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When this generation thinks Will Smith, we think Oscar-nominated actor, ’90s style icon and the guy with the dope flat-top and corny pick-up lines. But what most of us forget about is Will Smith the rapper, the Will Smith who took home a Grammy with DJ Jazzy Jeff and reached the top ten on the U.S. Billboard 200 as a solo artist.
Yesterday, Smith performed his hit single “Miami” in Miami for the first time in years, bringing us back to the nostalgia of 1998. Proving his Fresh Prince flow never left him, Smith hyped up everyone from audience members to his Suicide Squad co-stars. We dare you to watch this without cracking a smile.
Allow us to take you back on a magical journey that we’re calling, Will Smith: The Rapper Diaries.
Once upon a time, there was a young boy named Willard Carroll Smith Jr., who was from West Philadelphia, born and raised. Smith was heavily invested in the rap culture of West Philadelphia and dreamed of creating a name for himself in the hip hop community.
At the age of 12, he began to rap on the streets, mimicking his style after his hero Grandmaster Flash while adding a bit of the comedic flare that would later becomes his trademark. At the tender age of 16, Will met Jeffery Townes—or Jazzy Jeff—at a house party where the two came together to put on a spontaneous performance for the party goers.
From there, it was an instant friendship and the American hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince was born.
Around a time of oversaturated, radically aggressive rhymes, they were often ridiculed by their community for their PG-rated raps. Little did they know that the pair would go on to thrive off their bubblegum raps and humorous undertones. The duo’s first single, “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble,” told an entertaining tale of the misadventures of Smith’s girl troubles and went on to be a hit in 1986.
With the release of their debut album, Rock the House, Smith and Jazz became millionaires before Smith even turned 18. Together, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince became household names with NBC’s pick-up of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tv series and went on to release five successful albums.
“Parents Just Don’t Understand” was the lead single off the pair’s second album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. The song quickly made its way to MTV and before DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince knew it, they were accepting the very first Grammy award for Best Rap Performance in 1989.
“Summertime” was released in 1991 as the lead single from the duo’s fourth album, Homebase. Considered one of the group’s most successful songs, “Summertime” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1992.
After DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released their final album, Code Red in 1993, Smith decided to pursue acting full-time, beginning with his first lead role in 1993’s Six Degrees of Separation. It wasn’t until 1997 that Smith re-emerged as a solo artist under the name Will Smith.
Smith named his first solo album Big Willie Style, which became his most commercially successful album. The disc’s most prominent singles were “Men In Black,” “Miami” and “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It.”
From there, Smith went on to release Willennium, Born to Reign and Lost and Found. Though not as successful as his first solo debut, these following albums produced songs memorable to Smith fans across the globe, including “Black Suits Comin’,” which acted as the lead single in the film Men in Black II.
So there you have it. From a West Philadelphia boy to a Grammy-winning rapper and now an Oscar-nominated actor, Will Smith can do it all. The Fresh Prince not only lives on in his television show, but in his equally-as-colourful discography, and his children, Jaden and Willow, who keep the Smith music legacy alive.