Don't mean to burst your bubble,
But girls of the world ain't nothing but trouble!
So next time a girl gives you the play,
Just remember my rhyme and get the hell away!
We know what you're probably thinking right now: "There's already a Will Smith page on TV Tropes!"
And that's true. However, that page is centered on his acting career and his music post-1993. This page is for his time with DJ Jazzy Jeff from 1985-1994. Any examples that only apply to his solo work should go there.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince are a Hip-Hop duonote from West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, consisting of rapper Will Smith (the Fresh Prince) and disc jockey Jeff Townes (DJ Jazzy Jeff). They're best known for their radio-friendly and storytelling styles of hip-hop, with hit singles like "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble", "Summertime" and "Parents Just Don't Understand."
The duo formed in 1985 completely by chance. Jeff was performing at a house party just a few doors down from where Will was living at the time, and was missing his hype man. Will decided to fill in, and the two quickly felt strong chemistry, to the point where Jeff was genuinely upset when his original hype man finally showed up.
Not long after, they decided to join forces as a group. Will then enlisted friend and local beatboxer Clarence "Ready Rock C" Holmes to the group, but as a supporting live member, with Will and Jeff still being promoted as a duo. Philadelphia-based record label Word Up! released their first single "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" in late 1985; the single soon grew popular, becoming a hit a month before Will graduated high school. Their success got the attention of Russel Simmons and Jive Records. Their debut album Rock the House, originally released on Word Up!, was re-released by Jive in 1987, and sold 300,000 copies.
Their 1988 follow-up album, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, made them hip-hop stars and broke ground for the genre in a number of ways. It was notably the first double album by a hip-hop act, and the album's first single "Parents Just Don't Understand" won the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. The album's second single, "A Nightmare on My Street", was considered for inclusion in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, but was rejected. Will and Jeff released it anyway, and the song became their second crossover hit. Unsurprisingly, they were promptly sued for copyright infringement by New Line Cinema, forcing them to bury the tapes of the song's music videonote , pay royalties for the samples used in the song, and issue a disclaimer on subsequent pressings of the album denying affiliation with the film. Despite the legal trouble, the album went triple platinum, becoming only the eighth rap album to get at least one such certification.
After the legal dust settled, New Line offered the lead roles of House Party to the group, seeing their potential. Both Jeff and Will declined it, saying they weren't interested in making films at the time. The roles went to Kid 'N Play instead.
Things began to go south for the duo in 1989. Their third album, And In This Corner..., was commercially successful but only went gold, and its lead single "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson" failed to make an impact on the charts despite Tyson himself making a cameo in the music video. On top of this, their popularity was waning among the public, as the crossover style that had propelled them to success had also alienated their original audience (who felt that they had grown too accessible), while the next big things in hip-hop were coming from places like hardcore rap (ex: Ice-T, 2 Live Crew) and pop radio (ex: Tone Lōc). Further stress on the situation came from Will's money troubles, as he had blown through nearly three million dollars without giving a cent to the IRS. As a result, the IRS began to take all of his assets from him until he paid up. Ready Rock C would leave the group in 1990 due to Creative Differences, claiming that Will "wanted the spotlight all to himself." He would sue him and Jeff in 1999, alleging breach of contract and that he was owed a third of the group's profits, but the case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations having expired.
Soon after the departure of Ready Rock C, Will was approached by NBC and famed record producer Quincy Jones about making a sitcom based around himself. This led to the creation of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which boosted Will's exposure (and allowed him to pay off the IRS via garnishing roughly 25% of his check for the first three seasons) and paved the way for other black musicians to have their own sitcoms (such as Living Single with Queen Latifah, In the House with LL Cool Jnote and Moesha with Brandy). Jeff would appear in Bel-Air as the recurring character "Jazz", who was almost always tossed out of the Banks' household every time he appeared. Will also recorded the theme song for the show, which was released in the Netherlands in 1990, and peaked at number 3 on their music charts.
With a boost in exposure from the show, and some pocket money left over from the first season, Will and Jeff released their fourth album Homebase, which went platinum and included their biggest hit in the USA to date, "Summertime," peaking in the top 5 of the Hot 100 and netting them their second Grammy. The album was also notable for the change to a more mature style than their previous releases, which served as the precursor to the style Will would use on his solo albums. The duo also released a song called "Higher Baby" as part of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games compilation Barcelona Gold.
Their fifth and final album, Code Red, didn't arrive until 1993. At this point, the rap scene had shifted to the West Coast, and fans were all but shunning pop-friendly rap acts. In response, they used a much harder sound than ever before, utilizing more soul and jazz samples than their previous releases. Code Red went gold, and gave the group their first UK number-one single in "Boom! Shake the Room", but did not reach the success of Homebase.
