Hot Sauces and Hotter Beats: A Conversation Between DJ Jazzy Jeff and Skratch Bastid
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Hot Sauces and Hotter Beats: A Conversation Between DJ Jazzy Jeff and Skratch Bastid

The veteran Philadelphia DJ and producer talks mentorship and sharing music with Canada's favorite selector and BBQ host.

This article was originally published on THUMP Canada. All photos courtesy of Daily VICE

Skratch Bastid is trying to show off his new line of hot sauces—available in three flavors (original, garlic hot, and Jamaican jerk rub) with an image of his smiling face adorning the bottles—but his presentation skills aren't impressing his interview companion.

"You gotta Vanna White me!" says DJ Jazzy Jeff (aka Jeffrey Townes) with a laugh, as he watches his longtime friend and fellow Red Bull Thre3style judge, whose real name is Paul Murphy, unload the glass vials from the pocket of his white chef's apron. Townes, who's best known for his early work with Will Smith and role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, met Murphy in Halifax in the early 2000s following a show. Since then, they've played gigs all over the world and collaborated together on music.


We're sitting at a bar around the corner from Toronto bargain store landmark Honest Ed's, the second stop of this year's Bastid's BBQ, the Canadian DJ and producer's annual cross-country summer party series. Now in its sixth year, the events have gotten bigger and bigger, with a second-to-none lineup of local and international acts handpicked by Murphy himself. We spoke to both about mentoring young artists, DJs sharing songs with each other, and building lasting relationships with their audiences.

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Skratch Bastid: How's it going Jeff? Welcome to the BBQ.

DJ Jazzy Jeff: Happy to be here.

I've been wanting to bring you to the Toronto BBQ since I started it. I've always enjoyed watching you play for Toronto crowds so to do it on my own terms is nice. When did we meet, do you remember?

I know it was a long time ago in Halifax.

Yes. I don't know the year. I try remember times we met by records that were played the night we were DJing, "Ante Up," I was all over "Ante Up." Well, I'm still all over "Ante Up." I'd say 2002 or 2003 in Nova Scotia.

That was good, I was thoroughly impressed. I was like "Wow this guy is amazing!" and that was my first time being in Halifax, the energy was great.


It was a very inspirational gig and I didn't actually get a chance to meet you that night. We played another show the next night in Moncton, New Brunswick, I brought a record for you to sign, and I didn't tell you my name. You put "To my man Skratch Bastid, keep rocking, DJ Jazzy Jeff," gave it back, and it was like, "How did he know?" That was a really cool moment for me. And now we just hang out all the time.

We play all over the world together. It's good to be up here for the BBQ though, watching how it's grown over the past couple of years, starting off in one city and now it sweeps all across Canada with some of the best DJs. You just need to bring it on down to North America and spread it out on out to the rest of the world.

Obviously I'd love to do it all the time, with any stuff like this though, you can't dilute it. It's just like opening restaurants, if you got a good restaurant, you have to make sure you keep the quality at a certain level. You can't open like twenty and ten of them aren't that great, you got to make sure each one's a hit.

This is special, this is Toronto.

Speaking of expanding things, you have a little thing you do that's more of a private thing, the playlist retreat. Talk about that for a second, why did you start that?

I just started looking at the next generation, sometimes we complain about the generation after us, and I think it's very important for us to pay it backwards. We have to educate them, but the funny thing about that is what they can pay forward to us.


Read More on THUMP: Go on a World Journey with Skratch Bastid and Cosmo Baker's New Mix

Right, it's a two-way street.

I think we don't ever look at the two-way street, it's almost like the parent giving the kid advice, but not realizing that the kid can give you some really good advice too.


It started up wanting to open a two-way dialogue between younger producers and DJs and artists, with the older or more established, and just creating a network that you can trade off ideas. If there's a new business model that's working for the new generation, they probably need to pass it off to some of the older ones.

Some of the older people think there's one way to not only do business, but music, everything. I was lucky enough to go to the playlist retreat last year and it was an amazing gathering, all these DJs and artists in their own chill environment working. The guard was down a little bit, there's no sort of reserved or VIP, it's an even field for people to talk and collaborate. It was really cool to see what came out of it, a lot of people came out of that collaborating, and did stuff the rest of the year hashtagging #PlaylistRetreat.

That's why I do the BBQ to build a vibe that stretches beyond just the gig, it's something you can take with you. I hope people think that of me rather than just playing in clubs or just making beats, I want to bring people together and share with people.


You can feel it because not everybody does that. You can absolutely feel the ones who do and the ones who don't.

Another great benefit of hanging with you is the sharing of music. I remember there was a point in my life—and I think it's probably the case for a lot of other DJs—where you keep your stuff really guarded, like, "Ah these are mine and no one else can have these things." When I started trading music with you, you were much more open about sharing, and that really rubbed off on me. I thought, "Oh man, there's another side to this." If I share these songs, people will be looking out for me when it comes time for something to happen. Was that how you've always been with music?

It wasn't how I've always been with music, it was just because I come from the era where we soaked records in the tub to take the label off so no one would know what it was. That being 25, 26 years ago, think of all the music that we have accumulated. I don't think anyone will ever play all of the music in their computer in their lifetime. So what if you play one or two records that I play? There's so much music and I think it kind of pushes the boundaries in both ways. Now I have so much stuff that you gave me and turned me onto, and so much stuff other people gave me, that you can mix it all together.

The end result is that we all play better music. Not only playing stuff off your computer, but also just finding stuff. You can't be on the internet 24/7 finding music on every corner of the earth but you might have a guy in every country who knows what's up.


It makes me excited when I know I have new tunes to play, and trying to figure out how to fit them and when can I play them. The idea and the concept of the retreat actually started from somebody sharing music with me. DJ Dave from the west coast gave me a folder of Stro Elliot and Tall Black Guy; not only did I take the music and played it, but I reached out to them through social media and told them I was a fan. They reached back, and the next thing I know I had a huge folder of music from Stro Elliot and Tall Black Guy, which in turn I gave back to DJ Dave. It kind of looped all around and fast-forward to DJ Dave, Stro Elliot, and Talk Black Guy all sitting at the table at the retreat.

There's another thing too where sometimes I feel guilty when I have a song and I'm keeping it to myself, where I'm like "I love this song, why don't we make it bigger? Why don't more people play it and have it?" There's only so many outlets, and we as DJs are one of the main outlets for people with that music to be heard.

And sometimes that's a hard habit to break for some DJs.

I made a video recently with my wife in the car dancing to a song off the Kaytranada album, where I just pushed record and we did this little dance to it. I swear when I travel, people are like "You put me onto that record with that video."

That's how it's supposed to be, that's our job. We are the music messengers, and the more messages we have to give to the people, the better the message will be. I just made that up but that's pretty good.

Max Mertens is on Twitter.