Will Smith’s Music Career Is Underrated, According to ‘Fresh Prince’ Co-Star Tatyana Ali

Will Smith is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood today. He started off on the silver screen as a fictional version of himself on legendary 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but quickly moved onto starring in Hollywood blockbusters like Men in BlackBad Boys, and I Am Legend. From action to comedy to even animation, Smith has truly done it all in terms of his acting career.

What has become eclipsed by his success as an actor is the fact that Smith was actually originally a recording artist — a rapper, to be specific. So why doesn’t Smith get the acknowledgment he deserves for that part of his career? One of his Fresh Prince co-stars has come to his defense, and says that Smith’s music career is highly underrated.

Will Smith broke records with his music career

Will Smith on the red carpet
Will Smith | Jerod Harris/Getty Images

The only Will Smith songs that anybody thinks about now are the ones he made for his movies, like Men in Black and Wild Wild West. But Smith was recording slapping tracks long before his Men in Black days – even before he became the Fresh Prince, in fact. 

When Smith was only 16 years old, he joined forces with Jeff Townes to form rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. In contrast to other rappers at the time, Smith and Townes decided that they didn’t want to use profanity in their songs or rap about violence; instead, they rapped about things happening in their own lives.

Their debut album was a huge success, and Smith was actually a millionaire before he even turned 18 years old. Another thing that people might not know is that Smith actually has won four Grammy awards, and two of them are for music he recorded as part of this duo before Fresh Prince went on the air. In fact, Smith’s group was actually the first hip hop artist in history to win a Grammy award.

Tatyana Ali thinks Smith’s music is underrated

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Tatyana Ali played the adorable Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. On an interview with Vlad TV, she was asked why she thinks Smith doesn’t get the same respect and recognition as his peers for his contributions to rap music. 

“People called him corny because he didn’t curse, he had songs like ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’, he was really positive, middle-class, and talking about his own experiences,” she shared. She continued on to say that she sees young artists today facing the same pressure to be “edgy”, and although there’s a time and place for edginess, she doesn’t agree that’s the only way an artist can find success — which is proven by Smith’s Grammy win.

“It’s okay to be positive and successful, like that’s actually – I think that’s cool. […] Those songs that he made, we know it by heart! We love it, but maybe there’s a part of us that almost feels bad for loving it. I think it’s an interesting question,” she added.

‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ launched Will Smith and his co-stars to success

We now know that Smith was already a successful recording artist before The Fresh Prince ever aired, but it’s impossible to deny that the sitcom launched his acting career. He is now one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood and certainly a household name.

Smith wasn’t the only person who got a big career boost from Fresh Prince; Ali also shared that the show helped pave her path to success, as well. For Ali, however, it was the opposite: she’d acted before Fresh Prince, but the show and Smith’s support helped her to get her musical career off the ground.

She shared in the interview that Smith, after hearing her sing on the show, signed her to his recording label. Her first and only studio album was a huge hit.