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Style & Culture

Trip Down Memory Lane: From Fresh Prince to Will Smith

Over the years, it has been trendy for musicians to cross into the film industry. No one has been more successful in this endeavor than Will Smith. Starting off his days as a part of hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Smith eventually became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.

Will Smith got his start in West Philadelphia — one might even say he was “born and raised” in the area. This was also where he met Jeff Townes, more commonly known as DJ Jazzy Jeff. Not long after meeting, the two decided to team up with Clarence Holmes, or Ready Rock C. Holmes was classified as the beatboxer of the group.

Word Up Records signed the group and released their first single, “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble.” The single reached the offices of Jive Records and eventually led to the group’s signing. Their debut record, “Rock the House,” was released in 1987. After the release, the group went on tour with Run DMC and Public Enemy.

It wasn’t long before the group was back in the studio recording their next record titled “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper.” The album was the first double vinyl release of the hip-hop industry. The album produced three singles, including “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” The third single released was a song titled “A Nightmare On My Street.” The song was written about the Nightmare on Elm Street film series and tells a story of Will Smith facing off against the infamous Freddy Kruger. The album went triple platinum.

The group’s third album, “And in This Corner…,” was released in 1989. Soon after its release, changes were brought to the group. Hip-hop was changing and the group suffered in popularity because of it. Their third album saw only two singles released. In 1990, Ready Rock C left the group due to creative differences. He unsuccessfully sued the group in 1999.

It was around this time that Will Smith was offered a sitcom opportunity for NBC. Jeff Townes appeared on the show as a character appropriately named “Jazz.” The hit television show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was born.

Over the next three years, the group released two more albums under the name DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. With Smith’s foot in the door of the acting industry, movie roles began to materialize. Smith’s career took off from all directions. After a break from his “Fresh Prince” title, Smith embarked on a solo career which saw the release of four albums. Smith’s most recent album, “Lost & Found,” was released in 2005 and featured the hit single “Switch.” DJ Jazzy Jeff would work with Smith on his 1999 solo record, “Willennium.” He also released two solo records and has become a well-known producer, working with artists like Jill Scott and Musiq.