In March 1988 this young hip-hop duo released the follow-up to their debut album, ROCK THE HOUSE. He’s The D.J., I’m The Rapper is distinguished by being what was considered at the time the very first rap double-album. I’ll note that this is when albums were released primarily on vinyl, so this consisted of two vinyl records. When the music industry switched to CD’s as the standard, the 18 songs on this album were able to fit onto a single disc. Therefor, Tupac’s 1996 album All Eyez On Me, which contained 27 songs and was released on two CD’s, is now considered by many to be the first rap double-album. But I’ll leave that debate for others.
While already having become stars in the rap game with their debut, this is the album that launched “Jazzy” Jeff Townes and Will Smith, “The Fresh Prince,” into the mainstream, making them pop stars. Thanks to the strength of the 2nd single from this album, PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. Building off previous hits, like Girls Ain’t Nuthin’ But Trouble, and Just One Of Those Days, Parents Just Don’t Understand was another catchy tune with Will rapping humorous stories about being a teenager (although he was 20 years old at the time) having conflicts with his parents. And the creative video made them bonafide stars.
Not only did this single win the first ever Rap Grammy award the following year (although the duo famously boycotted the award ceremony), the video also caught the attention of execs at NBC, eventually leading to the creation of the famous sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which helped launch Will to worldwide superstardom.
The rest of the album continues in the same vein, with songs containing catchy tunes and PG-rated lyrics (in contrast to the rising popularity at the time of gangsta-rap) that were easily relatable to large audiences, and safe for massive radio-play. Tracks like HERE WE GO AGAIN where Will raps about the duo’s previous success and their plan to continue, TIME TO CHILL, where Will raps about relaxing and taking it easy, AS WE GO, where Will brags about his rapping skills, and LET’S GET BUSY BABY, where he tries to seduce a woman, all have smooth mellow beats.
Then they pick up the pace with tracks like PUMP UP THE BASS and BRAND NEW FUNK, the later of which was actually the first single from this album, although it didn’t make much of an impact at the time.
READY ROCK C (Clarence Holmes), a human beat box who appeared on a track on their debut album, returns to provide his talents on two tracks, MY BUDDY, and HUMAN VIDEO GAME. This would be the last time Ready Rock C would collaborate with the duo, and years later he would sue them for back royalties.
The third and finale single from this album was the track A NIGHTMARE ON MY STREET, in which Will imagines himself being tormented in his dreams by Freddy Krueger. As a fan of the Elm Street franchise, I loved this song. Apparently Jeff and Will recorded the song and took it to New Line, with hopes of getting it included in the soundtrack for the then-upcoming film A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4. But New Line turned it down, supposedly because while they liked the idea of a rap song to promote the film, they didn’t think D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince were popular enough at the time, so they instead enlisted the more well-known rap group The Fat Boys to record an official tie-in song called ARE YOU READY FOR FREDDY?, which is fine, but not as good as Jeff and Will’s song, in my opinion. Read an in-depth comparison of the two tracks HERE. This song also lead to a lawsuit filed by New Line Cinema against them, which in turn lead to the Kid-N-Play HOUSE PARTY film franchise. Funny how life works out sometimes, eh?
CHARLIE MACK (THE FIRST OUT THE LIMO) is a simple track rapping about their bodyguard. JAZZY’S GROOVE has Will extolling the skills of Jazzy Jeff, to a mid-tempo beat. Good song, but not quite as impactful as “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff” from their first album. And LIVE AT UNION SQUARE (NOVEMBER 1986) is taken from an old performance.
DJ ON WHEELS, HIP HOP DANCER’S THEME, and RHYTHM TRAX (HOUSE PARTY STYLE) are instrumental jams (although Will does speak, but not rap, in the latter song), designed to show off Jazzy Jeff’s style.
And there’s THE TITLE TRACK, where spits some fire. You know, he really was, and is, underrated as a lyricist. I mean, he was no Rakim, but he was pretty dope.
All in all, it’s a good collection of songs, if overly long. It suffers from the same problem that most double-albums suffer from, in that it probably would have been better if cut down to one single album. Keep the best stuff, and save the “okay” stuff for b-sides. As such, while I enjoy the album, the best I will give it is 4 STARS
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