DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince are not new to Timeisillmatic, as I’ve reviewed all their group albums, except for their debut, Rock The House, only because I didn’t own a copy. I know I could easily stream the album on a DSP, but I’m a collector and the whole premise of this blog is to chronologically review every physical album that I own. A few months ago, while digging through the crates at one of my spots, I came across a used cd copy of Rock The House, for three bucks. Of course, a brother had to cop it; not only to complete my JJ&FP collection, but also so I could walk through it with all of you fine folks.
Rock The House was originally released on the small independent Philly-based label, Word Up Records, founded by Dana Goodman, who is credited with producing most of the album. With Dana’s help, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (who I am resisting the urge to refer to by his real name, Will Smith. I will try to only refer to him as FP for the rest of this write-up) would eventually sign a deal with Jive/RCA and re-released Rock The House with a different album cover and a slightly altered tracklist. Powered by the comical lead single (“Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble”), Rock The House would go one to earn the West Philly duo a gold plaque, but their satire brand of hip-hop left real heads questioning Jeff and FP’s street cred. That same questioning would follow the duo throughout their run together.
Beside the debut single, none of the songs on the tracklist look familiar, so Rock The House will pretty much be a new experience for me. So, without further ado…
Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble (1988 Extended Remix) – Our hosts kick off the show with a zany instrumental built around a couple of loops taken from the I Dream Of Jeannie theme song that Will, I mean, FP, uses to comically share three different experiences with three different women that all end, terribly (side note: This remix is only on the 1988 Jive pressing of Rock The House. The instrumental on the original mix (which is on the Word Up pressing and the original Jive pressing) is slightly different, and it only has two verses that are a bit more ratchet than the cleaned-up verses FP spits on this remix. This remix also ends with our hosts referencing a couple of songs from their sophomore album (“Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “A Nightmare On My Street”), which left me confused, until I realized the ’88 pressing that I bought was released after He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper came out). The instrumental wasn’t great, but its animated feel suits FP’s content, perfectly and this ends up being an entertaining opening track that also doubles as the duo’s debut single.
Just One Of Those Days – FP picks up where he left off at on the previous song, as he shares more adventures of his misfortune. This time around he spins two tales of a bad day that just continues to get worse. Dana Goodman builds the backdrop around a simple drum beat and an interpolation of Taco’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, with mediocre results. Once again, FP entertains with his comical content, but Dana’s instrumental is a hard one to swallow.
Rock The House – The title track finds FP rhyming about the unofficial third member of the group, The Human LinnDrum, Ready Rock C, live at Union Square in New York City. Ready Rock provides the beatbox for FP’s rhymes, and maintains his beatbox throughout the song, all while ending FP’s bars, adding scratches to his own beat, reversing his beat, humming the theme song to Sandford And Son, and then he puts an ill “underwater” effect on it. Shit, I was definitely impressed.
Taking It To The Top – Over a basic bare bones drum beat, FP calls out overly wordy emcees, pledges allegiance to his crew, gives a short motivational speech and of course, boasts of he and his crew’s greatness, while Jeff tries his best to make the music more appealing with his scratching. Needless to say, he fails.
The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff – This time around, FP uses his rhymes to pay homage to his DJ, and then leaves room for Jeff to showcase why he’s considered one of the greatest turntablists of all-time, as he cuts, scratches and impressively, makes the record burp and chirp. This shit was dope.
Just Rockin’ – FP does his best LL Cool J impersonation, circa Radio era, on this one, and we quickly find out that’s not his lane. This was embarrassingly bad (no pun intended).
Guys Ain’t Nothing But Trouble – Our hosts revisit the theme and the instrumental from the opening track, as they invite female emcee, Ice Cream Tee, to rhyme and provide a rebuttal to their opening argument. Ice Cream Tee’s story gets a little uncomfortable, as she makes light of being sexually assaulted and kidnapped by some pimp, who wants to turn her out. This song pales in comparison to the original, as Ice Cream Tee is not nearly as charismatic as FP, which makes it difficult to keep the listener engaged by her bars, and the fake British Dana Dane accent she raps in, quickly becomes annoying.
A Touch Of Jazz – Jeff plays a bunch of slick loops and adds his precise cuts to them on this extend instrumental interlude that makes for a refreshing break away from all the minimalistic drum beats we’ve heard for most of the evening. This song title would go on to be the name of Jeff’s production company as well as his Philly based studio.
Don’t Even Try It – FP and Jeff dedicate this one to all the haters who didn’t believe in the duo’s dream of making it in the music business until they saw it finally materialize and caught a bad case of the vapors (shoutout to Biz Markie). Jeff steps from behind the turntables and joins FP on the mic to spit a verse about some of his doubters turned believers, as well. This is far from great, but I enjoyed the “PG-13, fuck you” message from our hosts.
Special Announcement – Don’t let the title fool you. This is nothing more than FP and Dana Goodman giving a few shoutouts, while Jeff scratches behind them.
Like the rest of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s discography, Rock The House is hit and miss all the way through. FP is at his best when he’s in comical self-depreciation mode or rapping praises to his crew, but when he gets boastful or tries to spit battle raps, his limited emcee abilities are exposed for the whole world to see. Jeff gets a few opportunities to showcase his skills on the one’s and two’s, and those moments are enjoyable, but I’m sure he’s more entertaining at a live show. The biggest issue I have with Rock The House is the primitive production, as the simplistic drum beats start to sound repetitive by the midway point of the album, making an old man like myself lose interest fairly quickly. Rock The House has a few memorable moments, but as a whole, it hasn’t aged-well.