Rakim Addresses The Rumors That He Wrote DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime”
For 25 years, there have been longstanding questions (and some rumors) surrounding DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s biggest hit, “Summertime.” The 1991 Top 5 Jive/Zomba Records single from Homebase showcased a different flow from the West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania MC now known as Will Smith. Many speculated that the Grammy Award-winner had consulted Rakim (then of duo Eric B. & Rakim) for the would-be platinum single.
Earlier this year, Eric B. spoke about that song to The Combat Jack Show. The veteran DJ/producer/music executive told Combat that the musical basis of “Summertime” emerged out of sessions for Eric B. & Rakim’s 1990 third album, Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em.
Around 1:02:00 in the extensive interview, Eric Barrier recounted the creative differences between Rakim and him surrounding the LP. “I remember I did a record in the studio and [other producers] went back, behind my back, and told Rakim, ‘Yo Ra’, that record is soft. You shouldn’t do it.’ The record turned out [to be done] by Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, it turned out to be ‘Summertime.’ That’s the record I did. The engineer went up and played it for them.” In that March interview, Combat asked if that is why Will Smith apparently rapped like Rakim on the 1991 Jive Records platinum hit. Eric replies, “Yes, exactly.” Neither half of the duo has ever been credited in Will and Jeff’s record.
Speaking with HipHopDX this month, Rakim has further clarified that report. The Long Island, New York MC states, “Nah, it was ironic that me and Eric B. had sampled [Kool & The Gang’s ‘Summer Madness,’ and we had it ready to go. But when they came out with it, a lot of people thought it was me because of the style he used. But it was one of those things where that was them. I didn’t write it. That was [all DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince].”
Rakim also explained that Eric’s production was never passed upon by himself and the other producers and engineers working on the MCA Records album. “It was something [Eric B.] had on the back-burner, nahmean? Again, it was something that we wanted to use, but we felt that the time wasn’t right because of the choice of all the records that we had on that first album.” Defining Eric and Ra’s sound after their 1980s success reportedly dictated the decision to pass on it. “You know, maybe it could’ve been hooked up a little more street-ready, and it was something that we thought was a hit record. But we didn’t want to come out and grasp on that first album. We was trying to ease back on that.” Notably, Rakim’s recollection may differ somewhat from that of Eric, regarding the timing of their consideration of using the “Summer Madness” sample, given that Rakim recalls it being around their first album, Paid In Full, which was released in 1987, and Eric’s account suggests that the production happened around the recording of their third album, 1990’s Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em.
In another 2016 interview (with The Cipher), engineer Anton Pukshansky spoke at length about Eric B. & Rakim’s creative and recording process to Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em and other LPs.
The full Rakim interview (on Paid In Full, mafiaso rap, and more) with Dana Scott at HipHopDX.