Thirty-three years since the first DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince album, “Rock the House,” and fifteen years since his last solo album, “Lost and Found,” Will Smith – the toast of Overbrook, West Philly – is just starting to show off that he’s still got chops when it comes to rapping, flowing, timing and rhyming.
He acts. We know. Along with doing “Bad Boys for Life” in 2020 (and starting “The Council” where he’ll play drug kingpin Nicky Barnes, and “King Richard” where he’ll play the totemic tennis sisters’ pop), he appeared as himself in Joyner Lucas’ short filmic tribute to Smith, “Will,” back in March. When Smith found out, he posted the video (ripe with signature Smith film roles interpreted by Joyner) to his Instagram, then invited Lucas onto his new-ish Snapchat series, “Will at Home.”
Back to rapping though, on occasion, Big Willie has snuck on to records by Logic (“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” in 2019) and Fabolous (his 2019 mixtape, “Summertime Shootout 3: Coldest Summer Ever”)
But, as of late, Smith has been looking backward, fondly, like by hosting a C-19 quarantined Zoom – “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” with the sitcom’s cast (which famously included Jazzy Jeff Townes as his bestie).
Then over the weekend, Smith went all the way back into his memory banks, again for Joyner, when Big Willie jumped on Lucas’ remix of the “Will” track from their previous teaming’s short.
Along with shouting out his home town, (“I wouldn’t be Will if I wasn’t from Philly”). and another hero to the city, Dr. J (“A shout out to Julius Erving, one of the legends I worship”), Smith made sure to remind people that he did, and could always work – rap – without going blue. “I was on fire I ain’t even need a grill. Did it all with no cuss words, I ain’t have to curse just to keep it real. Even when the streets called me corny I still ain’t never let the hate break me.”
Not bad for a 51 years old dad and husband.
All of this, then, begs the question: with everyone in quarantine (still) and on-location film shooting not ready yet to re-start, could Smith keep rapping and drop something other than two minutes on someone’s track, dedicated to his hero? And why not do it during the summer when the reflection pool of his finest moment – the simmering seasonal anthem, “Summertime” could use a boost from some warm Big Willie raps?