Actor, producer, and rapper Will Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 25, 1968. He began rapping at the age of 12, and when he met DJ Jeff Townes at a party when he was 16, duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was born.
Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince separated themselves from the rest of hip-hop by releasing catchy but clean tunes including “Summertime” and “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. While “Gangsta” rappers NWA were talking about drugs and violence, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were rapping about problems facing teens in middle-America, and people all over were able to relate. As their success mounted, the rap duo won the first Grammy Award for a Rap performance in 1988.
From 1990 to 1996, Will Smith acted as the title character in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a sitcom about a street wise kid from Philadelphia sent to live with family in California in order to keep out of trouble. The show’s re-runs still air on multiple networks today.
Will Smith made the transition from television to movies in the mid-90s. His first big hit was opposite Martin Lawrence in the 1995 hit Bad Boys. After his breakout, the hits just kept going: Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997), Enemy of the State (1998), and many others. Smith received two Academy Award nominations for his reprisal of Muhammad Ali in 2001’s Ali, and 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness.
Some of his other popular films include I, Robot, Hitch, I Am Legend, and Hancock, with many more projects in the works.
Happy Birthday Will Smith!