Throughout the decades, hip hop fans have seen our fair share of great double albums released by ambitious rappers.
From the blockbuster opulence of All Eyes on Me to the posthumous brilliance of Life After Death; from Wu-Tang’s great-but-flawed Wu-Tang Forever to Drake’s rap slash R&B epic to more recently, Westside Gunn’s sprawling Hitler Wears Hermes 8, double albums have become somewhat of a statement for rappers.
But a forgotten fact about the double album in hip hop history is that DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince were the first rap act to drop one. Fresh off the success of their debut single “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble” and accompanying album, Rock the House, released in 1987, the West Philadelphia duo began working on their follow-up.
With an original run-time of over 80 minutes, and featuring a number of tracks showcasing Jazzy Jeff’s extraordinary skills on the turntable, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper became the first hip hop project to be released as a double album.
Powered by three singles, including two top 20 singles – “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “A Nightmare on My Street”, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper was a huge commercial success and was eventually certified platinum. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince also became the first hip hop artists to win a Grammy, when “Parents Just Don’t Understand” won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance at the 1989 Grammy Awards.
DJ Jazzy Jeff: We initially started off with Jive asking me to do a DJ album. They were just kinda like, “Hey, we would like to try something different and just do a album just based off of you.” This is right after I won the New Music Seminar DJ Battle and the DMC, so it was kinda like they wanted to do something focused on the DJ. I had recorded almost a whole DJ album and then when it was time for us to do the album, somebody made the suggestion, “Yo, why don’t we make this the first hip-hop double-album,’ and because the DJ portion was entitled He’s the DJ, once we put both of the albums together, it was like yo, well let’s do an album called He’s the DJ, I’m The Rapper.