Will Smith on why he hated being called “soft”
(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

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Will Smith on why he hated being called "soft"

Before he became an Oscar-award-winning actor, Will Smith was a hip-hop emcee. Appearing on the scene in the late 1980s with DJ Jazzy Jeff, the dynamic duo shook up the underground of Philadelphia. With songs such as ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ and ‘Nightmare On My Street,’ the pair’s tracks were family-friendly.

However, this clean version of hip-hop led to many labelling him a “soft rapper”, which he didn’t like. In an interview with David Letterman for his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Smith explained that he only made his music non-explicit out of respect for his grandmother. 

Revealing the upsides of family-friendly rap, Smith told Letterman, “That was really our major distinguishing quality at the time. It was comedy, it was punchlines, it was fun. We stood out in a really good way. We sort of had our own lane … it was always that I was soft. I hated that, being called soft.”

Smith’s interview with Letterman was in-depth, and at one point, the rapper and actor even opened up about his experience with the hallucinogenic concoction ayahuasca, during which he saw his whole life fall apart.

Smith vividly divulged, “I drank, and it usually takes about 45 minutes to kick in, and I’m sitting there, and you always feel like, ‘Maybe it won’t kick in this time.’ So I’m drinking and sitting there, and then all of a sudden, it’s like I start seeing all of my money flying away, and my house is flying away and my career is going away.”

He concluded by unveiling, “Then slowly, I stopped caring about my money. I just wanted to get to Willow. I stopped caring about my house, I stopped caring about my career.”

Earlier this month, Smith revealed that he is now returning to his hip-hop routes with his new podcast Class Of ’88, which will host legends such as Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa and other legendary 1980s acts. You can hear one of Will Smith’s most well-known hits in the video below.