What hasn't Will Smith
done? Before bursting onto the scene as the Fresh Prince, he
grew up in Philadelphia and eventually partnered up with his
future musical and business partner, Jeff Townes, better known
as DJ Jazzy Jeff. He parlayed his incredible charisma into a
highly successful musical career, which brought in countless
sales of albums, number 1 songs and Grammy Awards. Over the
last several years, he has expanded his repertoire to include
a movie career, having been the star attraction of some of Hollywood's
biggest blockbuster hits.
It all began in Philadelphia
where Smith met Jeff Townes at the age of 12. They hit it
off instantly and began creating demo tapes with the goal
of emulating their heroes Run DMC. At the age of 20, he produced
Grammy winning album He's the DJ I'm the Rapper, with hit
songs such as "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble"
and "Parents Just Don't Understand", songs that
became cult hits among teenagers at the time, not so much
for the its musical excellence, but for its comedic overtones.
Smith came to represent a new breed of rappers that did not
need explicit language or violence to entertain listeners.
Even though Smith initially
tried to project a more urban persona, he actually lived a
pretty typical suburban life. His father was an engineer who
often pushed Will to get an education, but Smith pursued the
bright lights of fame instead.
Smith was always ambitious
though, and despite fame and fortune at a young age, he wanted
more, so he approached Warner Bros. executive, Bunny Medina
about pursuing an acting career. The concept of The Fresh
Prince of Bel-Air was actually based on Medina's life, after
all, he was born poor and went on to live with a rich Beverly
Hills family. The idea was pitched to NBC who immediately
bought the concept and brought Quincy Jones in as a producer.
The show hit a cord and lasted 6 years before Smith decide
to call it quits.
As an actor, Smith's
first movie role in Six Degrees of Separation was hailed as
an incredible rookie performance. The dark subject matter-
Smith played a con artist homosexual -didn't stop him from
doing the movie, but he quickly realized that the his chosen
movie roles would have an effect on the image he projects
through his music.
As a result, Will Smith
started taking on roles in action movies such as Bad Boys,
and the mega-hit Independence Day in 1996, which cemented
his stature among moviegoers and substantially raised his
asking price to Hanks and Cruise-like levels. He followed
up in 1997 with another smash hit Men in Black and provided
the title song, which also became the smash hit of the summer.
At the start of 1996,
it seemed that Smith could do no wrong, and after two major
blockbusters under his belt, he married actress Jada Pinkett
on December 31st of that year. The success of the song Men
in Black sent Smith back to the studio to make the well received
album Big Willie Style, which contained songs like Miami and
Getting Jiggy Wit It.
In 1998, he did a highly
publicized interview with Barbara Walters in which he openly
criticized other rappers for encouraging youths to speak in
ebonics instead of correct English. He also revealed his paranoia
about the government in a very X-Files-like manner. The interview
resulted in further criticism from fellow hardcore rappers,
but that didn't deter him one bit.
In 1999, he released
another successful album Willennium, but experienced his first
cinematic failure with Wild Wild West, which was considered
a flop despite the high box-office gross. Also in 1999, Will
Smith picked up 3 American Music Awards and should be a serious
contender for the 2000 edition of the Grammies.