Sunday Music: DJ Jazzy Jeff Cutting It Up In 1986

The internet can be so amazing. One minute I’m listening to Will Smith tell a story about the 1986 World Supreme DJ Competition, and the next, I’m finding an actual set of DJ Jazzy Jeff killing it in a UK version of the competition in the same year. God bless you YouTube.

Required background: DJ Jazzy Jeff came out of nowhere (technically, he came out of a basement in Southwest Philly, but the point is nobody knew who he was). The tournaments worked like this – 2 DJs would battle at a time. They’d go back and forth doing 3, 30-second routines, which would all end with a buzzer. A panel of 80s hip-hop royalty would judge them and determine a winner, and because it was in front of a crowd, the audience reaction played a key role too.

Jazzy Jeff was the newest face in the tournament. So, in battle-bracket style, his first set was against last year’s reigning champion, DJ Cheese. Confident and also highly skilled, Cheese flagged Jeff on the pre-match handshake and they got started. Poor Cheese had no idea what was about to hit him.

Jazzy Jeff had worked out all of his routines in advance. He knew the songs, the breaks, and the timing to the second. Each routine would end at the 29th second so the buzzer would close his set for him and signal the crowd to lose their minds over what they just heard. He even planned out the maximum number of routines he’d need to get all the way to the final. It was a perfectly laid plan. And,

DJ Jazzy Jeff would go…all…of…the…way… Hearing Will Smith explain what it was like to be there is priceless.

And now, thanks to the internet and a recording of a radio program, you can hear it – almost like you were there – too. Make sure you stick around for how he cuts up “Rock The Bells” at the end.

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