Each year brings its own share of cultural landmarks and one of the most anticipated celebrations of 2020 is surely the 30th anniversary of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Starring a young Will Smith, the show is now being enjoyed by a new generation of fans, with all six seasons available to watch on Netflix. And this is just the beginning.
Smith's co-star and musical partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff (real name Jeffrey Townes), says those nostalgic vibes will also be heard on stage with a bunch of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince concerts in the works.
"2020 is obviously a big year for us and the show," Jeff tells The National. "We are planning on doing some really big stuff, so this is something I am really looking forward to."
Whatever happens, it will be a treat. UAE fans know this, as the pair performed an impromptu gig in Dubai as part of Barasti's 2013 New Year's Eve celebrations.
With Jeff the night's official headliner, the crowd went ballistic when an unannounced Smith suddenly walked on stage with a mic and launched into a medley of the duo's hits, such as Summer Time and Boom! Shake the Room.
“It was funny because I remember that when I started the track and Will came on stage, there was this weird dead silence from the audience for a few seconds,” Jeff says. “The crowd were in shock and they were probably thinking if Will was a hologram. Then they started screaming. We just loved it.”
That surprise element has been a key feature of the duo’s shows over the past five years, due to Smith’s Hollywood commitments.
In September, for instance, the group performed in Budapest. With Smith in town to shoot the recently released sci-fi drama Gemini Man and Jeff already in Europe as part of a solo tour, the decision to link up for their first show in two years was decided on the fly.
"We don't need to rehearse. We can just meet on stage and do the show just from memory," Jeff says. "It is almost like we are football players in that it is embedded in us. We may not have stepped on that pitch for a while, but once you are on, you still remember all the plays."
That said, Jeff's career is not dictated by Smith's movements. In addition to his work with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, the artist, 54, went on to build a successful career in his own right, with three critically acclaimed albums and an average of 250 live shows a year. "I still absolutely love performing and I didn't think I would at this stage of my career," he says.
"Each year I am getting busier and also a lot of that comes down to what is happening online. People see videos of my sets on YouTube or whatever and they act almost like a business card. People would say to me, 'Yo, can you do a set similar to what I saw online when you played in London?'"
Such enquiries are tricky, Jeff admits, because of the eclectic nature of his fan base. "They can be young hip-hop heads or an 80-year-old grandmother," he says. "It all depends on which point in my timeline you came on board. Some were there before the television show, while others were surprised I was doing music in the first place."
To please them all, Jeff follows his "25-minute rule".
"I try to cover as much ground as I can when I play. So when I play at a festival, for example, I ask myself what can I do to satisfy the crowd?" he says. "The thing is, you can't satisfy them for an hour straight; you will burn them out. But if you give each group of fans 25 minutes each, then normally, people walk away saying they had an amazing time."
That ability to control the crowd stemmed from a life lesson learnt as child, growing up in Philadelphia. "When I was a kid my father would be playing checkers with his friends and I soon realised that I should never ask him for ice cream when he was losing. So I just learnt to be patient until he was winning again, because when he was, he would buy me and the whole neighbourhood ice creams," he says.
“Being a DJ requires a certain mental state and bravery. It is not about just taking chances, but to anticipate and knowing when to actually take that chance.”