Foreign Gists

Watch a rare Rap City interview from 1988 with Will Smith


Although Will Smith is primarily renowned for being an actor, many people in hip-hop also know him to be a competent rapper. Although several of his records within the genre were commercial and extremely radio-friendly, he still put out his fair share of music. From ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It’ to ‘Summertime’, Smith and his discography undoubtedly have a place in the hip hop history books.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Smith was an aspiring rapper before he was an actor. He first garnered attention as part of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. The latter was his stage name. The pair landed a number of top 20 hits in the US and UK before Smith transitioned into the world of acting. The songs that they produced were fun and light-hearted hip hop songs, perfect for children and for the family.

The West-Philadelphia duo even earned Grammy nominations. Their most well-known hits include the likes of, ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ and ‘Summertime’. The former earned the act a Grammy Award for ‘Best Rap Performance’ in 1989. Both Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff (real name Jeffrey Townes) would continue to make music together until 1994, selling over five million albums.

As a rising star and a vibrant popular young personality in 1990, American television network NBC approached Smith about perhaps featuring in a sitcom based loosely around him and his life. The show became a massive hit among the African-American community in the ’90s, and as result, Smith decided that perhaps his future was in the world of acting.

Already a known name, it didn’t take the actor long to land his first movie role, which would be alongside Martin Lawrence in the 1995 film Bad Boys. Featuring two of the biggest African-American actors of the decade, the film grossed $141.4 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing that year.

From here, Smith’s career snowballed, with each role getting bigger and bigger. However, as a result of having such a vast filmography, fans tend to forget that his entrance into the world of film was a result of being a musician. In 1988, Will Smith appeared alongside his partner Jazzy Jeff on ‘Rap City’, where they were interviewed about Philadelphia’s hip hop scene. You can watch the interview in the video below.