DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Code Red” Turns 30

It’s hard to believe that DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s Code Red album has turned 30. Very few duos in hip-hop’s history have been able to make their mark and impact on the hip-hop culture like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. 2023 marks 30 years since the duo released their final album, Code Red. We’re looking back at the album’s success and the evolution of their working relationship up to that point.

The Grammy Award-Winning Sound

NEW YORK, NEW YORK–OCTOBER 18: Rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff (aka Jeff Townes) And The Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) appear in a portrait taken on October 18, 1989 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives)

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince found early success with light-hearted, humorous, and profanity-free songs in the mid-80s. One of the highlights of their careers included their groundbreaking victory at the 1989 Grammy Awards. They clinched the first-ever Grammy for Best Rap Performance with their hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand” (1988). This incredible win put hip-hop on the mainstream map and soon other acts would follow. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s most iconic and successful track became “Summertime” (1991). The track serves as an anthem for warm, carefree months. The song not only peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 but it secured them their second Grammy.

Read More: DJ Jazzy Jeff Calls Out “The Source” For Not Knowing He’s A Real DJ

Code Red: The End Of An Epic Era

Marking the end of an era, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released Code Red on October 12, 1993. This album followed the triumph of 1991’s Homebase but it was perceived as a commercial disappointment in comparison. As their fifth and final album, it received mixed reviews from critics and fans. Some argue that it waters down their signature style on tracks like “Twinkle Twinkle (I’m Not a Star).”

The album reached its highest position at #64 on the Billboard 200 chart and climbed to #39 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. On January 14, 1994, the Recording Industry Association of America awarded the album with a gold certification. Four singles supported the project, beginning with “Boom! Shake the Room.” This was followed by “I’m Looking for the One (To Be With Me),” “I Wanna Rock,” and “Can’t Wait To Be With You.”

Read More: DJ Jazzy Jeff Talks “Making Beats” Program, “Fresh Prince” Days, & Reminiscing With Will Smith

Code Red‘s Critical Reception

Despite his longstanding reluctance to delve into gangsta rap, The Fresh Prince ultimately embraced a grittier style on Code Red. While the album owes much of its success to the skillful production, The Fresh Prince’s undeniable charm is still apparent. However, the album fell short of leaving a lasting impression on many fans. One of the album’s less convincing moments occurs in “Twinkle Twinkle (I’m Not A Star),” where Will Smith attempts to present himself as an everyday civilian and not a celebrity. He recounts an incident at a movie theater, where he’s watching Jurassic Park. He finds himself approached by an overly enthusiastic fan seeking an autograph, much to the dismay of her date.

Smith’s attempt to appear as a down-to-earth guy, despite his celebrity status, ultimately feels contrived. His effort on this track underscores the challenge of shedding his larger-than-life image. In hindsight, Code Red remains an overlooked chapter in the evolving careers of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. While it may not earn the status of a classic, the album offers valuable insights into the duo’s artistic development and foreshadows Smith’s aspirations for future success. As listeners revisit this record, they can uncover the nuanced journey of a legendary artist and actor who was on the cusp of reaching superstardom.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince: Influence And Legacy

Code Red stands as a pivotal moment in the career of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. It not only showcased their willingness to evolve and experiment with their music but also marked the end of an era as a group. Following this release, both artists embarked on their individual journeys, with Will Smith ascending to superstardom as both an actor and a solo artist. Code Red remains a significant milestone in their legacy, capturing the essence of their music and setting the stage for the remarkable solo careers that were to follow.

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