Will Smith - Big Willie Style
Big Willie Style is an amazing example of Will Smith's rise to superstardom in the late 90s. After 5 Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince albums Will Smith has retired from rap. In 1995 he said there just wasn't a space in hip-hop for what he did anymore. When he announced he was coming back with a new album there was a lot of skepticism about just how successful it would be. It went on to become one of the highest selling rap albums of all time and sold 12 million copies in the US alone. Men In Black and Gettin' Jiggy Wit It were both #1 hits around the world and the later won Will 2 more Grammy's. The album also had two more hits, "Miami" and "Just the Two of Us."
The album was largely produced by The Trackmasterz although Jazzy Jeff did produce 3 tracks and added scratches to others. The Trackmasterz were Sony's go to hitmakers producing most of the chart hits of the late 90s for Puff Daddy, Mase and co. The Trackmasterz Poke & Tone basically sampled 80s hits for all of their tracks. While Jazzy Jeff would sample and use the original cleverly to create a new and clever twist on a track, trackmasterz just sampled the original into a loop and added nothing new. If you listen to the beats on this album stand alone, they all sound good, but it you listen to the originals and then these beats you can see the lack of originality and creativity from the producers.
Synonomous with the time was the excessive bragging over these beats. Who could brag more than Will, he might gone from Philly rapper, to Television star, to one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He had a lot of material to work with. So while he was claiming he was humble on "Twinkle, Twinkle" off the Code Red album in 1993 he unleashed a lot of raps about his cars, clothes, material wealth and successes.
"Y'all Know" is a great start to the album. It's a signal of Will's new flow which emphasises a more complex rhyme scheme, and less words within bars. There is internal rhyme schemes and greater rhyming of words within verses. Will even does some beatboxing at the end of the track. He has also given up the harsher delivery of "Code Red" and it is more relaxed and sounds good.
"Getting Jiggy Wit It" is a classic party rap jam. It has Jazzy Jeff's chirp scratches throughout the chorus and an infectious beat courtesy of Sister Sledge. Nas helped Will with some of the raps, and ghostwrote some clever one liners, twisting the Fresh Prince into a new style of flow, which suits the braggadocio. This is an essential part of rap but I think it is a little overblown on this album.
"Candy" features Larry Blackmon from Cameo. Will rhymes basically every type of candy using the theme to match it while he is rapping about talking to a girl. It's metaphor crazy and this is probably the weakest track on the album.
"Chasin' Forever" is a heartfelt track about Will's wife Jada and his love for her. It samples Stevie Wonder and the twinkling of the keys and male vocals on the chorus sound great.
Jazzy Jeff's tracks are the best on the album, "Don't Say Nothin'" is a message to the haters, "I Loved You," is a heartfelt rap of a lost love and ""It's all Good" is a classic feel good track. "Don't Say Nothin'" addresses all the haters that Will has gathered ever since he released his first record in 1986. Jazzy Jeff's production is tight and it features a lot of background vocals over an ominous beat. Jazzy Jeff then scratches through the chorus and does some more cutting towards the end of the track. "I Loved You" is the best produced track on the album. While the Trackmasterz tracks are very formulaic this track completely switches things up. Will starts rapping as soon as the track starts, there is heavy use of background vocals so it sounds good with headphones on. The song also has some great RnB singing. Will's rap is about a woman who really hurt him who he still loves. The emotion and the expression Will puts into these raps showcase his ability to convey a message. The track even stops midway through, and the chorus is one of the most interesting Will has done. This is definitely a highlight of the album. "It's All Good" also has an amazing chorus. Jazzy Jeff uses the "Good Times" sample from Chic and scratches up a storm while adding female vocals into the mix. The result is one of the best feel good tracks Jeff and Will have done. The raps are extremely good and well written and touch on why Will's life is so good, it's not the money, it's the family. Again the Jazzy Jeff produced tracks change up and have variety within them which is quite different to what Trackmasterz do.
"Miami" is a great ode to the party hot spot and Ryan Toby from City High sings a catchy chorus. "Yes, Yes, Y'all" features Camp Lo but they are not utilised to their full potential. They just add some background vocals and intro the track. This is another track of Will bragging about his lifestyle which can start to wear thin. The raps are still solid though and the strings in the chorus are highlights. Will also has some great punchlines.
"Just The Two of Us" is a heartfelt tribute to his son Jaden, featuring Somethin' for the People. In is the most honest track on the album, and it really stannds out amongst the others. The fact that this meaningful song was also a hit was a testament to how well made it was.
Jamie Foxx also produces some great interlude's that are funny including him pitching a barber shop slash recording studio to Will. They are funny and skippable but they add to the good vibes of the album. The album wraps up with the title track which features Left Eye, and a rap from Will about going large at the casino. Sony added in "Men In Black" and "Just Cruisin" from the Men In Black soundtrack because they were so popular. "Just Cruisin" is actually one of the best songs trackmasterz did with Will and is on a more laidback vibe.
Although "Big Willie Style" contains too much rapping about Will's now rich lifestyle, it was a product of the times. When you look back on it was a fun, well produced album. It contained hit song after hit song and you can tell why it has managed to sell over 20 million copies. There is some meaningful songs about Will's wife Jada and son Jaden in "Chasing Forever" and "Just The Two of Us" but the best tracks were those he did with Jazzy Jeff.
- Y'all Know
- Gettin' Jiggy Wit It
- Chasing Forever
- Keith B Real I
- Don't Say Nothin'
- Yes Yes Y'all
- I Loved You
- Keith B Real II
- It's All Good
- Just The Two Us
- Keith B Real III
- Big Willie Style
- Men In Black