DJ Jazzy Jeff's Kansas City show stops abruptly

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jazzy Jeff told a reporter for the Kansas City Star that venue officials said Jazzy Jeff's set "attracted the wrong kind of element," according to the Associated Press. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the source of that statement.

KANSAS CITY — Hip-hop icon DJ Jazzy Jeff stormed off the stage during a weekend performance in downtown Kansas City, saying venue managers did not like the type of music he was playing.

But officials with the Power & Light District say they just wanted the Grammy-winning DJ's production crew to turn down the music because it was too loud for the sound system.

"DJ Jazzy Jeff was on stage and his management was instructed on four occasions to turn the music down," said Power & Light District President Jon Stephens. "The system was maxed out, and it would have damaged the equipment. ... The monitor was in the red zone."

In entries on the social networking site Twitter, Jazzy Jeff said the staff at the district's KC Live! pavilion stopped his show shortly after it began Saturday night "for playin' hip hop."

Jazzy Jeff, whose real name is Jeff Townes, was one-half of the rap duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. He and partner Will "Fresh Prince" Smith won the first rap Grammy in 1988 for the hit "Parents Just Don't Understand."

Jazzy Jeff also had a recurring role as Smith's best friend on the 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Concertgoers in Kansas City said Jazzy Jeff's set started with hip-hop and pop favorites from artists including Jay-Z, Biz Markie and Rihanna. The DJ ended his set after about a half-hour — in the middle of Ne-Yo's R&B hit "Miss Independent."

Then rapper Skillz, who was serving as Jazzy Jeff's hype man, yelled out to the crowd: "They won't let us play hip-hop, y'all," apparently referring to the district's officials.

On Jazzy Jeff's Twitter account he states in a series of tweets: "How did they kick me off stage in Kansas City for playin' hip hop. ... I'm a 25-year legend this is some (expletive). ... 3,000 people were rockin'. KC Live sucks."

Representatives for Jazzy Jeff did not return phone calls to The Associated Press seeking an interview Monday.

Stephens of the Power & Light District rebutted Jazzy Jeff's accusation, telling the AP that the DJ's hip-hop reputation was the reason he was invited.

Stephens said this is not the first time an act was asked to turned its music down at the pavilion. It's happened with several rock acts, too, he said.

"KC Live! is not a traditional concert venue,  and thus the sound amplification and the type of sound waves compatible with the overall sound system are an issue with some production companies accustomed to concert venue shows," Stephens said in a statement.

In a Kansas City Star column, Jazzy Jeff* told the reporter that venue officials said his set "attracted the wrong kind of element." He told the columnist that the "element" reference seemed to be directed at blacks.

The Baltimore-based Cordish Co., which operates the Power & Light District, received negative attention last year for its dress code banning hip-hop styles such as sagging pants and oversize jewelry. And many people view Saturday's incident as a racially motivated move.

Last year, Cordish received negative attention for its dress code banning hip-hop styles such as sagging pants and oversize jewelry.

But Stephens says it's not about race.

"Bringing in Jazzy Jeff is a testament to the diversity that we feel the district embodies," he told the AP.

Stephens added that Jazzy Jeff is scheduled to perform at another Cordish-operated venue in Louisville, Ky. He also said Jazzy Jeff has been asked to come back to the Kansas City entertainment district.

Damon Smith, a Kansas City area native and blogger who saw the shortened weekend set, told the AP that the district has not created a welcoming environment for blacks in the community. And he said this incident certainly doesn't help.

"People know and respect DJ Jazzy Jeff ... and we kicked him out of Kansas City," said Smith, who wrote about the show on his blog, "This may concern you."

He said he's embarrassed for Kansas City.

"It makes us look bad," Smith said. "It makes hip-hop artists look at this city and say, 'Why would I wanna go there?'"





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