After Code Red, Will and Jeff shifted focus towards their own solo projects. They remain close friends, collaborated on several songs in Will's solo career, and occasionally do reunion performances once in a while, to the extent that they claim they never really split up. The duo went on their first tour in decades in 2016.
- Untitled Demo Mixtape (1985)
- Rock the House (1987)
- He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (1988)
- And in This Corner... (1989)
- Homebase (1991)
- Code Red (1993)
He's The Troper, I'm The Example:
- An Aesop:
- "Everything That Glitters (Ain't Always Gold)" reminds the listener that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" says that some girls will often get you into more trouble than they're worth. It becomes a Broken Aesop in the 1988 version, as the final verse has Prince get mad at his girlfriend for taking so long to get ready to go to a Run–D.M.C. concert that they ended up missing it.
- Bowdlerise: The original Word Up! version of "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" is a tad more risque than the more well known re-recorded version that was released on Jive. References to being horny, Prince knocking out one of the girls he met, and nudity were replaced by new radio-friendly lyrics.
- The Casanova:
- The Fresh Prince, both on record and on Bel Air.
- Jazz is this on Bel Air exclusively; usually playing the Straight Man role on their songs.
- Casanova Wannabe: Fresh Prince's success with women can be counted on one hand, and still have room to spare.
- Continuity Nod: From the 1988 version of "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble":Jazzy Jeff: "Man, first your parents just don't understand..."
Fresh Prince: "Word, I know man."
Jazzy Jeff: "Then you have these crazy nightmares!"
Fresh Prince: "Why me, man? why me?"
- Curb-Stomp Battle: "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson" has the Fresh Prince believing he can beat the heavyweight champion of the world; it took one punch to prove him wrong.
- Distinct Double Album: The original vinyl and cassette versions of He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper are considered the first double album in hip-hop. The first record, which is also side 1 of the cassette, has more straightforward rap songs. The second half, referred to as a "bonus scratch album" on the original LP, has some rapping present, but it takes a backseat to Jeff's DJ'ing and Ready Rock C's beatboxing. The CD versions avert this; the standard CD cuts "Another Special Announcement" and edits several tracks to fit the rest on a single disc, while the 2017 reissue includes the unedited album but moves the last four tracks (which make up side 4 of the LP) to the bonus disc with several bonus tracks following.
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- Starts to unravel Will's outing in "Parents Just Don't Understand":The roof was open, the music was high.
This girl's hand was slowly moving up my thigh.
She had opened up three buttons on her shirt so far.
I guess that's why I didn't notice that police car.
- This is also the main reason Will nearly gets killed while being chased by the cops in "Just One Of Those Days":I could've got away, I almost had em shook
'Till this girl walked by, something said not to look.
But I thought "What the heck, a little peek can't hurt"
But she made me miss a sign that said "Men at Work"
I screamed out loud as I crashed through the barricade
I saw my whole life flash before my face!
- Starts to unravel Will's outing in "Parents Just Don't Understand":
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: "Yo Home To Bel Air", though some compilations simply give it the same name as the show itself.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: While Will had an impressive solo career under his real name, he has only three solo credits as "The Fresh Prince". In fact, all of Will's solo credits under that moniker were features, and the most successful one was a charity single, "Voices That Care".
- False Rape Accusation: In "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble", One of Fresh Prince's dates loudly accuses him of rape outside a restaurant after he refused her sexual advances. Her screams get the cops' attention, and Fresh Prince gets arrested and charged with assault. Though he's clearly innocent, running away after said screaming didn't help his case.
- Finagle's Law: Save for the majority of both Homebase and Code Red, this trope was used liberally in their material.
- From Bad to Worse:
- Invoked in "Just One Of Those Days", in which Finagle's Law is in full force. From getting expelled from school for grabbing a girl's butt, to stealing a kid's bike and getting chased by the cops and nearly killing himself just to get to work on time only to wind up in jail and find out that particular day was his day off from work.
- Also the second half of "Parents Just Don't Understand". Fresh Prince decides it's a good idea to take his parents' new Porsche out for a spin and pick up a cute girl. He gets pulled over for speeding, it's revealed he doesn't have a license, and to top it off, the cute girl is a twelve-year-old runaway. His actions result in himself getting arrested, the car getting impounded, and his parents cutting their vacation short to get him. Yup, there's no way for him to avoid being grounded.
- Hero Stole My Bike: "Just One Of Those Days" has a scenario where Fresh Prince is on the verge of being late for work, and gets increasingly desperate to get there on time:I started hiking it
I wasn't liking it
I saw a little kid, I stole his bike and started biking it!
