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Launch of Men's Vogue | Main | Jessica Alba Says...

June 28, 2005

Will Smith Says...

Will Smith has one big introduction to make at Tuesday night's BET Awards: Gangster rappers, meet the rest of the world. Smith told The Associated Press he hopes to impress the global significance of U.S. black culture on the show's audience and artists.

"The kids that are making these trends, making these songs, don't understand the level of effect that black Americans have around the world," he said in an interview. " ... Black Americans are so elevated, it's almost worship."

Smith, co-host of the show (8 p.m. EDT) at Hollywood's Kodak Theater with wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, said he witnessed the phenomenon recently while in Africa. Touring a village in Mozambique, he came across a shack on which someone had scrawled the name of slain rapper Tupac Shakur.

"I was asking the kids: What is it about Tupac? Why is that there? I kept asking why. They were saying we want to dress like you dress, wear all the things you wear, talk how you talk." "The impression is that black Americans are the dragon slayers. Here we are 13 percent minority in a foreign land, and yet we can make laws, change laws. If Jesse Jackson shows up at Coca-Cola, something changes."

Smith, who won the first rap Grammy in 1988 for his squeaky-clean "Parents Just Don't Understand," said he wants hip-hop artists to recognize their importance and shift away from thuggish themes. "It's real important to have balance of the imagery. Yes, there are people who fire guns in the street, but there's also doctors who go to work in those areas to feed their children."

Now more well-known as a movie star ("Men in Black," "Bad Boys," "Independence Day") than rapper, the 36-year-old Smith maintains on his latest album "Lost And Found" that his nice guy image has worked against him. "Black radio, they won't play me though," he raps in one song. "Guess they think that Will ain't hard enough. Maybe I should just have a shootout ... just ignorant, attacking, acting rough. I mean then, will I be black enough?"

Posted by Lawren at June 28, 2005 07:54 AM

You Said

Huh. I've been around a good piece of the world and I certainly didn't get the impression that black, American rappers (or ANY Americans)are "worshipped." Maybe the crowd he attracts feel that way.

Says: Nanc' at June 28, 2005 08:40 AM

I disagree Nanc', because many of these gangsta-types are worshipped in more ways than one. I am not saying it is a good thing, but who do you think started trends like: baggy, saggy jeans; obnoxious bling; huge rims too big for the car's wheelwells; urban-commando styling; etc.? It was not Ralph Lauren.

Furthermore, segments of our culture continue to treat Tupac and Biggie as idolized martyrs; "Fiddy" gets his 'spect from getting shot 9 times and living to talk about it. Like it or not, these people ARE worshipped, perhaps not by you or me, but by every wannathug standing on the corner with his pants around his knees dodging his baby-momma to keep from paying child support.

Will Smith is demonized by persons in that type of culture for being clean---clean cut, clean lyrics, clean family life, etc.----but he is one of the few rappers actually worthy of emulation.

btw---Parents Just Don't Understand was the first "rap" single I ever owned...

Says: ren at June 28, 2005 12:18 PM

Wasn't that a great album, Ren? Nice commentary, too, by the way.

Says: Lawren at June 28, 2005 12:25 PM

Around the US and around the world are 2 different things. I used to live in Europe and believe me, I never came across gangsta rap.

Now, in the US Ren has a point.

I do have a cynical question: will the Rev. Jackson or Sharpton appear at the BET awards? I have to ask because for some reason, I get the impression they are the spokes people for all African-Americans.

Says: Crazy Bob at June 28, 2005 12:54 PM

I'm just providing my experiences/opinion. Yes, the world's youth does go for American fashion, music, movies and so on but "worship" rappers? No, not my experience. Now, when I lived in Montgomery, Alabama...whole other story.

Says: Nanc' at June 28, 2005 03:27 PM

Here in NYC, the term "worship" is fitting ... trust me. I ride the subway every day and live just blocks from Harlem.

Says: Iceman at June 28, 2005 03:36 PM

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