The Will Smith Songs That Became the Signature Tracks of His Music Career
If you were born in the late ’90s or later, there’s a good chance you consider Will Smith first and foremost an actor. But if you hail from the first half of the ’90s or earlier, you probably consider Smith a rapper and TV actor turned film superstar.
That’s a product of Smith’s career focus. Since 2000, he’s only released two full-length albums. Over that same span, he appeared in dozens of film productions (including Ali, Hitch, and two Men in Black movies).
Don’t overlook his wildly successful career as a recording artist, though. Under the name Fresh Prince (along with DJ Jazzy Jeff) and later simply as Will Smith, the Philadelphia-born performer has sold over 10 million records and won four Grammy Awards. Here are Smith’s signature songs.
‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ is the signature ’80s Will Smith song
Prior to starring on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-96), Smith cornered the wholesome rapper market as half of his group DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. The duo first got on the charts with the gold-selling Rock the House (1987).
The following year, Smith and Jazzy Jeff broke through with He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, which went triple platinum. “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” the second single from the album, became a huge hit on the pop charts (No. 12) and a staple on MTV.
At the 1988 Grammy Awards, Smith and Jazzy Jeff won the Best Rap Performance award for the track. As far as Smith’s ’80s music work goers, “Parents Just Don’t Understand” has to be his signature track. It’s how most of the world came to know him.
‘Summertime’ was the biggest hit of Smith’s Fresh Prince era
By the time DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released Homebase (1991), their fourth studio album, the duo were close to household names in America. Smith’s role on the Fresh Prince TV certainly helped on that front.
And when the pair dropped Homebase’s lead single “Summertime” in May ’91, it was timed perfectly. The record kept climbing up the charts all summer long until it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August.
If you recall the summer of ’91 at all, you might remember this song being everywhere (as only a certain caliber of hits can be). At the ’91 Grammy Awards, “Summertime” won the award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. It remains the signature track from Smith’s Fresh Prince era.
‘Gettin’ Jiggy wit It’ is the biggest hit of Smith’s career in music
After Code Red (1993), Smith dropped the Fresh Prince moniker but kept recording. And he moved on to Columbia Records. His first release on the label was Big Willie Style (1997), and it brought Smith back into the top 10 (No. 8) on the Billboard album charts.
“Getting Jiggy wit It,” the album’s third single, became the biggest hit of Smith’s career. It topped the Billboard pop charts in March ’98 and stayed there for three weeks (and 32 weeks on the charts overall).
“Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” also won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in ’98. More than two decades later, it stands as the signature song of Smith’s career in music.
Smith hasn’t retired from recording. He released a single (“Will”) in 2020 and performed as a guest artist on two tracks in ’18. But if he quit making music today, “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” would probably lead his best-of collection.