- Of course, this being the Fresh Prince, it immediately goes awry:I thought I got away,
But when I ducked around the corner, there was twelve cop cars,
I said "Man, I'm a goner!"
Slammed on the brakes, did a 180 turn,
Peddled the bike so fast I heard the rubber burn!
- Of course, this being the Fresh Prince, it immediately goes awry:
- Horrorcore: Believe it or not, "Nightmare on My Street" was one of the early precursors of the subgenre, albeit nowhere near as dark or grotesque as later horrorcore. "Then She Bit Me" starts off with a horrorcore vibe, but eventually flies off the rails completely by the end.
- Instrumental Hip Hop: Jazzy Jeff shows off his turntable skills on several songs, including "A Touch Of Jazz" "DJ On The Wheels" "Jazzy's In The House" and "Hip Hop Dancer's Theme".
- Later-Installment Weirdness: The group is mostly known for their "teen" sound from their first three albums. Many don't even realize that their later, more mature singles like "Summertime" were recorded as a duo, and not as one of Will's solo tracks.
- Mystery Episode: "Who Stole the DJ?" from Homebase casts Fresh Prince as a police detective assigned to investigate a disc jockey kidnapped from a nightclub.
- Naked People Are Funny: The original version of "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" had Fresh Prince escape from a girl's house naked after getting busted by her boyfriend... in the middle of a snowstorm. The Jive re-recording changed this to Comedic Underwear Exposure.
- Nerdcore: They were one of the first proto-examples of the style, if not the Ur-Example.
- "Human Video Game" is built around a beatboxed sample of Donkey Kong's main level music, and details Fresh Prince's crippling addiction to the former game.
- "Nightmare on My Street" features Fresh Prince going toe-to-toe with the Springwood Slasher himself, and narrowly avoiding becoming one of Freddy's many victims. Also an early example of Horrorcore.
- New Sound Album: Homebase created a new mature sound for the group, embracing the New Jack Swing sound that was popular at the time. They refined it on Code Red and gave it a harder edge to compete with the hardcore rappers that were becoming popular.
- Oh, Crap!: From "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble":Her boyfriend busted in
He grinned an evil grin and said
"Boy I'mma tear your butt limb from limb!"
I was scared as hell, where was I supposed to go?
I just yelled "Geronimo!" and jumped out the window!
- In "Nightmare On My Street", Fresh Prince casually blows off Freddy Kruger after realizing he was dreaming. It's only when Freddy seriously injures him that he realizes he's in serious danger and makes a run for it.
- Police Brutality: From "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" after being falsely accused of rape:I was ducking through alleys right and left,
But when the cops caught up, they almost beat me to death!
- Precision F-Strike: "You saw my blinker, bitch!" One of only two times Will Smith ever used heavy profanity in his lyrics.
- Record Producer: Naturally, Jeff was the main producer for their albums, though they also had contributions from Hula K. & Fingers, Pete Rock, and Teddy Riley, to name a few.
- Shown Their Work: It would have been easy to make "Nightmare on My Street" just a rehash of the plot of the original NoES. Instead, it seems to be largely based on Part 2.
- Too Dumb to Live: Fresh Prince has a very bad habit of making a bad situation worse for himself.
- In "Just One Of Those Days", after he gets arrested, he argues with a cop and threatens to beat him up. The cop promptly whips out his gun, and Prince quickly backs down.
- In "You Saw My Blinker", Fresh Prince gets manhandled by a court bailiff during a courtroom session for a rather... colourful outburst (which included him giving the finger to the judge), and is sent to jail again, this time for being held in contempt of court.
- Subverted in "Nightmare On My Street", since Prince didn't realize he was actually dealing with the real Freddy Kruger until after the latter struck him.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: The Fresh Prince's rap style had more than a passing resemblance to Slick Rick's, minus the British accent. Though by 1991, Prince had begun to diverge his style from The Ruler's.
- Updated Re-release: The original CD version of He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper made a number of edits to fit the album on one disc, as the double-LP configuration was too long to fit on even an 80-minute CD. In 2017, the uncut album was finally released as a double-CD package, with the second disc sticking on the album's associated 12" mixes as bonus tracks.
- Ur-Example: They were the first hip hop act to release a double album (He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper) and the first to win a Grammy Award for "Best Rap Performance".
- Would Hit a Girl: One of many things changed from the original version of "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble":"She started grabbing all over me
Kissin' and huggin'
So I punched her in the chin and said "You better stop buggin'!"
- And:"I got scared when she started to yell,
So I hit her with a trash can, and ran like hell!"