Will Smith Tells Rakim He Copied Him On Summertime

One of Hip-Hop’s longstanding curiosities surrounds DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s 1991 hit “Summertime.” The Homebase single landed the West Philadelphia duo their second Grammy Award, but it also marked a shift in tempo, style, and flow for the Hip-Hop vets.

For years, some have speculated that Rakim ghost-wrote the Jive Records single. However, in 2016, Rakim dismissed those notions entirely. “When they came out with it, a lot of people thought it was me because of the style he used,” Ra told HipHopDX at the time. He did, however, allude to a sonic resemblance. “But it was one of those things where that was them. I didn’t write it. That was [all DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince].” To make matters more complicated, that same year, Rakim’s former band-mate, Eric B., told Combat Jack, that Eric B. & Rakim were recording to the same Kool & The Gang-based track. “I remember I did a record in the studio and [other producers] went back, behind my back, and told Rakim, ‘Yo Ra’, that record is soft. You shouldn’t do it.’ The record turned out [to be done] by Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, it turned out to be ‘Summertime.’ That’s the record I did. The engineer went up and played it for them.” Despite Eric’s claims, the platinum song is credited as a Hula and K. Fingers production.

Rakim Addresses The Rumors That He Wrote DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime”

On Sunday night (December 10), CBS broadcast a Grammy’s salute to 50 years of Hip-Hop. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince as well as Rakim were among the 50-plus performers of the event. In a video shared by Will Smith, backstage, the superstar spoke to Rakim about “Summertime.”

“I was absolutely trying to sound like you on ‘Summertime,'” Will tells Ra’—with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Willow and Jaden Smith, Jada Pinkett, Charlie Mack, and others in the room. The admission followed a reunion embrace between the two MCs. However, The Fresh Prince says he had a motive for the copy-cat style. At 2:50, he explains, “‘Cause I had been screaming all night, and I couldn’t get my ‘happy-go-lucky’ high voice. And Hula just said, ‘Yo, just gimme that Rakim s__t.'” In the video, there is a graphic that illustrates Will, Hula, and K. Fingers at the studio console coaching Will in the recording booth.

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Notably, Rakim is famous for his laid-back delivery, which was off-putting to some producers, including Marley Marl, during his mid-1980s rise. Marley and Rakim would eventually work together. This year, Rakim and LL Cool J honored Marley with a special BET Hip Hop Awards salute.

During Sunday’s performance, Jeff and Will deliberately wore the same custom Philadelphia Phillies apparel that they donned 25 years ago—at the 40th Grammy Awards in 1998. Will’s video and the moments of the night made mention of the artist’s “Best Rap Performance” win at the 1989 Grammys. The year’s first inclusion of the category was not part of the televised portion of the show—prompting a boycott.

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“We chose to boycott,” The Fresh Prince said in 1989, calling the snub a “slap in the face.” He added, “You go to school for 12 years, they give you your diploma, and they deny you that walk down the aisle.”

On Sunday, Will and Jeff performed “Summertime,” along with “Brand New Funk,” as well as “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and “Miami,” among others. LL Cool J, Questlove, and Black Thought were among the producers of the televised event. Additional performances included Public Enemy, DJ Quik, Warren G, De La Soul, Common, Queen Latifah, Uncle Luke, E-40, Cypress Hill, T.I., Rick Ross, Big Daddy Kane, Digable Planets, and The Pharcyde, among many more.

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#BonusBeat: Ambrosia For Heads filmed the Eric B. & Rakim reunion show in 2017, including this performance of “My Melody”: