DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Homebase (July 23, 1991)

220px-Homebase

After selling over 3 million copies of He’s the DJ I’m the Rapper it’s no wonder that DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s follow up album And In This Corner…was considered a flop, even though it earned the duo a gold plaque. Not only did it appear that the duo’s commercial success had come to an end but Will Smith also ran into financial woes as the IRS ordered him to pay almost 3 million dollars in underpaid taxes. Around the same time NBC execs approached Will about the idea of a sitcom based loosely about his life as a trouble kid from Philly shipped away to live with his rich aunt and uncle in Bel Air. Will was onboard and the rest is history.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air premiered in September of 1990 and was a success which helped reignite Will Smith’ career (and indirectly, Jeff’s) as they prepared to release their 4th album on Jive in 1991, Homebase. Homebase would go on to bring the duo their second platinum plate restoring their relevance in hip-hop genre. Temporarily.

Jeff and Will  would go on to release one more album together (Code Red) before Will decided to go solo releasing 4 consecutive albums that sold gold or better, including his solo debut Big Willie Style which sold over 9 million copies while also becoming one of the highest grossing Hollywood actors of all time.

I wonder if Jeff ever feels a bit salty over all of Will’s success.

I’m All That – Over a Jazzy Jeff house beat instrumental that borders on corny Will talks his shit in his standard comical format. Decent start to the show.

Summertime – Easily, the best song the duo ever created. Production team Hula & Fingers hook up Kool & The Gang’s “Summer Madness” as Will paints the picture of the perfect summer day, complete with women, cars, family, and food over a laid back backdrop that will leave you feeling the warmth from the summer sun. Questlove wrote in an article that when The Roots lead emcee Black Thought first heard “Summertime” he called Quest and said: “It’s like he (Will) lost the animated happy flow and did Rakim’s “Paid In Full” flow…but better than Rakim!”. Now that’s praise.

The Things That U Do – Hip-hop love song marinated in r&b is the best way to describe this one. If you hate this song I completely understand. I’m fully aware or this song’s corniness but I still kind of like it.

This Boy Is Smooth – Jeff lays down a smooth instrumental for Will to get his casanova on. Nice.

Ring My Bell – I’ve always hated this song and I think time has made me despise it even more. Jeff reworks Anita Ward’s classic of the same name and fails miserably. Will’s corny lines don’t help matters either.

A Dog Is A Dog – Hula & Fingers get their second production credit of the evening. Unfortunately its hot garbage.

Caught In The Middle (Love & Life) – I completely forgot about this one. Will’s in a rare (at least at this point in his career) serious mood as he discusses the frustrations of life getting in the way when you think you’ve found your true love. This was pretty nice. The piano solo during the bridge was a nice touch.

Trapped On The Dance Floor – Jeff lays down a solid instrumental that he even steps from behind the boards to spit a rare verse on along side Will, and their buddy El-Sid. Decent.

Who Stole The D.J. – This is more of the norm of what Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince fans were accustom to. Jeff hooks up an instrumental that incorporates a touch of the Get Smart theme song as Will plays detective looking to solve the mystery posed in the song’s title, which also happens to be a question posed without a question mark. Hip-hop could use more fun songs like this that don’t take themselves so serious.

You Saw My Blinker – Speaking of fun. This might be the funniest and simultaneously the hardest song in Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s catalog. In a deadpan voice Will repaints the day he got rear ended by a ninety year old lady. Hi-larious!

Dumb Dancin’ – The first 3 minutes of this song is corny mucher. The last 2 minutes is a wonderful ride on a sick instrumental.

Summertime (Reprise) – Plays as it reads.

The Ring My Bell (Mr. Lee’s Radio Mix) – This is a hidden track on the cd format. Same lyrics as the original, different instrumental. Still not feeling it.

The cassette version had a bonus song titled “Let’s Party”. I’ve never heard it, so if you have feel free to leave your thoughts on it in the comments sections.

For the most part, Homebase uses the same formula that Jeff & Will used throughout their career to this point: Lighthearted comical hip-hop with a pop appeal. Will does show some maturation on Homebase as he balances the comical pieces with a few serious joints, and even adds a little bass to his rapping voice. On the production side Jeff provides a few decent instrumentals (remember he’s not responsible for “Summertime”) but in his attempt to adapt to the current trends, sonically Homebase suffers a bit. There are some decent songs on Homebase but it will always be remembered as the “Summertime” album.

-Deedub

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