It can’t be real. That’s my gut instinct. This very very confusing and concerning rumor circulating that Will Smith is going back into the studio to record a new rap album. Yes, as in “I’m-finna-drop-16-bars” studio. Your man Will Smith. Rapping. Again. What?
Some guy we’ve never heard of is saying he’s been busy in the studio with rappers blah, blah, blah, and oh yea, Will Smith.
Exact quote via XXL magazine: “We’re working on Will Smith, bringing him back. That’s actually him on the other line right now,” said Mars of the production group 1500 Or Nothin. Who? Yea, my point exactly. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page!
I was going to call this guy out for reckless gum flapping, but considering the respect I hold for XXL, I’m going to have to give a shred of truth that Will Smith might be considering a rap comeback. To which I say: WTF.
Staging a hip-hop comeback seems like an unnecessary hobby for Will Smith right now. Tired of churning out $100 million blockbusters? Filming on Men in Black III not going well? Bored of micromanaging the meteoric rise of your wee clones? I really can’t imagine why Will would seriously consider putting out an album right now, if ever.
Not to say that Will is a dreadfully horrible rapper, but I think most allow him to continue to call himself a rapper as a “respect your elders” thing. Though he does have some Grammys under his belt, this isn’t 1998. Let us review:
1988 – Music history is made. Will Smith and DJ jazzy Jeff win the first Grammy for best rap performance for their song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” (Smith would go on to win 3 more Grammys). Will Smith becomes known for his light and humorous rapping style, covering topics as overbearing parents, summertime fun, and imagined run-ins with Freddie Krueger. It’s appropriately light rap that allows Will Smith to crossover to wider audiences.
1990 – Smith expands his talents to acting with the TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, another runaway hit to add to his resume. It airs for 6 years, 148 episodes, and syndication galore. To this day, the average American can still rap the intro theme song.
1996 – Smith is officially a movie star, headlining his first blockbuster film Independence Day. It grosses over $800 million worldwide.
1997 – Smith marries his world of music and acting with Men in Black. The movie does $587 million worldwide, the accompanying album goes 3x platinum. A sample of Patrice Rushen’s classic “Forget Me Nots” makes the eponymous novelty single bearable, but begins Smith’s foray into a genre I like to think as dance rap, that is, a rap song that accompanies a dance. It is an annoying but profitable living.
1998 – Riding the Men in Black success, Smith doubles down with Big Willie Style, his first solo album sans Jazzy Jeff, and the album responsible for “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It”. An enormous hit on the scale of the Macarena and Who Let The Dogs Out. Like Chinese water torture, it tricks you with its evil simplistic. You think you can endure. You cannot. A song that immediately burrows itself into your consciousness, then taunts you for hours on in with “na-na-na-na-nana-na.” Do you know Nas helped write that song? Yea, thanks for that, God’s Son. With three hit singles, this album went an astonishing 9x platinum.
2001 – Nominated for his first Academy Award for his performance in Ali. He would be nominated once more in 2006 for The Pursuit of Happyness.
2005 – Three albums after his astronomical debut solo album success, Will Smith can’t seem to find that same footing in the industry. Subsequent albums underperform to that 9x platinum standard (though the record industry bust is somewhat responsible), and his last recorded studio album Lost and Found reveals a more serious Will Smith, rapping about extremist Christianity, not being taken seriously by black radio, taking shots at his critics (he lobbed a few light ones at Eminem), and senseless street violence. Whoa. Pretty heavy stuff from a dance rapper. Needless to say, this album was dead on arrival.
My guess? Will Smith lucked out with his late 90s success. Back then any and everyone was going platinum; pop music was at an all-time high. Then he got mad when years later, no one rolled out the red carpet for another Big Willie album. Now he’s thinking he can reclaim the crown in 2011? A loooong shot buddy. Sounds more like a mid-life crisis to me.
I respect a hobby. No problem with jumping in the studio if you have the time and means to do. But staging a “comeback” to the industry? Doubtful. Play to your strengths in front of the camera Will Smith, not the sound booth.