DJ Jazzy Jeff and Ayah

Back For More

BY Del F. CowiePublished Jul 18, 2011

Legendary party starter DJ Jazzy Jeff still packs dance floors across the world, but it's been awhile since he's issued anything new from the studio. Sporting a sound that picks up from the soulful, head-nodding vibes of his BBE projects, Jazzy Jeff has linked up with rising Toronto R&B singer Ayah to release this free, downloadable album, and the results are overwhelmingly impressive. Ayah (whose 4:15 EP was one of the strongest releases to emerge from a Canadian R&B singer in years) obviously found undeniable chemistry with Jazzy Jeff in his Philadelphia studio, penning inspirational and uplifting lyrics that complement Jeff's production style, who is assisted here by frequent Questlove studio cohort James Poyser, among other accomplished session musicians, such as Pete Kuzma, known for his work with Jill Scott. For Ayah, Back for More represents her highest profile offering and she struts into the spotlight rather than shirking from it, given the superior profile of her collaborator. The brassy "Notorious" oozes confidence and "One Life," featuring T-dot MC Tona, underlines her assertive persona. "Hold On" is a sly shout out to Slakah the Beatchild's "Enjoy Yourself" (a song she co-wrote), while the grittiness of "The Game" showcases her narrative skills. On much of Back for More, Jazzy Jeff's tasty formula involves subtly flipping familiar samples, fleshing them out with sumptuous instrumentation and then adding Ayah's impassioned vocals and sophisticated songwriting chops. Apparently, this is just the starter, in terms of the collaborations this duo have cooking. Be sure to hang around for the main course.

How did you make the connection with Jazzy Jeff?
Ayah: Me and Jeff actually met through MySpace in 2008. I just kind of hit him up on MySpace and I dropped him a note and said, "You're a legend; I'd love to work with you. How can we make that happen?" And he wrote me back within five minutes, which is amazing and very surprising, and he said, "Cool. I'm a fan; I really like your stuff. I'm going to send you something." And a few minutes later, I got an email from Jeff and the title was "Check this out" and I opened it and there was a beat in the email that I wrote a song to. That song became "He Don't Want It," which I put out on 4:15 in 2009.

What was the dynamic, or hierarchy, of the relationship in the studio with Jazzy Jeff?
I don't know if people can believe it, but Jeff is one of the humblest people I've met in my life. Like, beyond. Honestly, it's like family; it's like I'm hanging out with my big brother. I'm never scared to voice my opinion; I'm never scared to voice my rough draft ― never, never ― because I know it's all love. It's easy to be intimidated in a situation with somebody as legendary as Jeff, or forget the "legendary" part of it, just the knowledge he has of music is beyond. Even that in itself could be intimidating, but it wasn't. And, honestly, I have to credit him for that.

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