Ahead of Dubai gig, here are 6 things to know about veteran DJ Jazzie B
Club DJ, producer, remixer, radio presenter, fashion designer and former head of Motown records – there is much more to Jazzie B than simply being the face of Grammy-winning veteran UK act Soul II Soul. Ahead of a DJ set at Dubai’s 360° on Friday, here are six things you need to know, in his own words, about “the man who gave black British music a soul of its own”.
He has an OBE, but no need to go on about it.
“You can leave the ‘OBE’ out – Jazzie’s good. My Facebook page is called that because someone else nicked Jazzie B. I am proud of it, but it’s like, ‘We’re mates now, so you can call me Jazzie.’ The statue [placed near his birthplace in Finsbury Park after a public vote] definitely meant more.”
The honour brings things full circle. He started DJing in 1977 – at the age of 14 – at a gig marking the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
“I did a gig this morning until 4am and at the end, taking pictures and stuff, this lady mentioned she did a picture with me in 1990. My mum used to say, ‘You’re as old as you feel’ – well at that particular time I felt really old. Who aged better? I wasn’t able to see the old picture, but she looked a little worse for wear this morning.”
He has been gigging in the UAE for nearly 30 years.
“My first gig in Dubai was actually in the very late 1980s. I played a Holiday Inn, as part of the first speedboat grand prix competition or something. I just remember how pleasant it was – you could literally smell the sea and the desert, a slightly fermented smell of dates, palm trees and an incredible breeze.
“That was so, so long ago. When you go back now and see how congested and built up it’s become, I feel blessed to have gone there before all these high-rise buildings. I’ve been coming there that long, somebody here should recognise that.”
His proudest moment was co-writing and producing a string of tunes for “Godfather of Soul” James Brown.
“Mr Brown is my superhero idol, and we spent domestic time together, which is a bit unusual. I learnt a lot about him personally – I suppose he treats everybody with respect, but I felt a genuineness between him and I with regards to the things we spoke about, the answers he gave. And we didn’t always agree, which I think did actually help draw us a little bit closer. Sometimes when you meet your heroes they can let you down, but he was 110 per cent – what we call in London – ‘mustard’.”
His remix work includes everything from Public Enemy (So Whatcha Gonna Do) to Fine Young Cannibals (I’m Not The Man I Used To Be) and Destiny’s Child (No No No).
“Don’t hate the player, hate the game. It’s all part of the game – and when you’re hot, you’re hot. It’s a hell of a journey. You cut your cloth, you make your own bed – and I’m happy to lie in it.”
The buzz is building again after a recent BBC documentary about Jazzie’s journey, titled From Dole to Soul.
“It’s been causing quite a stir. It’s brilliant, and as a consequence of that I’ve been inundated with requests and ideas and stuff life that. I may well dip my toes in the water producing films. From a historical point of view, that’s been really interesting. But music is my first love. My diary’s pretty full for this year, but watch this space as they say.”
• Jazzie B spins for Soul Heaven at 360°, Jumeirah Beach Hotel on April 28 from 11pm, free entry.
Updated: April 25, 2017 04:00 AM