Will Smith needs a little introduction. As one of the most famous celebrities of all time, the former Fresh prince star has retained a level of acclaim and adoration that most people could never even dream of. Actor, producer, YouTuber and more, it would be next to impossible to find someone who doesn’t know and like this face. Before all the awards, however, Smith made a name for himself as a rapper, with a particular influence that changed the direction of his music.
Fans of Smith’s musical work may have noticed one thing that sets his lyrics apart
The youngest of us may not remember when Smith was known more for his music than his films. Having wanted to be a rapper since childhood, he began his career after high school with the DJ duo Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Although they started out small, they quickly found success, winning their first Grammy just a few years after they got together.
As Smith’s career began to pivot towards acting soon after, he continued to sing and rap throughout. In fact, many of these projects were sold on the promise of hearing Smith’s bars on the soundtrack, Men in black and its title theme being a notable example.
One thing to note, however, is Smith’s lack of profanity throughout it all. Over the years, many fans have noticed this notable absence, especially when it comes to the rap genre’s penchant for profanity. While some of Smith’s songs featured riskier topics or references to life in big and the like, they have mostly remained swear-free even to this day.
His grandmother is supposedly the reason for this decision
While not the biggest deal on its own, many people have found it curious that Smith has avoided swearing throughout his music career, especially when the same cannot be said of his films. After so long, fans finally have answers with the release of his eponymous autobiography, Will.
In Smith’s revealing memoir, he recaps many of the most important and formative events of his life, including how he came to compose the rap songs that would propel him to stardom. As recapitulated by Initiated, the story begins when he was writing verses in a notebook at the age of 12. According to the star, he made liberal use of “clever, slang swearing and vulgarity” in order to emulate popular artists like Special K and Kurtis Blow.
That all changed when her grandmother found the notebook, however. She left him a note he would find later, essentially wondering why he wrote such mean things while urging him to use his talents to “uplift people” instead of bringing them down. Effectively ashamed of changing his ways by the devastating “Not Crazy, Just Disappointed” assessment of his art, Smith says that “I decided that night that I wanted to use my words to empower others, to help rather than hurt. “
Smith received criticism for the way he rapped, but he stuck with
True to his word, Smith refrained from swearing throughout his rap career until his 2015 feature film on Bomba Estéreo’s “Fiesta” tarnished his impeccable record with a “hot shit” saying at the start of the song. As a result, he managed to become one of the greatest rappers of the 80s and 90s, especially with children and parents. His clean rap was certainly a factor in this, although it did not come without drawbacks.
Many other rappers have often made fun of Smith’s refusal to swear in his songs. For a while, one of the main charges against him was that his experiences growing into the middle class meant that he couldn’t be considered a serious artist. “The shitty talk was that I wasn’t a ‘real MC’ or – the words – that I wasn’t ‘black enough’ and my music wasn’t ‘real hip-hop’.”
While Smith doesn’t deny that his upbringing influenced his work (he specifically points out how he frequently rapped his high school life), he maintains that his refusal to swear was due solely to his grandmother’s influence. If the choice was between never being famous and disappointing her, he would undoubtedly choose the former. A glance at the star’s life, however, will show that he’s done pretty well, “true hip-hop” or not.
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