Amir Mitchell-Townes is one to look out for as he becomes one of the funniest characters on Girl Meets World. The 16-year-old plays Isaiah “Zay” Babineaux in the successor to the prized ’90s show, Boy Meets World. He also happens to be the son of DJ Jazzy Jeff. But as they’ve both had roles in TV shows, the young actor is adding emcee to his resume as well.
From an early age, Mitchell-Townes remembers growing up with different genres but it’s The Roots and John Coltrane’s Blue Train that stayed in heavy rotation.
“The thing with both of my parents [is] they love music. But, when I born it was right when music was taking a major turn. They didn’t not [sic] like music but they saw where music was changing and where they had to adjust. So what they did for me… they kind of wanted me to kind of experience more than one genre,” explained Mitchell-Townes. “Because it’s easy to fall into a specific genre when it comes to your love for music. So they kept me in hip-hop. They kept me in jazz. There were specific moments where my mom would throw on a country album and my dad would throw on a rock album. And it was always just trying to keep me within each,” he told RollingOut.com
Mitchell-Townes mostly saw his dad as just that. It wasn’t until last year that he understood the significance of the Grammy Award-winner.
“The crazy thing is I didn’t really realize who my dad was. Officially, probably until like maybe last year, it didn’t really hit me,” he told the magazine. “It was like he’s on a show and he’s performing. That was normal. That was my normality for so long. When I was conscious enough to realize that that was perceived as extraordinary. That’s when I really started to grasp it more.”
But while Mitchell-Townes might be following his dad’s footsteps in acting, he’s definitely standing on his own as he graces the mic.
“Rapping can either be the corniest thing or the tightest thing,” said the Girl Meets World actor who dropped his first single at the age of twelve.
“Think Back” was the name and it served as an ode to old school hip-hop artists who seem to transcend the youngster’s age. Gang Starr, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Jay Z, Biggie, Tupac, and of course, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, are just some of the artists named. It immediately evokes the old folks’ infamous phrase “What you know about this here?’ but Amir does indeed, know.
His favorite rappers include the likes of Lauryn Hill, MF Doom, and Joey Bada$$. All sophisticated answers from a 16-year-old growing up in an age where Drake, Future, Kendrick Lamar and Nicki Minaj rule the airwaves. “Lauryn Hill is ingenious and she’s just so sick,” he told RollingOut.com while adding that Madvillany is his favorite album. According to the magazine, he also keeps the ‘70s punk band Bad Brain, experimental hip-hop group Death Grips and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s The Magnificent in regular rotation.
Along with listening to music, Mitchell-Townes also released a project of his own, 15 North Dakota, which he dropped last September on his birthday. The 7-track EP, filled with dope rhymes and production from his dad, is definitely a solid project.
Smith’s kids, Willow and Jaden, have also released their own mellow and trance-like music. And it seems a “second-generation” collaboration could happen in the future.
“We’ve talked about it before we’ve just never gotten around to it. We’re just all trying to find ourselves and explore. You know we all listen to each other and stuff like that. When it feels right it’ll probably happen,” he said.
As for producing, there’s one simple answer he didn’t follow in Jazz’ footsteps.
“I have all the equipment, but I’m not that patient,” he said. “I don’t know how they do it. They’re just immortal, but I can’t do it,” he told The Urban Twist.
The two kids from Philly known as DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince were only a few years older than their kids are now when they started. But from a parents’ perspective, it’s been an experience watching their children’s ingenuity flourish.
“It’s weird letting your kids be creatively free,” said DJ Jazzy Jeff after spinning at a rally for school equality in Brooklyn, N.Y. “And it’s a lesson to understand just how much they understand at a very young age and it’s very important to listen to them from a different perspective. It’s funny because I think Will and I are going through that exact same thing,” he explained.
But in the meantime, he’s given his second oldest some advice.
“You gotta be a leaper,” Mitchell-Townes relayed. “I’ve met so many creative people who don’t leap. They just don’t take the risk. People are always so curious why we have certain artists or certain actors who are doing what they’re doing. It’s simply because they took the risk whether their talent is as good as the next person. But in general, it’s just about taking those risks.”
Advice noted. Mitchell-Townes is already thinking about plunging into new territory after his role of Zay. “I’m really interested in character building, I feel like it’s so awesome. This might sound kind of weird, but I really want to go insane for a few roles. Just creating a personality. I really look up to Heath Ledger, that type of vibe,” he said.
But for now, the up-and-comer is just enjoying the ride.
“I’m not shy about being myself and like I really interested in growing up and just accepting what I’m doing at the time. I don’t think you should ever shy away from how you really are at the time. Nothing should make you shy away from it,” he explained. “I got really lucky and now I’m where I am. So, I’m going to see where everything takes me,” he said.
Mitchell-Townes is also slated to appear in Puzzled with Fonzworth Bentley. Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World is currently in its second season and airs on Fridays at 8:30 p.m.