Before there was movie star Will Smith, there was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and before that, there was an album called He’s The DJ I’m The Rapper. Thirty years later it’s hard to imagine a world where hip-hop isn’t the dominant genre in music but in 1986 DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were pioneers of a burgeoning genre. The rules of the game hadn’t been written yet. Will wore loud, baggy beachwear and rapped about misunderstandings with your parents, and weaved spooky narratives about the supernatural.
One such song “Nightmare On My Street” — based upon the New Line Cinema series of horror films — was set to be the first single, complete with a fully filmed, produced, and edited video. However, New Line Cinema’s lawyers intervened. As DJ Jazzy Jeff tells The Boombox in a retrospective interview, this changed everything:
“Well, you know what’s crazy? No one’s ever seen that video; we got sued for “Nightmare.” We put out “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and that really blew up and the next song we were coming out with was “Nightmare,” and before “Nightmare” came out, we got sued by New Line Cinema.”
Of course, everyone knows “Parent’s Just Don’t Understand” as the breakout hit that made DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince household names. Ultimately, their career was never impacted by the lawsuit, however, it does open up something of a vortex. This fully produced video featuring a young Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff in their prime going toe-to-toe with an ersatz version of Freddy Krueger exists but has never been seen. According to Jeff, it could still be out there:
“Like to this day, I don’t know… I had a copy of the video and I had an old girlfriend that taped soap operas over it. Will had a copy of the video and gave it to his dad and his dad lost it, but I don’t know anyone who has that video. That video is not online, that video is… like, it may be twenty people in the world that seen that video.”
Quite the existential vortex. An integral piece of hip-hop history that has never been seen, that might not even exist anymore. One could imagine an endless warehouse on the New Line Cinema lot with a dusty old VHS sitting behind a box of rotting prosthetics, or perhaps an unlabelled master tape accidentally donated to Goodwill in a mad cleaning spree, a tape that fell behind a shelf never to be discovered. Or something like this:
It begs the question, is this video still out there? Will we ever get to see Oscar award-winning actor Will Smith and Grammy award-winning DJ Jazzy Jeff yucking it up with Freddy Krueger when they were still just kids? This rumored but unseen tape should, by all means, be as sought after as the much vaunted Trump pee tape. For his own part, DJ Jazzy Jeff is pretty chill about the whole incident, very zen-like about his whole career in general:
“To be thirty years and look back and realize that people are saying something you did is a classic, it’s nothing but a blessing. You don’t take anything for granted, nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed, so you’re almost speechless when you think about that… we were making music in a hotel room in London, just me and Will. We were just piecing it together and realized that in doing that, you made something that will probably be around for the rest of your life.”
That is, of course, if someone doesn’t lose the tape.