or "hype man," a rapper/singer would would work in the background and do various vocal interjections and other things to enhance the main performer and to get the audience going. In 1985, DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeff Townes) had a scheduled performance at a Philly house party, but his hype man had yet to show up. A teenager in the neighborhood, Will Smith (aka The Fresh Prince), who had been performing with another DJ by the name of Lord Supreme (Mark Forrest) happened to show up and offered to fill in. The pair hit it off immediately and not long after the chance meeting, they formed a partnership that would yield two Grammys and five platinum/gold certified albums (one multi-platinum, one platinum, three gold).


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