Will Smith Gives 1 Of His Realest Interviews. He Says He’s Finally Being Authentic (Video)
Will Smith is at a crossroads in his career. Throughout the last 33 years, the West Philadelphia native has balanced music, film, TV, philanthropy, and a celebrity family. In all of those fields, the 49-year-old has seemingly thrived on the highest level. Recently, two freestyles showed a fierce return to Rap. In speaking with the Rap Radar Podcast‘s Elliott Wilson and Brian “B.Dot” Miller, Smith is elated. He says that 2018 marks the happiest time in his life, and Rap has played a significant role in that.
However, the one-hour-plus discussion also shows vulnerability. The family-friendly household name is asked by Elliott Wilson how has managed to stay authentic. Smith admits that he has not, but that for decades, he was a character—the character of “Will Smith” and a product of his values. He says he is working to be more honest and authentic, and the era of social media has helped.
We’ve provided some quotes, highlights, and a run-down below:
“For two years, I’ve been trying to find that way back in. I quit working for like two years and did a serious deep-dive on finding that flavor that, that new me, that new life. So I went back to the drawing board. The reason I’m excited to do this interview is I got so much sh*t to say,” says Smith at the top of the chat. “I’ve been writing again, and just trying to find a way to say the stuff that’s in my mind.” He praises social media, including popular Instagram and YouTube accounts for giving him the freedom to express. “I’m burning again creatively, and now I have outlets that I never had before.”
On Authenticity & Working To Be More Honest With The Public:
“Social media demands authenticity. Social media pushes you, more and more, into having to reveal what’s true. ‘Cause if you don’t, TMZ is goin’ to. [Laughs] It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m actually enjoying the push. Nobody’s happy who doesn’t get to be themselves,” says Smith. This is where Elliott Wilson asks the question as to how the legend has maintained his authenticity. “You know, it’s really interesting. I haven’t maintained my authenticity, per se. I’ve maintained my character—’character’ in two senses. I’ve maintained my character of ‘Will Smith,’ and I’m maintained my personal character of what I believe in. But in terms of authenticity, the character ‘Will Smith’ signs every autograph and is always happy, and wants to see the fans, and is always in a good mood. That’s actually not authentic. I actually do want to slap somebody every once in a while. So in terms of authenticity… I have successfully maintained positivity. Now I’m working to more maintain authenticity. I’m granting myself the freedom to not give a f*ck when I don’t give a f*ck.”
Smith says that in that famous incident when he slapped a Russian gag-interviewer for attempting to kiss him (embedded below), JAY-Z called his friend. Hov and Beyoncé were deeply entertained by seeing a new side of their friend and peer. Later in the interview, Smith—who once appeared to condemn profanity in Rap, explains why he suddenly is open with f-bombs and s-bombs. The mogul says he is still careful with his language choices, but no because of public perception or strict elders (40:00).
On Rap Influence:
Will Smith explains that Cold Crush Brothers MC Grandmaster Caz is his leading influence. He points to having humorous stories and says that “Yvette” is a song that he “bit” when he and DJ Jazzy Jeff made “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble.”
On Never Trying Drugs Of Any Kind & Why:
Around 12:30 Smith remembers receiving his first compensation for rapping. He says first label, Word Up Records gave him $1,000 when he was 17 years old in the form of 10 $100 bills. The West Philly teenager liked the feeling so much that he pursued it the rest of his life. Will says he’s never smoked weed, and is not a big drinker, because his driving force was to make money through his talent. He does admit that his one vice—especially early in his career—is women.
The Transformer Scratch:
The Fresh Prince claims he named DJ Jazzy Jeff’s pioneering transformer scratch, something that showed Philadelphia’s prowess in turntablism. He says during that period, Jeff orchestrated the duo’s music and concepts, and Smith would later name them.
On The Grammy Awards:
In speaking about the historic Grammy win for DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Will Smith reminds folks that he and his band-mate boycotted the ceremony in protest of the category not being aired. He admits that he truly has no clue where his trophy is—something that Jeff teases him about to this day. Smith says he likes charts and records, not awards—whether in music or film.
On Love and Marriage:
In speaking about his family, Smith says that 50-year-couple Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis helped Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith during a challenging time in their marriage (46:00). He explains how the legendary actors allowed Smith to personally break through and approach his partner, his children, and his overall views on love differently.
Will says at 53:00, “Happiness is peace. It’s not pleasure. Everybody thinks happiness is trying to get as much pleasure as you can get. There is nothing more agitating to your mind than extreme pleasure. [Laughs] Peace and coming to that beautiful state of needlessness, where you realize that you really don’t need nothin’. I’m ecstatic in the peace of my life right now.”
On What Makes A Great MC:
“At this point, I think what makes a great MC is the same thing makes a great father, a great husband, makes a great politician, makes a great human being—it is your commitment to your personal evolution, your personal growth, for the purpose of assisting others. Like, I’m working on this record now; it’s called ‘The Mountaintop.’ The idea is, I’ve been to the mountaintop. I’m gonna do reports from the summit. I’ve been to the top of money, I’ve had all the sex that I’ve ever wanted, I’ve had all of the adulation and adoration, and I’ve been to the top of all of those material world mountains, and nothing makes you happy other than being useful to others. That’s it! That’s the only thing that will ever satisfy that thing is that what you are is useful. To answer what makes an MC great is an MC’s ability to create music that elevates other human beings. And that’s not an easy task, to be able to say and do things that elevate people.”
On the subject of Hip-Hop, Smith refers to his place in the game several times. Admitting that he had producers in the room above where the interview taped, Smith is out for legacy. The MC feels he really only gets credit for “Brand New Funk” and “Summertime.” The “original” Smith family icon also expresses tremendous gratitude towards J. Cole, who is a respected MC that has publicly championed Smith’s contributions, after decades of ridicule from others. “Let me tell y’all: I loved that so much ’cause I spent my whole career being the outcast…I was always ‘soft,’ I was always ‘weak,’ I was always ‘wack,’ I was all of that. So to elevate to a space to hear positive stuff about myself from people that I admire is spectacular.”
#BonusBeat: The slap heard ’round the world, and an early sign (according to him) of authentic Will Smith: