Soulsters, y’all know that one of my favourite albums this year hands down is Chasing Goosebumps. Back in March, your girl got to sit down and chat with DJ Jazzy Jeff about a slew of topics, while just simply shooting the shit. It was a glorious conversation about life, music, self-care and the creation of the superb album that is still all the buzz. There were so many gems to share with y’all, that I could have written a few articles solely based on the conversation we had. I also have an exclusive track in my arsenal to share with y’all by Glenn Lewis, but I’m going to save that for another post. For now, enjoy the vibes from the time I got to spend with The Magnificent.
Walking into Jeff Townes aka DJ Jazzy Jeff’s hotel room, a very warm vibe emanated from around the corner. As we saw and saluted each other, he stepped forward and proceeded to extend his arms out to initiate an approachable and inviting embrace; the type that you would receive from a play cousin you haven’t seen after some time has passed. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to sit down and chat with a well-respected legend. In 1989, as half of the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, he was the first to win a Best Rap Performance Grammy® for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Also, just to refresh one’s memory, Jeff is the brainchild behind A Touch Of Jazz, his production company that has had a hand in exposing us to some of our favourite artists today: Eric Roberson, Jill Scott, The Roots, Musiq Soulchild and many more.
Understanding the producer that Jeff is, it is genuinely easy to comprehend how his camp’s release PLAYlist presents: Chasing Goosebumpsfeaturing Glenn Lewis came to fruition. He’s an innovator. Someone who lives to create. He’s tenacious and pushes past boundaries for an artist to emerge indomitably. Jeff is all about high-reaching and overextending an artist’s creative flexibility while exercising their right as an artist to confront and exorcise demons to make way for a stellar end result.
On Friday, February 17th, DJ Jazzy Jeff set out to achieve what some would consider to be the impossible. His vision wasn’t unrealistic per se, but it was a challenge that no one has really dared to take on. The proposition: create an album over a span of 7 days with a list of well-known producers, writers, artists, mixer masters and the like. Not only did creatives such as Tall Black Guy, Avery*Sunshine, Eric Roberson, Rich Medina, Eric Lau, Aaron Camper, James Poysner and a host more take on the feat, but fans were also privy to the entire process through live-streamed behind the scenes video content. The only rule came as a directive from Eric Roberson – to make sure the album evoked goosebumps. Listening to the project, it certainly does. But there were some doubts. “Are we all in this big tunnel thinking that it’s something that it’s not?” stated Jeff. Everyone never really thought of the project outside of the creation process because there was no expectation. Everyone seems to be stuck on the notion that this project was created over 7 days. But Jeff’s perspective is, who told you that an album has to be created over a specific amount of time?
This entire album was composed simply as an exercise at Jeff’s annual PLAYlist retreat. This yearly invite-only event is a playground for a melange of artists who have been scathed by larger conglomerates, who still love the sheer thrill of creating and additionally, some who have lost their mojo, so to speak. From artists who have run the mill for years to those who have just started in the game, the creative process is still one that should be nurtured and supported. For many, the retreat has become a village to look for healing and creating, and Jeff feels that it is imperative to have this type of outlet available. And that’s where his much talked about stance of “die empty” on the album derived from. “So, you’re just not going to give the world your music until someone pays you? Picasso didn’t paint every picture to be sold. If he saw a dope sunset, he painted it. We all started this for free, then realized we can make a living off of it and that took control over why you started this in the first place. I’m just trying to bring them back to that place.” said Jeff. “Whatever you need to do to get your art out, do it. You’re depriving the world of your art.” Everyone has a horror story to tell, but what’s the story after the storm has passed? That’s the truth that Jeff seeks.
The elusiveness of artists you know and love being on the radio these days is what drives us to say ‘there’s no good music out there’. When in reality, we are surrounded by copious amounts of phenomenal artists and music – but a conscious effort now has to be taken in order to find the goods. The goods are available, but access is different. In Jeff’s travels speaking to artists with broken spirits, he’s always encountered stories of backstabbing, woes, disparagement, and wrongdoing. However, when being faced with the issue and importance of the art rather than the surrounding circumstances that led to the ongoing dissemination of their passion, that is usually where the answers lie. “It’s like you got into a bad car accident and quit your girl. One doesn’t have anything to do with the other! She didn’t make you crash! Deal with the shit that hurt you, but don’t quit your art.” The entire experience is not about money, but more so about getting artists back to the place where they’re creating again.
When creatives come together, the essences of vulnerability, faith and trust come to light. But as an artist, that’s where the introspection begins and how one is able to move forward to create and see past barriers. “We will never live in a world without music. But the structure has got to go and it has to build itself back up,” said Jeff. Essentially, what the PLAYlist did, was make music for the music lover and cut out the middleman to bring Chasing Goosebumps to the masses. Jeff’s stance is to thoroughly understand how someone at a label can give advice but has never been in a setting that’s reflective of their knowledge from a creative perspective. An artist would definitely know better about what they need in order to hone into their craft. “How do you go to an architect and tell them that’s not the way you build a house when you’ve never built a house?” While some of the ongoing discussions about the album circle around the aspect of using more time to finesse instead of ‘rushing through the project’ – it’s agreed across the board that the outing is beyond solid for a 7-day venture.
After such an ambitious project, what’s next on DJ Jazzy Jeff’s radar? Plenty. There’s a mini-documentary that will be released about the Chasing Goosebumps project. And yes, we will be receiving a double LP vinyl edition of Chasing Goosebumps equipped with (see the image above and get your pre-order on for the May 1st shipping date), liner notes, collages and all. There are a few off-spring projects that will arrive from this project as well, including a samba album – which shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans after listening to “Defeated.” Additionally, Jeff is actually 90% done creating a Brazilian album that will be coming our way and The PLAYlist has been tapped to possibly co-produce the new upcoming album from one of your favourite legendary hip hop groups. All of this as he continues to tour and DJ various events around the world. The Magnificent never stops. Always creating, supporting and venturing out into new territories.