In the first single to Eminem’s sophomore major label album, “The Real Slim Shady,” the emcee famously began the second verse, “Will Smith doesn’t have to cuss to sell records / Well, I do / So fuck him. And fuck you too.” While the lyrics were a response to a Grammy speech Smith made at the 1998 Grammy Awards where the emcee-turned-actor bemoaned cursing and Gangsta Rap, there may be more to it.
DJ Jazzy Jeff revealed that the After Earth star gave Eminem some blunt feedback in the late 1990s, prior to Eminem’s signing with Dr. Dre and Aftermath Entertainment. “I was a big fan of Eminem’s—you know, especially of his super early stuff,” explained the West Philly native, likely referring to Em’s 1996 self-released Infinite album and subsequent string of freestyles. “I just kinda reached out to him, ‘Yo man, big fan. Would love to do some stuff.’ And he ended up comin’ to Philly and we went in the studio, and just knocked out some stuff. It was crazy, because that was one of the times that Will [Smith] was in town. Will walked into the room, and I think I played Will ‘Just The Two Of Us.'” The 1997 song would appear on The Slim Shady EP, believed to be interpolating the Will Smith Big Willie Style song of the same name. “Will listened to it, and Will looked at him and said, ‘You’re either gonna be the biggest flop in Hip Hop, or you’re gonna be the biggest thing that we’ve ever seen in Hip Hop. And [Eminem] never forgot that.”
Jeff deduces—referring to Em’s song about being alone with his daughter after kidnapping and murdering his wife, “It was so outrageous.” The A Touch Of Jazz Productions head also analyzes the feedback, 16 years later. “‘You’re gonna be the biggest flop, because I guess people are just gonna think you’re so crazy. Or you’re just a super genius’—and the super genius part really paid off.”
Interestingly enough, Montreality asked Jeff about Will’s lyrics in his hit single three years later. Asked about the “fuck you” to the Fresh Prince, Jeff explains, “That kinda stuff, he just brushes off. The funny thing was, I ended up deejaying at an Em show in Detroit. And when I went in there, he kinda came to me and was like, ‘Yo man, when I said that stuff about Will, he wasn’t mad?’ I said, ‘Nah, he doesn’t care about that stuff.’ [Eminem added], ‘That was just me stickin’ up for [Dr.] Dre and that point in time.” Dr. Dre, a pillar of Gangsta Rap since the mid-1980s with N.W.A., was present when Smith made the famed Grammy speech.
DJ Jazzy Jeff has known Will Smith for nearly 30 years. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released five albums between 1987 and 1993, and continue to collaborate today.
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