Will Smith Was a Gangsta Rapper
September 21, 2016 5:48 AM   Subscribe

 
I vaguely remember Will Smith saying in an interview that he veered away from his original gangsta rap because his grandmother shamed him for swearing so much in his songs.
posted by like_neon at 6:01 AM on September 21, 2016


I wonder which accredited university will be the first to begin issuing degrees in Hot Takes?
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 6:03 AM on September 21, 2016 [16 favorites]


who says investigative journalism is dead?
posted by entropicamericana at 6:23 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


The examples given aren't really gangsta, just crude slapstick with a dose of misogyny. (And rap, and/or society in general, was a lot less woke back then; I recently relistened to Digital Underground's Sex Packets, an album which stands as a milestone, and the thing that jumped out at me was the casual homophobia.)

My impression is that the young Will Smith was a teenager horsing around somewhat thoughtlessly, a bit like the Beastie Boys in their early days.
posted by acb at 6:53 AM on September 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


I went to see DJ Jazzy Jeff spin recently, and earlier that day revisited some early DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince albums in a fit of nostalgia.

It doesn't hold up well. I cringed. A lot.
posted by HighLife at 7:01 AM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ice T and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have the same origin story.
posted by Artw at 7:26 AM on September 21, 2016


Ice T and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have the same origin story.

Not unless Will Smith is from Alphabetrium.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:32 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


i'm pretending in my heart that Ice T actually voiced that.
posted by sio42 at 7:41 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


La Di Da Di came out in 1985.. Slick Rick probably invented gangsta rap and Will Smith was biting both his style and his (embarrassingly sexist) subject matter on all the songs mentioned here.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:49 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


It doesn't hold up well

Jeff's beats are still pretty dope.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:50 AM on September 21, 2016


Shea Serrano is the hip-hop Chuck Klosterman. His evidence is silly and his conclusions ridiculous but he's such a great writer that I enjoy taking the trip with him anyway.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:52 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I dunno, building a song out of the I Dream of Jeannie jingle is pretty great. "DJ Jazzy Jeff was Diplo before Diplo was Diplo". Shame about the drum loop though.

Taking the article at face value, no one ever thought of the French Prince as gangasta, did they? He's a clown. Maybe I'm mixing up the rap personal with the TV show, but wasn't the gag always that he was this sweet fresh-faced kid playing at being street? I mean it's gross his early lyrics are misogynistic, but it just feels like some clumsy imitation.
posted by Nelson at 7:57 AM on September 21, 2016


Say what you will, but if you want to get the dance floor at a (admittedly mostly white) wedding reception hopping, you can do a whole lot worse than putting on some Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince or Big Willie Style. Just sayin.'
posted by Thorzdad at 8:01 AM on September 21, 2016


I mean it's gross his early lyrics are misogynistic, but it just feels like some clumsy imitation.

Well the main contention of the article is that the things you feel he's clumsily imitating came *after* his own releases. Not to say that misogyny didn't exist until NWA cropped up, but that Smith was operating in the same space with releases that came prior to the widely regarded genesis of gangsta.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:02 AM on September 21, 2016


That was silly and fun but....yeah no.

"And in the next scene, we see Bugs Bunny jam Yosemite Sam's shotgun with a carrot, causing the barrel to jam up. The gun backfires and explodes, presumably firing shrapnel deep into Sam's face, horribly disfiguring him forever.

Looney Toons was Tarantino before Tarantino."
posted by AAALASTAIR at 8:10 AM on September 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Looney Toons was Tarantino before Tarantino."

I always thought Pulp Fiction would have been improved with a "Duck Season!" "Rabbi Season!" scene.
posted by happyroach at 8:22 AM on September 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Jeff's beats are still pretty dope.

Oh yes, Jeff was great. Still is. But the rhymes on Rock the House/He's the DJ/And in This Corner just would not fly today.
posted by HighLife at 8:33 AM on September 21, 2016


EVERYTHING would be improved with a "Duck Season! Wabbit Season!" scene, tbqh.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:42 AM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Anakin's fall in Episode III, for example:

Palpatine: The Jedi are evil!
Windu: Palpatine is evil!
Palpatine: The Jedi are evil!
Windu: Palpatine is evil!
Palpatine: I'm evil!
Windu: The Jedi are evil! Now, Anakin!

[Anakin chops off Windu's hand, Palpatine electrocutes him and blows him out a window.]
posted by entropicamericana at 9:12 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Beastie Boys in their early days

You mean when they were a punk band?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:26 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]




Some of this...I don't know.

On his and Jazzy Jeff’s second album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (1988), the first song is called “Nightmare on My Street” and ends with Smith narrowly avoiding death, but then having to listen to his best friend get killed. Nearly getting killed is a common theme in gangsta rap, as is the experience of suffering through the loss of a loved one. On “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” Smith steals a Porsche, then uses it to pick up a woman he sees walking around and hopes to sleep with, only he finds out after he gets arrested that she was 12 years old, and all of a sudden we are into very dicey and uncomfortable territory.

