Will Smith is a rapper who occasionally acts. Yes, he's a rapper. Seriously! He raps! If you're still confused, check out this chart:
Will Smith and friend Jeff Townes began their hip hop careers in west Philadelphia in the late 80s. The group was called "DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince."
Smith made an auspicious choice when he selected the Fresh Prince moniker. It allowed him to check off his first item from the "How to be Rapper" checklist: having a stage name that allows slight edits. Like how some rappers lose the Lil when they decide they're not so lil, the Fresh Prince name could always be edited into the "It's Still Good Prince," the "It's Only a Little Bit after the Expiration Date Prince," and, of course, the "Saran-Wrapped Prince."
Rock the House - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
The debut album from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince spawned three singles: "Girl's Ain't Nothing But Trouble," the Magnificent Jazzy Jeff," and "A Touch of Jazz." Noticeably absent from this release was the single which seemed to be clearly illustrated on the album art: "Dick in a House."
He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Next up was 1988's "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper," though it seems from the body language on the cover that it could have been more aptly called "I'm the Rapper... And He's Not" (subtitled "It's True, I'm Not").
The album went on to be a massive hit, going three times platinum despite the shirt worn by Smith on the cover. The single "Parents Just Don't Understand" won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.
Homebase - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Give it a second... Allow your eyes to adjust to the extreme brightness of those shirts. The burning is only temporary. Maybe.
Homebase spawned the mega-hit "Summertime," which scored the duo their second Grammy Award. It has gone on to be a summer staple based on the laid-back flow and summery lyrics. It also firmly established Smith as "that genial-looking fellow who wears the super bright colors and dances funny"... According to my grandpa.
I mean, just look at that silly bastard! From the moment the video opens with the short-shorted shimmy shake and the double side point, you know you're gazing upon the man that would eventually take over the entertainment world. Look, I said he was a rapper. I never said he was gangster.
Big Willie Style - Will Smith
Coming four years after "Code Red," the last DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince album, Big Willie Style marked the debut of the now real-named Will Smith. It also expected the public to believe that "Big Willie Style" was a man named Will living it up and not a porno.
The album went 9x platinum on the strength of four hit singles: Gettin' Jiggy Wit It, Miami, Men in Black, and Just the Two of Us. Perhaps the most lasting impression, however, was the impact on the white community. Across the nation, white, middle-aged people were now "getting jiggy" and happily telling everybody within earshot about it. To remedy this, Smith released Miami a few months later, prompting the pelvic-thrusting masses to pool their new-found jigginess into one city.
Willenium - Will Smith
Willenium was released, understandably, just prior to the new millenium, in November 1999. Major singles from the album were Wild Wild West, the song adaptation of the movie in which Smith starred, and Will 2K, a song about the new millenium and, I like to imagine, the pinnacle role Will Smith would play in the inevitable Y2K wasteland when our computers rose up to destroy us.
Born to Reign - Will Smith
Okay, nobody really wants to talk about Born to Reign. Will Smith fans, like the author of this piece, like to skip right on past it. Move it along, people... Nothing to see here.
Lost & Found - Will Smith
After a 3-year hiatus from music (while he was off doing movies or something...), Smith came back with 2005's "Lost and Found." The extremely underrated album's primary focus is the lack of respect that Smith receives from the hip-hop community. A more apt title could have been "Black People Just Don't Understand."
No discussion of Will Smith would be complete without mentioning The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show, about a young Will Smith who has to transition from life in West Philly to life in Bel-Air, catapulted Smith into a household name. You KNOW you know the theme song. Now you KNOW you do!
The show featured comedy, heart-warming lessons, regular guest appearances by DJ Jazzy Jeff... But the most lasting impression the show left on the world was, of course, the Carlton dance. It is a dance of grace and beauty. If you want the key to attracting the opposite sex... Well, here it is.