DJ Jazzy Jeff

The Magnificent

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It's easy to consider DJ Jazzy Jeff an old-school head, by simple virtue of his not being very active in the rap mainstream during the past ten years -- unlike the former Fresh Prince. Granted his first solo shot by BBE (the British beat ambassadors responsible for great hip-hop mixes by Pete Rock and Kenny Dope, among others), Jeff keeps it hometown, inviting a wealth of Philly names, including Shawn Stockman (from Boyz II Men), Jill Scott, and, for four tracks, Pauly Yamz and Baby Blak. And just like some of his classic hits with Will Smith, The Magnificent comes very correct with beatbox breaks, jazzy guitar and keys, lots of vocal harmonies on the choruses, and the sub-frequency, almost percussive basslines often heard on later A Tribe Called Quest LPs. For the most part, Jeff keeps to the background -- every track here has a featured vocalist -- though Pauly Yamz and Baby Blak sing his praises on the title-track opener, and J-Live gives him plenty of room for scratching on the spectacular "Break It Down." It's hard to say how long DJ Jazzy Jeff took making these tracks, though The Magnificent has an incredible range; Jeff does it all well, even when moving from soulful R&B ("Rock Wit U" with Eric Roberson) to basement hip-hop on the very next track ("Scram" with Freddie Foxxx). Those who can make it to the end -- admittedly, 17 tracks are a lot to deal with -- get treated to a fun Roy Ayers redo, "We Live in Philly," with Jill Scott playfully stretching out on a dream-time vocal performance that references plenty of Philadelphia landmarks, along with a range of Philly celebrities: Dr. J, Pooh Richardson, Maurice Cheeks, Schooly D., Frankie Beverly, and Patti LaBelle among others.

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