Will Smith becomes the Fresh Prince Bel-Air, Nas makes you look and Beyoncé goes f, on this day in hip-hop history.
As cultural touchstones go, The Fresh Prince Bel-Air is pretty much ubiquitous to Americans a certain age — '80s and ‘90s kids; ones that dug Will Smith’s freshness and comic chops, or Alfonso Ribeiro's nerdy charm and ridiculous dance moves (which were even funnier once you knew Ribeiro was actually a pretty great dancer), or the genial warmth the Banks family. It was escapism a very high order, one that sticks with fans to this day; for pro, look no further than Sesame Street or Saturday Night Live, two other bedrocks popular culture that spoed The Fresh Prince Bel-Air in 2018.
Truth be told, all was not well with Smith during the beginning the show’s run. Chased by the government for back taxes, Smith noted, “For the first three years The Fresh Prince Bel-Air, the IRS was taking 70 percent every check and after the third year I got back to zero. It’s terrible to have that kind success and have to quietly be broke.”
Suffice to say, he recovered, and audience members were none the wiser. Smith tells his tax woes, as well as how he really became the Fresh Prince Bel-Air, in the video below:
The first single f God’s Son finds Nas surveying his kingdom, from the road where he takes his lady for a ride in his coupe (“We can drive through the city, no doubt / But don't say my car's topless, say the titties is out”) to the streets where trouble awaits, as it always does (“Trunk the car, we got the streetsweeper / Don't start none, won't be none”), to the “b]aller convention, free admission” where everyone can “l]et the music defuse all the tension.” It’s a good night, over all; the block is bumpin’ and “Made You Look” is the evening’s anthem.
This is Queen Bey at her most aggressive, her angriest, her most determined. From the siren sound effect to the distorted prologue, to the defiant chorus, no one had heard her like this before “Ring the Alarm,” and no one heard her like this again until Lemonade. The lyrics deal with a man with a wandering eye, and were rumored to be about a love triangle between Beyoncé, future husband Jay-Z and Rihanna, which, according to Genius, Beyoncé denied.
Swizz Beatz provided the beat and the production assistance on the track, and Beyoncé was well impressed. "I love working with Swizz,” she told Billboard. “He's challenging. His beats are so complex it's hard to find a melody. But 'Ring the Alarm'] just clicked."
Acid-jazz master and “Godfather Neo-Soul” Roy Ayers was born on this day in Los Angeles in 1940. If you played Grand Theft Auto IV, you might also recognize him as the voice “Fusion FM.”
He’s considered old-school now, but back in the ‘80s, there was nobody like Kane — nobody who was faster or stronger or more sophisticated in his rhymes, or cut a more imposing figure in person. “Big Daddy’s smooth, word to mother,” Ice Cube once rapped, but everybody knew that already. Happy birthday to one the true innovators.