Will Smith’s Book Tour Begins with Queen Latifah, Philadelphia DJ Jazzy Jeff at The Met

Will Smith ended the first stop of his book tour Monday night at the Met in North Philly the same way he started his career in Philadelphia — rapping with DJ Jazzy Jeff at the turntables.

But this time he did it in a turtleneck sweater.

The hometown crowd erupted into screams as Smith brought Jeff onstage for a surprising half-hour set after an honest and emotional discussion of his new memoir. Shall with his special guest, Queen Latifah. The Fresh Prince and Queen, who have been friends for over 30 years, spent 90 minutes discussing topics in Smith’s book, from his Philadelphia beginnings to fame and family.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Will,” Latifah said. “You got a foot in the door and helped so many other people.”

Fans on the show, some of whom showed up in neon green Fresh Prince sweatshirts and matching Bel-Air tracksuits, were treated to stories of how Smith was a “weird kid” who wore cowboy boots with shorts (“as you can imagine … in West Philly things are not going well”) and how he got the lead role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (by auditioning on-the-fly at Quincy Jones’s birthday party for a year).

Smith, 53, addressed his mother and sister in the audience, as well as his longtime Philly friend and former bodyguard, Charlie Mack Alston. At one point, Smith said, “I’m still from Philadelphia!” and dropped a casual “throat” shortly after, as if to prove his point.

For a day Smith was Philly’s again, and Philly was his. Here are five Philly highlights from the first stop in Smith’s book tour of five cities.

Prior to his show at the Met, Smith called local R&B radio station WDAS-FM to speak with on-air host Patty Jackson, a regular on Philly’s airwaves for more than 30 years.

He later stopped by Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown for an Instagram Live session with owner Jeannine A. Cook and her sister. It was the first time, Smith said, to see multiple copies of his book on the shelves.

“It’s a very liberating process to just tell your truth and let it live,” Smith said of writing his memoir, which he co-wrote with author Mark Manson.

Fans gathering outside Harriett’s asked Smith to sign everything from their old records to their new shirts. Meanwhile, fans on the Instagram Live Chat asked if the goat Smith was sporting was “a Philly beard.”

“It’s definitely not a Philly beard,” he said. “It’s a New Orleans beard from 1863.”

The facial hair, he revealed, is “a character beard” for his role in the upcoming movie Emancipation.

One of the first stories Smith shared at the Met, and the one that opens his book, is one of how his father had him and his brother build a brick wall at his refrigerator repair and ice cream shop on 56th and Arlington in Overbrook when Smith was 11 used to be .

“I remember one day when me and my brother complained about it, and he comes out and he says, ‘Don’t worry about that damn wall! There’s no wall. You focus on this one stone. You work on this one stone. You lay this one stone perfectly and then you go to the next stone and you lay that stone perfectly. Forget that damn wall! Lay a stone,” Smith recalled.

It took them almost a year, but Smith and his brother finished that damn wall.

“When things get hard for me, when things get too big for me… It’s like, ‘Will, relax. I know it looks big, I know it looks impossible – one brick, just put one brick ‘,” he said. “And the foundation of my discipline in my life has been that brick story.”

Smith’s grandmother, whom he called “Gigi,” lived on North 54th Street and was such a staunch member of the Resurrection Baptist Church that she was sort of a “Jesus” housewife,” Smith said.

When he was 12, Smith’s Gigi found his composition book of his raps, which were full of swear words.

“I let it rip there,” he said. “I made up my own curse words.”

Gigi never said anything to him about finding his notebook, but inside she wrote a note to her grandson, which read in part: “God has blessed you with the gift of words, please make sure you use your words.” to cheer others up.” and “Please show the world that you are as intelligent as we think you are.”

“So if you’re all wondering why I didn’t swear in any of my raps and stuff, it’s because there wasn’t peer pressure as strong as Gigi pressure,” Smith said.

The duo that would one day win the first Grammy for Best Rap Performance met in Philly when DJ Jazzy Jeff “stole a party from me in my block,” Smith said.

For two years Smith had turned Judy Stewart’s birthday party, but the third year, when he didn’t get a call, he learned that “a dude” named DJ Jazzy Jeff had gotten the job. Smith showed up at the party, intending to fight Jeff, but when he realized Jeff wasn’t rapping (“You can’t fight a DJ”) they decided to perform together that night.

“It’s just one of those rare things,” Smith said, of the inexplicable atmosphere they shared.

Jeff was one of the most disciplined people Smith knew when it came to his craft, but he was also very shy, so Smith said he took it upon himself to cheer crowds and help them use the “depth and creativity.” understand what Jeff was doing.

“I was the hype guy,” Smith said. “I was Jeff’s Flavor Flav.”

At no point on the show was Philly’s mutual love more visible than when Smith performed some of his biggest hits — proving to the audience that they still knew every word.

From a mid-show solo performance of ‘Just the Two of Us’, where Smith asked fans to join him in the chorus, to his closing set with Jeff, where they played ‘Brand New Funk’, ‘Switch’ , played. ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and Philly crowd favorite ‘Summertime’, Smith illustrated he still has it, and the Philadelphia audience showed they still have it.

Whether he’s a rapper, actor, or author, Smith’s groove has changed somewhat, but here in Philadelphia he always deviates a little from the norm.


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