‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Whipped Up Iconic Theme Song in 15 Minutes

While many relics of the 1990s had their moment before leaving the lexicon forever, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air remains as popular a television show as it ever was. While the nostalgia behind this is evident, the show’s timeless messages, hilarious jokes, and star-making performances from Will Smith and the rest of the cast make it hard to compare.

Its catchy theme song doesn’t hurt, either. The music may still be a hit 30 years after its composition, but that process didn’t take as long as one might think. 

What is ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’?

Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty
Will Smith as William ‘Will’ Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Upon creation, The Fresh Prince was meant to showcase Smith, known then as rapper The Fresh Prince, as an actor. While this experiment alone was enough to make it memorable now that he’s one of Hollywood’s biggest names, the show, which boasted a primarily Black cast, is something far greater than its namesake. It made stars of everyone involved. 

From the Carlton dance to its vibrant fashion, the show has a look, feel, and legacy that’s unlike anything else like it. While this is a testament to everyone who made it possible, the show started on the right foot thanks to a catchy little theme song. However, just because the song is catchy and iconic, it doesn’t mean it was a chore to write, record, and put out into the world. 

The theme song of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ was catchy

One might expect the people behind a massive hit like this to have spent hours on it. However, most television themes don’t star a man whose more famous for music.

Casting Smith in the series, it was clear that the rapper and occasional actor needed to make the theme music. Knowing the story, they had to tell and the style that producers were going for, they went to the studio and began to brainstorm. 

DJ Jazzy Jeff, who also played Will’s friend, Jazz, spoke about the shockingly short recording session that birthed the song with Entertainment Weekly on the series. 

“We literally went into the studio and made the theme song in about 15 minutes,” he told the magazine. “One of the things Will used to always say is the hardest part to come up with for a song is the concept, but the concept behind the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was already laid out. I ended up just going in and programming some music, and he wrote something and laid it down. I did rough mix and sent it in, and in about three weeks it was on NBC. In my mind, it was just kind of like, “Oh my God, so that’s how it works? It’s that easy?”

It was. The theme remains as iconic as the show itself. 

‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ had a lasting legacy

Jazzy Jeff still loves the power of the theme song, too. In the interview with Entertainment Weekly, he claims that while he does up to 180 tour dates a year as a DJ, it doesn’t mean he tires from playing what is, perhaps, his greatest song. However, what helped him realize just how big the song got was a Live Aid performance.

“We did the Fresh Prince theme, and there was a million people singing it,” the Grammy-winner said. “I don’t care where you are in this world. If you drop the theme song in front of 50,000 people on a beach in Singapore at a festival, everybody sings it. It’s everywhere.”

It’s true. The theme song has become more than a television theme song. After all, many theme songs are either instrumental hits that people can sing along to or poppy songs that exist solely in the realm of television theme music. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is different. Yes, it is an unabashed theme song that gives the backstory to the show, but it’s also a catchy hip-hop song that goes arm-in-arm with the hits its creators made before they recorded it. 

A quarter-century after the show left the air, The Fresh Prince remains one of the most popular theme songs of all time. Fans still flock to their television set to catch reruns, and Smith remains high atop the A-list.

The show may have been a success with any other theme, but thanks to its continued popularity, the theme is one of the most beloved songs, theme music or not, of all time.