Long before he became the worldwide A-list movie star that he is today, Will Smith was one half of one of the most successful mainstream rap duos in the country, and he didn’t even have top-billing! Along with D.J. and producer Jeff Townes, they were D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Known for their clean-cut image, and family-friendly lyrics with an emphasis on catchy tunes that frequently sampled classic pop-culture theme song, in 1987 the released their debut album on Jive/RCA records. This album contained 9 full songs, including their debut single GIRLS AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT TROUBLE:
It’s interesting to note that the original version of this song, released independently, had Will rapping in the first verse that he “hit her with a trashcan” but was changed to “handed her my wallet” for this album. Presumably to remove any reference to violence against a woman. Nevertheless, the first is still about a crazed woman falsely accusing Will of rape. I can imagine that if this song was released today it would cause more than a bit of controversy.
Will continues his storytelling mode with the tracks JUST ONE OF THOSE DAYS, about a day where he suffers a series of misfortunes in his attempt to get to work without being late, and DON’T EVEN TRY IT, where he raps about people who dissed him before his was famous but want to be his friend now. The track TAKING IT TO THE TOP is a standard braggadocio rap song while JUST ROCKIN’ is notable for his hard-pounding beat and Jeff’s masterful scratching. And Will praises Jeff’s skills in THE MAGNIFICENT JAZZY JEFF:
The title track ROCK THE HOUSE is Will rapping with Ready Rock C (Clarence Holmes) who is a human beat box and provides the beat, this is credited as being recorded live at a performance at NY Union Square. And then there’s two curious editions to this album, A TOUCH OF JAZZ is an instrumental song, credited it as written by Dana and Lawrence Goodman, with Jeff providing scratches throughout. A later remix of this song did include Will adding a couple of rap verses to it. And then there’s also GUYS AINT NOTHIN’ BUT TROUBLE, and answer record to their own hit that Will and Jeff produced, performed by female rapper Ice Cream Tee (Bettina Clark).
It’s a decent debut album, showcasing the duo’s latent talent. But it wouldn’t be until later albums that we really got a taste of what this duo could do. At this point I would have described them as good but average. Chacebook rating: 3 STARS