"Nightmare on My Street" was, as you might infer from the title, a Nightmare on Elm Street fanfic (fan-rap?) ("Look, I'll be honest, man, this team won't work/the girls won't be on you, Fred, your face is all burnt!"), which did not really have a whole lot to do with life on these mean streets. And the dumbass teenage narrator of "Parents" clearly had no idea she was underage, and finding out she is is part of the catalog of catastrophe at the end of the song. "My parents had to come off of vacation to get me/I'd rather be in jail than to have my father hit me" is really not NWA material.
posted by praemunire at 10:13 AM on September 21, 2016


Ya know what Will Smith once did that was OG? Punching that alien, while he was wearing armor, and knocking him out.
posted by Splunge at 10:18 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


HighLife: "I went to see DJ Jazzy Jeff spin recently, and earlier that day revisited some early DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince albums in a fit of nostalgia.

It doesn't hold up well. I cringed. A lot.
"

What? Which albums? He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper is a masterpiece. Do you mean cringe at the lyrical content? Certainly there are some horrible parts (both misogyny and homophobia (ESPECIALLY on that live bit :\)) Again - thankfully, he's grown. But the artistry on that album, IMO, is damn good. My friend thinks otherwise, compared to many of the other crews out there in those days, but I still think it was good - even if cheesy. And Jazzy is just a master mixer - then and now.
posted by symbioid at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2016


humboldt32: "Beastie Boys in their early days

You mean when they were a punk band?
"

When MCA was misogynist and sex-assaulty :\ Like Will, he grew and preached respect for women (similar, too, to Lennon (for the most part)).
posted by symbioid at 10:20 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Do you mean cringe at the lyrical content? Certainly there are some horrible parts (both misogyny and homophobia (ESPECIALLY on that live bit :\)) Again - thankfully, he's grown. But the artistry on that album, IMO, is damn good.

Yes, I'm talking about the lyrics. I love Rock the House and He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. They're two of the albums that define my childhood. But at this point, I enjoy the memory of them more than I enjoy actually listening.

"I couldn't resist so I grabbed her butt
She said what's wrong with you fool are you some kind of nut
The teacher turned around while my arm was extended
She looked me in the face and said Prince you're suspended
I said your tripping it's just a bad habit
She put it in my face she must've wanted me to grab it"

Ugh. No, I don't enjoy listening to that now, no matter how "playful" it might be or how acceptable it might have been, or the artistry surrounding it.
posted by HighLife at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2016


Boogie Down & NWA started releasing singles (commercially) in 1996, I think.

And Ice-T first released Colors in 96 too, IIRC.

Public Enemy formed in 1992, to the extent they're included...
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2016


Slick Rick probably invented gangsta rap

Slick Rick invented everything.

I recently relistened to Digital Underground's Sex Packets, an album which stands as a milestone, and the thing that jumped out at me was the casual homophobia.

There was nothing casual about the homophobia in rap and in most music (GnR, "One in a Million," anyone?) in those days.
posted by blucevalo at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2016


Boogie Down & NWA started releasing singles (commercially) in 1996, I think.

None of this is remotely true: #hamburger? NWA cut its first single in '87, ICE T dropped Colors in '88, PE formed in '82.

I'm very happy for this trip down hip hop nostalgia lane for where YouTube took me: for the longest time I have been hearing a looped sample of "Children's Story" thanks to my local NBA franchise and could...not....figure...out...where...it...came...from. I couldn't quite hear the lyric "Knock 'em out the box Rick, knock 'em out the box" and it became "Papadopoulos, Bob Papadopoulos" to me which I guess I'll miss now...sniff!
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2016


I'm very happy for this trip down hip hop nostalgia lane -- except now, coming back from the bathroom "I Need Love" is on by Ladies Love Cool James which is, like, burn it from space. Oh, I feel so unclean now.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:35 PM on September 21, 2016


And Boogie Down Productions's first album, Criminal Minded ("my English GRAMMAR/comes down like a HAMMER!"), was in 1987.
posted by praemunire at 1:44 PM on September 21, 2016


I'm sorry, why are we mentioning Boogie Down Productions in the context of gangsta rap?
posted by humboldt32 at 2:07 PM on September 21, 2016


Many people regard their earliest work as an influence or anticipation. Their first album was not fully as "conscious" as their later work.
posted by praemunire at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2016


OK, I have no idea which wires I got crossed there. Except maybe typing '96 when I meant '86 and '92 instead of '82. If I had thought about it I'd have known it would have had to be earlier. Either way, I have some enjoyable re-listening to do.

and yeah, my patchy familiarity has always associated NWA and Boogie Down but I couldn't say why.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:54 PM on September 21, 2016


I'm legally obligated to link to Arabian Prince's PANIC ZONE every time NWA and the posse comes up.
posted by lkc at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2016


I'm sorry, why are we mentioning Boogie Down Productions in the context of gangsta rap?

First rap album where the artists posed with guns on the cover. At least, that's what I heard growing up.
posted by lkc at 6:26 PM on September 21, 2016


I got back to thinking that while the underlying premise of TFA is pure satire, Tupac spent some time with the Digital Underground which is legit THUGLIFE rolling with clown life (rolling in the opposite direction). In some ways not alltogether surprising, 'Pac having a strong sense of humor and the Underground pretty legit for largely bein' goofs .
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:48 PM on September 22, 2016


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