Will Smith’s latest, Lost and Found, caught my eye (because he will always be the Fresh Prince!) but there were a few songs I had to add to the blog! “Ms. Holy Roller” lashes out (initially) at Michelle, who has of late come to know Jesus, and now condemns Smith. He raps back that he has known Jesus since Sunday School and Easter, that “I always strive to be righteous, my version of God/The reason I never write verses with curses inside/The reason I never purposely hurt persons/I’ve applied many teachings of God/Searching the reaches of God.”


(2005) Music Review

MUSIC REVIEWS INDEX
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This page was created on June, 2005
This page was last updated on June 8, 2005

DETAILS

1. Here He Comes
2. Party Starter
3. Switch
4. Mr. Niceguy
5. Ms. Holy Roller
6. Lost & Found
7. Tell Me Why - Mary J. Blige
8. I Wish I Made That/Swagga
9. Pump Ya Brakes
10. If U Can't Dance (Slide) - Nicole Scherzinger
11. Could U Love Me
12. Loretta
13. Wave Em Off
14. Scary Story
15. Switch [...R&B Remix]

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Title: Lost and Found
Artist: Will Smith

50 Cent may have survived gunfire and gang fights but Will Smith remains the ultimate Teflon rapper. Nothing gets to him - not shifts in popular culture and taste. Not dipping record sales. Not even looming middle age. He's still happy playing the dopey, clean-cut "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," turning out Sesame Street rhymes over Playskool beats while remaining unaffected by the world outside. He deserves credit for standing his ground ("I never write verses with curses," he declares at one point), but not for making an album that is, by turns, bitter ("Mr. Niceguy"), self-righteous ("Could You Love Me") and downright egomaniacal ("Here He Comes"). Guests like Timbaland, Snoop Dogg and DJ Jazzy Jeff offer little direction. --Aidin Vaziri
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Will Smith’s latest, Lost and Found, caught my eye (because he will always be the Fresh Prince!) but there were a few songs I had to add to the blog! “Ms. Holy Roller” lashes out (initially) at Michelle, who has of late come to know Jesus, and now condemns Smith. He raps back that he has known Jesus since Sunday School and Easter, that “I always strive to be righteous, my version of God/The reason I never write verses with curses inside/The reason I never purposely hurt persons/I’ve applied many teachings of God/Searching the reaches of God.” He believes God knows that he is doing his best to live his life for God—he doesn’t curse, yet I find it interesting because this woman must know now how he feels. The song closes with spoken words from Smith: “The greatest atrocities ever committed on this planet have been in the name of God/This country was founded by the Puritans, for the expressed purpose of oppression-free worship.” He obviously feels strongly that Jesus requires much from him but that it cannot be interpreted for him by someone else.

“Why” relates the shock of 9/11 as it ran through the lives of Smith and his children that morning. “Souls are captured/Dreams are stolen, hearts are broken/Evil blatantly rewarded/Hate surrenders, Love exalted/Hope elated, negativity is shorted.” The circle of understanding is negative impact by evil but by the end, the future seems brighter. A strand of murdered people from the past (far and recent) is rapped through as Smith continues to question what he should tell his kids. Once again, the closing words bring conclusion to the struggle: “But for me I try to see the bright side/Sometimes it be like the goodness it be tryin’ to hide/Then try to flee but it can’t it’s deep inside/Sweetie, you be the light for others, make ‘em believe in God.” Like many of the Psalms, “Why” expresses frustration at evil appearing to gain the upper hand and sadness at lives lost, but it resolves to set a good example and stay focused on God in the end.

The faith elements aren’t always apparent (“Switch,” “If You Can’t Dance”) but the overall gist allows Smith’s beliefs to shine through. Fresh Prince is growing up and his expressions of faith grow with him.

BIO

Will Smith's commitment to hip hop can never be underestimated. One of rap music's most distinctive orators and gifted storytellers, his track record is as enviable as any artist of the genre. From his inaugural Rap Grammy Award victory with Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince in the 80s through his multi-platinum success as a solo performer, his near twenty-year career has been a study in longevity and a testament to his devotion to an art-form. However, three years having passed since his last music project and his status as a global superstar already secure, the question is posed as to what would motivate him after all this time to once again pick up the mic?

"Asking why I continue to make hip hop records is like asking why does a tree grow, or why does a river flow?" the West Philadelphia product says thoughtfully. "Because that's what it does. Hip hop is a part of why I was placed here. It's what I was born in the universe to do."

With his latest album, Lost & Found, Will Smith delivers yet another irresistible showcase for his witty wordplay and unparalleled ability to create infectious songs. Beyond the catchy-club and radio-ready anthems, the LP also offers some of the most personal and thought-provoking material of Will Smith's career, signaling a rebirth for the rapper.

"The title Lost & Found has a couple of different concepts behind it," he explains. "But the most obvious is that I feel like the rapper inside of me was essentially lost to my other career pursuits. There was a war inside of me, and the rapper lost. And in the past few months being back on stage, being back in the studio, there's a certain aspect to that guy that I've found again. There are certain elements that I've recaptured from being back in the music."

