What hasn't Will Smith done? Before bursting onto the scene as the Fresh Prince, he grew up in Philadelphia and eventually partnered up with his future musical and business partner, Jeff Townes, better known as DJ Jazzy Jeff. He parlayed his incredible charisma into a highly successful musical career, which brought in countless sales of albums, number 1 songs and Grammy Awards. Over the last several years, he has expanded his repertoire to include a movie career, having been the star attraction of some of Hollywood's biggest blockbuster hits.
It all began in Philadelphia where Smith met Jeff Townes at the age of 12. They hit it off instantly and began creating demo tapes with the goal of emulating their heroes Run DMC. At the age of 20, he produced Grammy winning album He's the DJ I'm the Rapper, with hit songs such as "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" and "Parents Just Don't Understand", songs that became cult hits among teenagers at the time, not so much for the its musical excellence, but for its comedic overtones. Smith came to represent a new breed of rappers that did not need explicit language or violence to entertain listeners.
Even though Smith initially tried to project a more urban persona, he actually lived a pretty typical suburban life. His father was an engineer who often pushed Will to get an education, but Smith pursued the bright lights of fame instead.
Smith was always ambitious though, and despite fame and fortune at a young age, he wanted more, so he approached Warner Bros. executive, Bunny Medina about pursuing an acting career. The concept of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was actually based on Medina's life, after all, he was born poor and went on to live with a rich Beverly Hills family. The idea was pitched to NBC who immediately bought the concept and brought Quincy Jones in as a producer. The show hit a cord and lasted 6 years before Smith decide to call it quits.
As an actor, Smith's first movie role in Six Degrees of Separation was hailed as an incredible rookie performance. The dark subject matter- Smith played a con artist homosexual -didn't stop him from doing the movie, but he quickly realized that the his chosen movie roles would have an effect on the image he projects through his music.
As a result, Will Smith started taking on roles in action movies such as Bad Boys, and the mega-hit Independence Day in 1996, which cemented his stature among moviegoers and substantially raised his asking price to Hanks and Cruise-like levels. He followed up in 1997 with another smash hit Men in Black and provided the title song, which also became the smash hit of the summer.
At the start of 1996, it seemed that Smith could do no wrong, and after two major blockbusters under his belt, he married actress Jada Pinkett on December 31st of that year. The success of the song Men in Black sent Smith back to the studio to make the well received album Big Willie Style, which contained songs like Miami and Getting Jiggy Wit It.
In 1998, he did a highly publicized interview with Barbara Walters in which he openly criticized other rappers for encouraging youths to speak in ebonics instead of correct English. He also revealed his paranoia about the government in a very X-Files-like manner. The interview resulted in further criticism from fellow hardcore rappers, but that didn't deter him one bit.
In 1999, he released another successful album Willennium, but experienced his first cinematic failure with Wild Wild West, which was considered a flop despite the high box-office gross. Also in 1999, Will Smith picked up 3 American Music Awards and should be a serious contender for the 2000 edition of the Grammies