Release Year: 1997
Ever since the 90s, Will Smith has saved the world from aliens (multiple times), served as a cop, and became the Prince of Bel-Air. He was in so many movies sometimes you forget he started as a rapper. Smith took a break from music to pursue his film career, but returned to the game in 1997 with his debut solo LP. Filled with hit singles, the album did pretty well and was a smash hit. I even had a copy and jammed to it on a daily basis. While working on a nostalgic playlist, I started to wonder what it was about the album I liked so much. Is it a hidden gem I shunned for rock music? Or did I make the right choice in getting rid of it?
Will Smith always makes a point in reminding you how clean and friendly his rap music is, which has gotten him flack throughout the years. Smith makes sure to point this out on tracks like “Y’all Know,” which is aimed at his critics, and “Yes Yes Y’all.” His response to those who think he’s weak? Bragging. In just about all of the tracks Smith brags about his good life, his loving family, his bank account, and his hot wife. A lot of rappers do a fair amount of bragging in their songs, but when Smith does it, it makes you rolls your eyes. On the latter track he says “‘bout to have an Oscar standin’ next to my grammiesss.” It gets tiring hearing Smith sound high and mighty because he chooses not to use profanity in his songs. Since he chooses to focus on making upbeat raps, it doesn’t give him much room to talk about anything else, so his songs end up sounding the same.
Speaking of his raps, most of them are kind of cheesy. Tracks like “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit it” and “Miami” are lots of fun and are always good for a throwback, but they’re hardly pinnacles of rap music. His flow is a bit better on “Don’t Say Nothing,” which is aimed at his critics. The lyrics are more interesting because it outlines his career and tries to dispel the the criticism he often receives. Otherwise, his raps start blending in with one another and get boring. While it’s admirable that Smith wants to show rap music doesn’t have to be all about violence and degrading women, some of his messages are laid on pretty thick. “Chasing Forever” is about finding that special someone and wanting to be with them for the rest of your life. The problem is it’s not very subtle about the “monogamy is where it’s at” message. It comes on really strong and is pretty annoying and this is coming from someone who is totally monogamous.
None of the songs are flat out bad, but they’re pretty mediocre. They all rely on samples from funk and disco songs from the 70s and 80s. The best tracks are the singles, which is probably why most people bought the LP in the first place. One of the better songs is “Candy,” which takes the Cameo song of the same name, with the same music and Cameo himself, and flips it around. This was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid and it’s still pretty good. It’s probably because it sounds so much like the original. The track becomes somewhat laughable during the third verse when Smith name drops various candies to describe a lady he’s pursuing. I guess it’s supposed to be clever, but it’s just really corny.
Then there are the interludes. I’ve already ranted about how pointless they are and it’s no different here. There are four and the only saving grace of them is they star Jamie Foxx. He makes them pretty funny, but just like many of the songs, they are also filled with lists of Smith’s accolades and accomplishments. Just like most interludes on albums, these are pointless and tiring. If anything they just make the album longer than it needs to be.
The album is good for a nostalgia trip and there are some fun songs to put you in a good mood, but the content isn’t the best. Smith’s raps are repetitive, cheesy, and are nothing but him bragging about his fabulous rap. Even if the album does start off pretty strong all the songs end up sounding the same from the music to the rap flow to the subject matter. Smith is obviously very proud of the fact that he doesn’t swear in his songs, but he pats himself on the back too much. Midway through the record you end up being bored and ready to skip to the better and catchier singles. Will Smith is usually good for an entertaining movie, but maybe he should leave rap behind.