Reflecting on the unique career of an actor, rapper and YouTuber
In West Philadelphia, born and raised, that’s where Will Smith spent most of his days. Born on September 25, 1968, Will Smith has graced both the big screen and the small screen, becoming a multi-generational rapper with pop appeal in the process.
With extensive filmography and discography to his name, it’s time to take a deep dive into the long-history of the jack of all trades, Will Smith.
To start off our journey, let’s go back to the late 1980s. What many Gen-Zers don’t know is that before “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Will Smith was a part of a famous rap duo called DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. The duo crafted many successful hits that are still circulating on radio stations and on multiple streaming platforms.
Speaking of hits, records such as 1988’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and 1991’s iconic “Summertime” earned the group multiple accolades, including three American Music Awards, one MTV Music Award and even two Grammys.
Despite all of this success, Will Smith had a greater call — acting! Thus, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince split in 1994. During his time in the hip-hop group, Smith made himself a household name with a particular show that I believe we all know and treasure.
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” debuted on NBC in September of 1990. The sitcom instantly became a cultural staple for ‘90s TV and a standard for future predominantly black shows to follow. Even the theme song can be repeated from anybody, whether you’re five or eighty-two. The show ran for six seasons, ending in 1996 after 148 episodes.
While the show was ending its run, Will Smith made the transition from television to movie star with “Independence Day” and the “Men in Black” franchise.
At the same time, Smith returned to the music industry as a solo act near the end of the ‘90s, dropping his debut album, “Big Willie Style”, in 1997 and his sophomore effort, “Willennium” in 1999. Scoring #1 hits, “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” and “Wild Wild West”, Will Smith conquered the charts. As the 2000s arrived, America saw Will Smith become a leading man, starring in blockbuster hits “Ali” in 2001, “Shark Tale” in 2004, “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2006 and “I am Legend” in 2007.
Smith seemed to be on a high after having multiple success on the big screen. However, that all changed with the 2013 film, “After Earth.” Co-starring with his son Jaden, the film was a critical and financial disappointment and caused the actor to take a break for a year and a half. In recent years, Will Smith has returned to the big screen with “Focus” in 2015, “Suicide Squad” in 2016 and “Aladdin” in 2019. During the tail-end of the 2010s, Will Smith surprised most of the world when he became an official YouTube blogger. To his credit, he has attained nearly 7 million subscribers and amassed millions of views.
Public Opinion: Will Smith has kept the public audience entertained for 35 freaking years. Whether you know him as the cringey-yet-satisfying YouTuber, as alien catcher Agent J in “Men in Black” or even as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith has become a versatile star that connects with the young and elderly.
In times like these, we need an influential figure to make us laugh, cry, question and explore new concepts and ideals that we couldn’t even comprehend.
Most importantly, influential figures such as Smith pull us together in times of distress and concern. In a world so divided and torn by our dangerously personalized content, Will Smith has proven time and time again that his charm, talent and rap-savvy vocals can bring the American public out of the deepest and darkest corners of their fears and anger while transporting us back to a simpler time. A time we so dearly miss.
~Elijah Williams, Staff Writer~