Will Smith might be known more recently for some of his unexpected bouts of profanity (cough cough, the Oscars). However, you might notice that he doesn’t actually swear or curse in any of his music. Although you might be able to chalk it up to coincidence, there’s actually a very intentional reason why Smith chooses not to swear in his rap.
In an interview with Seth Meyers, Smith went into detail about the story behind his decision not to use any profanity. He said, “I was 12 years old and I started rapping. So, I had my rap book, and I was writing my stuff and I had all my little curse words in my rap book. And my grandmother found my rap book. And she just turned—she never said nothing.”
He continued, “Turned to the back page and she said, ‘Dear Willard, truly intelligent people do not have to use words like this to express themselves. Please show the world that you’re as smart as we think you are. Love, Gigi.’ I read that, and I was like, ‘F*@k.'”
It does read as a bit ironic that his first reaction to that was, indeed, a swear word. This was all in response to Meyers saying, “One thing you did that was fearless but maybe didn’t look that way to people, I first knew you as a hip-hop artist and at a time when this was not what a lot of people were doing, your lyrics were very clean. That choice was a bigger choice than I think it probably looked to people.”
Although plenty of rappers might agree that there is a balance between using intelligent flow and design alongside a bit of profanity for inflexion or emphasis, there are also plenty of other musicians and rappers who simply don’t think of it that way and don’t consider it to be a factor.
There are different schools of thought, just as there are on so many different facets of the music industry. Regardless, there are simply plenty of people who enjoy rap and hip hop but would prefer to do without the swear words for whatever reason, and it’s a good thing that through Smith—or anyone else who chooses to write music how he does—there are outlets for that, too.
Nonetheless, the reason for his making that decision is definitely sweet, even if it doesn’t carry over into all of his speech patterns all the time. Again, nobody is perfect.