Now that Jay has confessed to listening to Will Smith, I can too. First, there's a few things to know. I still hold out hope that Will's going to make a great album, because he still hangs out with Jazzy Jeff, and Jeff makes great records, and maybe the influence would rub off. Also, Will's always had "steal a great pop hook and rhyme over it" as his style, even before he started doing movie soundtracks, so I never saw that as him selling out or going soft.
(If you check out this freestyle with Jeff, Will, and Ready Rock C, you can see that even almost 20 years ago, Will was ryhming to the tune of Michael Jackson's "Ben". The original Adult Contemporary rapper.)
And, you know, everybody likes "Summertime". How you gonna hate on "Summertime"?
But then I listened to Will's new one, Lost & Found. The production's fine, sounds a little bit like hip-pop-by-numbers, but it's serviceable. What I didn't understand was the extraordinarily lame ripoff of Eminem's "Stan", called "Loretta". It is, in case it needs repeating, a story song about an obsessed fan who idolizes the rapper and is sung from the perspective of the letters being written to the star who's being stalked.
So, that sucked. And there's an awful lot of defensive "I'm a real rapper, even though I don't swear or hate women." rhymes on the album. As he's quick to point out himself, he's been doing it longer than any of the newer rappers, he's gotten paid a lot more than they have, he sells more records than most of them, and he won the first-ever Grammy for rap. Will, it's okay. You don't have to prove yourself to nobody.
After all the crappiness, though, Will redeemed himself to me with a single verse from "Ms. Holy Roller":
The greatest atrocities ever committed on this planet have been committed in the name of God. This country was founded by the Puritans for the express purpose of oppression-free worship. Your attitude is the same arrogant, fearful fundamentalism that fueled the hatred of the Crusades and the attacks of 9/11. If we are not allowed to worship God as groups and individuals free from persecution and with respectful tolerance, there's only one outcome.
It's not a great rhyme, but lookit Big Will with the opinion! Go Will!