Recording Lost & Found required what Will Smith describes as "full submersion in the lab." Will Smith found the opportunity to work without distractions extremely liberating, as is evidenced by the lyrics of the LP's lead track Here He Comes, "For years I've been trying to rip rhymes and get mines and spit lines hot lines like lava/ But this time I don't got a sitcom to bother with/ Or a time conflict with my sci-fi hit." Anchored by the popular Spider Man cartoon theme-a throwback to the TV motif of early classics like Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble-the song is one of a handful that reunites Will Smith with longtime partner and turntable grand wizard Jazzy Jeff. Lauds Will Smith, "To me, Jeff is really the center of my connection to music and hip hop. The direction of Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince was always Jeff's direction and Jeff's vision. He's the source for me. So I always plug back into Jeff when it's time to dive back into the world of hip hop."

In the tradition of his biggest hits, Will Smith revisits the festive vibe of smashes like Summertime, Gettin' Jiggy with It and Miami on Switch, a club oriented jam intensified by a double-time clap track, and Party Starter, a crunkdafied groove that easily lives up to its title. Meanwhile, the knack for witty humor he immortalized on such early rap narratives as Parents Just Don't Understand and I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson, finds similarly strong vehicles in Pump Ya Brakes, a playful collaboration with Snoop Dogg, and If U Can't Dance (Slide), a hilarious, self-described "public service announcement" for the dance move-impaired that finds him deftly reprising the flow from UTFO's 80s classic Roxanne Roxanne.

However, like all notable lyricists, many of Will's most memorable moments come when infusing his verses with fire drawn from his own life. On Lost & Found, Will Smith reveals a more contentious side to his personality that few have seen to this point in his storied career-that of the rapper ready to defend himself in battle. Over the searing guitar riffs of Mr. Nice Guy, he addresses misconceptions of his clean-cut public image and answers the criticism he has endured in recent years with one simple but effective thought, "Don't mistake nice for soft."

I Wish I Made That discusses his love for parental advisory stickered hip hop, "I always envied how y'all rocked with Dre and The Chronic/ The way that 2pac, Biggie, 50 and Jigga got it." However, the song is also steadfast in expressing Will's resolve to forever do Will. Along the way he contemplates why his own innovations in moving the game forward-masterful comic timing, expanding rap's subject matter and pioneering new flows-have been continually neglected by urban radio. Rhymes Will, "Black radio/ They won't play me, though/ Ever since 'Summertime' they ain't like none of mine/ Even though the fans went out and bought enough/ I guess they think that Will ain't hard enough." "Songs like Lean Back and Drop It Like It's Hot-I love those records," he confesses, "but those kinds of songs don't come out of me."

Meanwhile, the potent title cut's constructive critiques of his beloved art form begins with Will Smith reciting Webster's definition of "original" over an arrangement of terse strings. He explains, "If you don't dress like everybody in all the other videos dresses, or your drums don't sound like everyone's, or your rhyme scheme isn't like everyone else's, you don't fit in according to the industry. So originality isn't necessarily nurtured. As far as defining it at the beginning of the record, I did that to say, let's clear up what originality means and figure out how that could be a bad thing."

"I'm a hip hop head from the old school, so I appreciate all kinds of hip hop. I just need it to just say something. I feel like N.W.A's first album and Biggie's first album should be used in psychology classes-they're such accurate, powerful depictions of the lifestyle. Such brilliant well thought out, well-defined, well-rounded albums. For my taste, I need records like those. They just have some intellectual base to it. I like fun records. I make fun records. But there just has to be a point to it."

"Why should I try to sound like y'all sound/ That's what's wrong with the rap game right now/ And it's like a circus with a bunch of clowns/ Wit a bunch of cliques I'd probably rhyme circles around," Big Will spits before giving props to some of his favorite musical peers, the ones whose music provides a remedy for the game's blahs. Amongst the roll call you can find Nas, Rakim and rap revolutionary Dead Prez.

True to his word, Lost & Found finds Will Smith moving courageously from aesthetic issues to world issues. While Ms. Holy Roller decries the religious fanaticism that suppresses freedom of worship, Why, featuring the impassioned singing of the Queen of Hip Hop and R&B, Mary J. Blige, recalls viewing the attacks of 9-11 alongside his son with a sensitivity and heartbreaking eye for detail few rappers could muster. "My son inspired that song," Will Smith says of his most powerful composition to date, "We were sitting and watching the attacks on the Towers on TV, and he was like, 'Daddy, were there people in that building?' And I was like, wooooowwww..." The song asks, why? But there really is no answer. There is no group answer, no universal answer. We have to find answers individually. Or, as Will Smith poignantly tells his son in the song's final lines, "You be the light for others, make them believe in God."

If such messages are not what you are used to hearing from a Will Smith record, then it is probably because this is not the same Will Smith you may be accustomed to. The artist who makes people laugh and dance, loves his family and tells great stories has not gone anywhere. He is just augmented his work by adding a key ingredient: himself.

"I guess this is really the first time I made an album that was just totally from my heart," Will Smith admits, "Everything was from an emotional base. Everything was, 'What do I feel about this situation? What did I feel today? What did I experience?' And that was always the spark for the records. Where in the past I would say, let's make a party record. What's not on the radio? Before, I was trying to take an intellectual approach. This time my intellect really just acted as the conduit between my heart and my pen."

--From official web site

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