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He’s The DJ - I’m The Guy With the Same Name

October 1, 1994

NEW YORK (AP) _ What’s in a name? About $30 million, figures Jeffrey Miree. The rapper claims his nom-de-tune of Jazzy Jeff was stolen by another performer who has reaped musical and sit-com stardom at his expense.

A lawsuit filed by Miree alleges that Jeffrey Townes - better known as the platinum-selling DJ Jazzy Jeff - signed a 1987 contract with a record company that already had a deal with Jazzy Jeff Miree.

The company, aware of Miree’s career and nickname, wrongly allowed the new artist to use the ″valuable and distinctive stage name Jazzy Jeff,″ Miree claims. The bottom line: Miree wants $30 million for trademark infringement.

Townes, a featured player on the NBC comedy ″Fresh Prince of Bel Air,″ has won two Grammys since 1988 as half of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Miree is currently looking for a new record deal.

″Due to defendants’ unlawful acts in misappropriating plaintiff’s name and confusing the public, plaintiff Jazzy Jeff’s career has suffered immense harm,″ charges the lawsuit in Manhattan’s federal court.

As evidence, Miree provides two New York newspaper stories on Jazzy Jeff. One, in 1988, was about Townes and had a picture of Miree; the other, earlier this year, mentioned Miree and carried a picture of Townes.

″That’s when I said, ’I gotta do something,‴ Miree said of the later story. ″It’s his picture, in my article, about my song.″

Miree wants damages from Townes and the Zomba Recording Corp., which signed both artists.

″We have not reviewed the complaint and have no comment,″ said Zomba vice president of business affairs Dan Zucker. A spokesman for Townes, Jeff Pollock, did not return a call for comment.

Miree said he almost went crazy watching Townes’ career take off while his stagnated: ″I felt like going on the Empire State Building and jumping off. It was very frustrating.″

Miree, as Jazzy Jeff, began his career in 1979 with rappers The Funky Four Plus 1. They made a ″Saturday Night Live″ appearance, performing the hit ″Rapture″ with Blondie, before splitting up in 1985.

Miree signed a deal with Zomba the same year, and scored a moderately successful single, ″King Heroin.″

His second album, done in 1987, was never released; a year later, ″I’m The DJ, He’s the Rapper″ - the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff album - was in stores.

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