What's In A Name: When MC Jazzy Jeff Sued Jive Records For Signing DJ Jazzy Jeff

What's In A Name: When MC Jazzy Jeff Sued Jive Records For Signing DJ Jazzy Jeff

Published Thu, March 28, 2024 at 1:20 PM EDT

What's in a name? There are two Dr. Dre's, a couple of Busy Bee's and many other examples of duplicate Hip-Hop monikers. In some cases the duplicates are examples of biting, and other cases are innocent coincidences.

First generation MC Jazzy Jeff, born Jeff Miree was a member of the Magnificent 7 before joining The Funky 4 + 1 in the late 1970's. The Funky 4 + 1 consisted of MC Sha Rock, Lil Rodney C, KK Rockwell,Keith Caesar, and MC Jazzy Jeff.

The Funky 4 +1 are responsible for "Rappin' And Rockin' The House", the first rap record on Bobby Robinson's Enjoy label. The group later signed to Sugar Hill Records, where they released their biggest song, "That's The Joint" as well as "Do You Wanna Rock", and "Feel It (The Mexican)".

The Funky 4 + 1 hold the distinction of being the first rap group to perform on national television, when they performed "That's The Joint" on Saturday Night Live as special guests of Blondie's Debbie Harry.

The group split by 1983 and splintered into Double Trouble of Wild Style fame, and Sha Rock joined Lisa Lee and Debbie D, forming Us Girls who performed on Beat Street and were featured on the soundtrack.

In 1985 MC Jazzy Jeff signed with Jive Records, and released On Fire, which featured the singles "King Heroin", and "Mix So I Can Go Crazy". In 1987 Jive Records signed DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, prompting MC Jazzy Jeff to sue the label.

The lawsuit alleged that DJ Jazzy Jeff, born Jeffrey Townes signed a contract with the label that already had a deal with Miree. Miree claimed trademark infringement and sought $30 million in damages. According to Miree, Jive was aware of his career and nickname, but still wrongly allowed DJ Jazzy Jeff to use the "valuable and distinctive stage name Jazzy Jeff."

Miree alleged that the Jazzy Jeff confusion harmed his career, according to a Tampa Bay Times 1994 article. Miree provided two New York newspaper stories as evidence. One, in 1988, was about Townes and had a picture of Miree; the other, earlier that year, mentioned Miree and carried a picture of Townes. "That's when I said, 'I gotta do something,'" Miree later said. The suit was settled in Miree's favor for an undisclosed amount.


The Joint: The Story of the Funky Four Plus One

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