Out of hip-hop culture’s traditional elements—emceeing, deejaying, graffiti art, and breakdancing—“emceeing” is the undisputed darling of the spotlight in today’s market. It wasn’t always that way. Back in the day, the deejay (or “DJ”) was the heart of the show while the emcee (or “MC”) was often the sidekick. A deejay’s handiwork could guarantee credibility with the discerning ears of a party audience.
With Hip Hop Forever, Vol. 3, DJ Jazzy Jeff continues to build on the legacies of hip-hop’s legendary record spinners, of which Jeff himself leads the pack (forget the images from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air of Jazz getting tossed out of the Banks family’s house). Modeled after his own “Volume 2” installment of the Hip Hop Forever franchise (Kenny “Dope” helmed the first incarnation), “Volume 3” finds Jazzy Jeff at his peak, fusing carefully selected tracks into a package of sonic goodies. Not only do we get prime cuts from choice hip-hop acts like Gang Starr, Little Brother, Black Moon, the Pharcyde, Jay Dee, and Eric B. & Rakim, we get Jazz’s signature scratches and effects as segues and stylistic additions. The beauty of it is how he achieves a balance between showing off his song selection and showing off his love for the turntables.
This approach satisfies hip-hop purists and produces a mix with wide appeal. When his hands are in motion, Jazzy Jeff demonstrates the finer points of being a deejay, taking portions of the underlying composition and repeating them until they become refrains (as he does, for example, with Large Professor’s “Ijustwannachill). He also reshapes these elements until they behave like notes from musical instruments. The effect is intriguing considering the fact that some songs were originally blessed by prominent beat technicians. Jazzy Jeff’s work is comfortably layered atop foundations provided by the likes of Eric B. and DJ Premier.
For the true hip-hop junkies, Jeff’s song choices will be both understandable and familiar, where an “understandable” choice would be contributions from the late Jay Dee who passed away in 2006 and “familiar” (especially to connoisseurs of mixes and compilations) would include songs like “Award Tour” by A Tribe Called Quest and “Looking at the Front Door” by Main Source. For genre surfers, Hip Hop Forever, Vol. 3 acts as a sampler, promoting the culture’s high quality material and encouraging repeat listens.